“Years of Expansion”

This article published in a 1947 issue of WE of Allis-Chalmers commemorates the expansion of the company from 1847-1947. 

With its new name, Allis-Chalmers Co., our company entered the twentieth century strengthened by the 1901 merger of the E. P. Allis Co. with three other leading industrial concerns.

Annual business had reached the $10,000,000 mark, and the new corporation employed 5,000 men in five branch plants. The general offices were located in Chicago, with branch offices in ten American cities. Offices in London; Mexico city, Johannesburg, South Africa; and Santiago, Chile were significant of the export trade that Allis-Chalmers was building up.

Walter W. Whiteside (President 1905-1911)

Walter W. Whiteside
(President 1905-1911)

Through its Reynolds-Corliss engines, pumping engines, mining machinery, rock crushing and cement machinery, saw mill and flout mill equipment – the company was quickly reaching its objective of being able to furnish machinery for plants in all major power and industrial fields. The years from 1904 to 1910 were characterized by efforts to keep abreast of the new power developments and coordinate the work of the various plants of the huge company. After General Otto Falk became president in 1913, the production facilities and leading personnel of the Chicago and Scranton, Pa. works as well as the Milwaukee Reliance Works were moved to West Allis.

But the process of acquiring needed facilities to carry out the overall plan for a giant machinery company went on through the years from 1904 to 1938.

First of the seven branch plants added to the company was the known today as the Norwood Works. Before this Cincinnati, Ohio plant came into the Allis-Chalmers family in 1904, it had built up a successful reputation in the electrical field as the Bullock Electric Manufacturing Company. The acquisition marked the beginning of Allis-Chalmers production of heavy electrical equipment, and gave the company an early start in the onrushing electrical era. It paved the way, too, for jobs like the hydro-electric units installed in 1918 and 1922 at Niagara Falls for the Niagara Falls Power Co. These were the most powerful complete hydro-electric units ever installed by one company up to that time.

B. H. Warren (President 1911-1912)

B. H. Warren
(President 1911-1912)

Bullock’s parent company, the George F. Card Electric Company of Cincinnati, pioneered in electrical equipment. As early as 1888, the firm was manufacturing electric streetcar brakes, motors and generators. In 1896, as the Card Electric Motor and Dynamo Company, it developed the first booster “teaser” system of control for large newspapers which was used throughout Europe and America. The company also led in the use of the individual motors for machine tools, thus doing away with the long line shafts and numerous overhead belts; and this made it possible to use the new electric overhead traveling cranes.

In 1897, George Bullock, who had a financial interest in the Card Electric Motor and Dynamo Company, became president, and in February of that year the firm was incorporated as the Bullock Electric Manufacturing Company. Both the Cincinnati and Montreal plants of the Bullock were taken over by A-C in 1904, and the Canadian plant was operated until 1912. The heavy electrical machinery division of the Cincinnati work was moved to West Allis.


By 1904, Allis-Chalmers had established itself in the electrical machinery field, and in the years after, there followed a long succession of engineering achievements adding to that reputation.

On November 25, 1905, the erection of the first steam turbine built in the Milwaukee shops was under way. It was for the Kent Ave. Station of the Transit Development Co., Brooklyn, N.Y., and was rated at 5500 kW, 750 rpm, 25 cycles, 6600 volts.

The company continued to develop new lines of prime movers, and in 1901 had hired Clemens Herschel to found its Hydraulic Turbine Dept. In 1903, he went to Europe and returned with the turbine rights of the Escher Wyss Company of Zürich, Switzerland; and Arnold Pfau, the great hydraulic engineer, came with the company. Pfau retired from Allis-Chalmers June 15, 1946.

Although Allis-Chalmers started to make hydraulic turbines for hydro-electric units in 1904, an early company catalog shows E. P. Allis and Company to be builders of water wheels for driving flour mills as early as 1865.

Also among the new products added in this developmental period was the Nurnberg gas engine, a horizontal engine which Allis-Chalmers later developed in many sizes up to the world’s largest in 1927. The company was the sole licensee in the Western Hemisphere for Nurnberg gas engines built for use with coke oven, blast furnace, producer, illuminating, or natural gas.

While these new products were being introduced, A-C continued to add to its record in pumping engines. In 1909, on one job for the 39th St. Station for the City of Chicago and Sanitary District of Chicago, the company received a bonus for approximately $200,000 – $1,000 for every million foot pounds over the contract.

Otto H. Falk (President 1913-1932)

Otto H. Falk
(President 1913-1932)

The company’s expanding activities in the electrical field made it necessary to borrow money in 1906. Financial difficulties arose, and in 1912 General Falk was appointed receiver. The receivership ended a few months later on April 15, 1913, and the company was reorganized as the Allis-Chalmers Mfg. Co.

Recalling this period, General Falk wrote in 1922: “Plainly, then, my problem factored into two parts: I must fit myself into the organization so that my coming would tend to a better adjustment of the people already there; and then I must develop the company into a smoothly running and profit earning whole.”

Acquainting the general public with the name of Allis-Chalmers was one of Falk’s leading aims. He wrote: “The company has never been well known to the consuming public because everything it made was sold to other manufacturers who either attached it to their own machinery or used Allis-Chalmers products to make their own.

“Obviously the company needed a line of products that would make its name a household commonplace and give its volume the steadiness that can be attained only in selling to hundreds of thousands of individual customers.”

This thinking eventually led to the addition of the farm equipment line and the building up of the Tractor Division. The first tractor built in 1904 [sic] (1914) was a tricycle-like structure of iron and steel, weighing 4,000 pounds and having one speed forward and one reverse. It was advertised as “The only tractor that has a one piece steel frame – no rivets to work loose – will not sag under the heaviest strains.” By 1917, the company definitely entered the tractor field and filled orders for the European market where the ravages of World War I had increased the need for efficient farm equipment.

In 1926, Falk brought in H.C. Merritt as Tractor Division manager. Through his energetic leadership, many notable developments in farm and industrial machinery took place. The adaption of rubber tires to farm tractors and the introduction of the All-Crop Harvester, which brought a whole new system of farming, are now regarded as two of the greatest contributions to American agriculture in several decades.


In February, 1927, the Monarch Tractor Corporation of Springfield, Ill., was bought by Allis-Chalmers and became Springfield Works, first of the Tractor Division Works. This acquisition brought in the 50 and 75 hp tractor models that supplied the base for future crawler and track-type designs and made A-C a world leader in the field of high power tractors. By adding the crawler type tractors, the company was able to offer models for both farm and industrial use.

La Crosse

Continuing the expansion policy, the La Crosse Plow Company was added October 1, 1929.  Founded in 1865 to manufacture a full line of horse-drawn implements, to which was added a line of heavy tractor plows, listers, disc harrows, etc., (when the tractor line first came into use) it eventually grew to be one of the larger independent manufacturers of its kind in the country. This factory made and marketed the first balance-frame horse-lift cultivator; the first power-lift grain drill with a fluted feed (still popular today) ; the first power-lift tractor plow ; and the first three-row wheatland listing plow, which was later copied by other plow makers. In keeping with this advanced engineering, the La Crosse Works, after becoming a part of the Allis-Chalmers organization, developed the first drive-in cultivator and has been first in many new and original developments. This plant now builds a full and complete line of power tillage implements, planters, listers, harrows and mowers.

La Porte

In 1931, the Advance-Rumely Co. of La Porte, Indiana, became a part of the Allis-Chalmers organization. This large manufacturer of tractors and threshing machinery, with a record of continuous operation dating back to the 1836, represented a series of consolidations which included the Advance Thresher Co. of Battle Creek, Mich., the M. Rumely Co. of La Porte, Ind., Gaar Scott & Co. of Richmond, Ind., and several others.

In acquiring the Advance-Rumely Co., Allis-Chalmers came into possession of a widespread distributing organization with branch offices and warehouses located in all important agricultural centers in the U.S. and Canada.

Under Allis-Chalmers, the La Porte Works has concentrated on the development of an extensive line of harvesting machinery. Here the famous All-Crop Harvester, the Corn Harvester, and the new Roto-Balers, and Side-Delivery Rake and Tedder were designed and are now being produced in volume.


Purchase of the Brenneis Mfg. Co., of Oxnard, Calif., followed in 1938. Here, deep tillage tools especially designed for west coast conditions are built, filling out a line of implements that meets the requirements of a wide variety of markets and conditions.

While all this development in farm machinery was under way, the company continued to expand its general machinery facilities. In 1924, the crushing, cement, mining, and creosoting line of the Power and Mining Division of Worthington Pump and Machinery Corporation, Harrison, New Jersey, became part of Allis-Chalmers.

Two years later, the Flour Mill Department and Power Transmission Division of Nordyke and Marmon, Inc., of Indianapolis, Ind., was acquired. Following in the steps of Decker and Seville, and E. P. Allis, Allis-Chalmers was expanding the Flour Mill Department’s manufacturing, engineering, and servicing facilities to offer improvements to enable miller to make better flour at lower cost.


Taking over the Pittsburgh Transformer Company in 1927 assured additional production to meet the growing transformer demand. This plant, which became A-C’s Pittsburgh Works, began in 1897. It manufactured distribution, power, instrument and metering transformers.

In 1931, another improvement in Allis-Chalmers electrical facilities was announced with the purchase of some of the assets of the American Brown-Boveri Electric Corporation. The lines purchased included mercury arc rectifiers, blowing equipment, generator voltage regulators, heavy duty railway locomotive motors and control equipment.


American Brown-Boveri had made the first power installations of mercury arc rectifiers in the United States in 1924. The Brown-Boveri merger also brought in the Condit Electrical Manufacturing Corporation. Organized in 1899 as the Sears B. Condit, Jr. Company, it produced circuit breakers and protective devices.

The Condit Company became the Boston Works in 1936 as is now devoted chiefly to circuit breaker production.

And so it is seen that in its century of service to industry that made America great, Allis-Chalmers has acquired seven branch plants and through them has built the vast company toward which E. P. Allis took the first steps when he bought the Reliance Works.

Exploring Your Family’s Past

(Nebraska State Historical Society)

I love everything about history. What I find most stimulating are situations that call for some serious historical investigation. History would not be as fun if everything was plain and simple, laid out for us, requiring little to no effort to explore the past. If you love that rigorous researching and exploring, try exploring your family history. The only warning I have for those aspiring to explore their family tree, beware, it is addictive.

Granpda and his first car

Granpda and his first car

You might ask where to start.  The best thing to do is to get a recorder or pen & paper and start talking to relatives. Talk to your grand parents or older relative to record some of their history. Where and when were they born? What were their parents’ names, birth dates, and death dates. These are some good points start at, and they will help expand the tree later. I was only 15 when my grandpa died, but I remember asking him about his childhood, when we met my grandma, and other interesting things. Once these people are gone, their history goes with them.

There are some really good sites out there that can help you dig deeper. Ancestry is a good site, although it does charge a monthly fee. You might want to check to see if you have access to the site if you are a student at an academic institution. Another site that has free features is familysearch.orgHeritageQuest Online is another amazing research tool for family history. Check with your local library to see if you have access to it through your library account. Acquiring information is one ordeal, storing it is another.

Receipt for Grandpa from Great Grandpa

Another tip when doing family history is to keep things very organized, or you could risk loosing them in the mass of information you gather. My mother has two ways of keeping track of her research. She has folders with last names, so all the family information is categorized by last night. She has a program by Ancestry called Family Tree Maker that allows her to organize an electronic family tree. You can also register it and add information from the Ancestry site right to your tree.

Family Tree Maker 2012

Great grandparents wedding

Great grandparents wedding

Have fun with your family research! You never know what kind of information you might find. I was digging through some old boxes and discovered old photos and documents, some that really blew me away. These are all ways to document your family history and pass it on to your future generations. There a lot more ways to explore your genealogy. Check out your local library for old newspapers or locally published information, you may find relatives who highlighted in stories. Courthouses and archives have and can get information about family members like marriage certificates, death certificates, and naturalization records.  

The Allis-Chalmers History Museum


I recently graduated from UW-Oshkosh with a degree in history, but landing a career in history right out of undergrad school is not easy. I am looking at pursuing a master’s degree in public history in the near future. UW-Milwaukee has a public history program that I am very interested in, and that is the only school nearby that offers a master’s degree in that field. I am very passionate about history, and I would enjoy nothing more than to work in an institution where I can help preserve and share history.

In my spare time I have worked on creating an online museum dedicated to preserving the history of Allis-Chalmers, a Milwaukee industrial firm. My fascination for the firm started eight  years ago when my dad, brother and I began restoring tractors. The company’s deep-rooted history in the Milwaukee area, and impact on Wisconsin history, make it such a fascinating subject of study.

I have collected documents, books, photographs, and other artifacts that tells the story of the company. I want to share that history with others. I have blogged topics on my blog, and I have worked on putting together a virtual history museum, which I call the Allis-Chalmers History Museum (Click here to visit). The site is hosted by Omeka, which other museums and historical organizations use to make online exhibits.

Right now the museum is in its early stages. I am working on adding items from my collection, which will take some time. My goal is to continue to add to the collection and share new items of interest. I urge other enthusiasts to send duplicates of items of interest, or even get involved with the project and email AllisChalmersHistory@gmail.com. There is a lot of history to learn about Allis-Chalmers, and the history is scattered out there for enthusiasts to piece together.

The Forgotten Allis-Chalmers Lift Latch

In an earlier blog post I explored the history of the Snap-Coupler hitching mechanism equipped on Allis-Chalmers tractors. While conducting that research I discovered that two Allis-Chalmers engineers designed implement latching systems for tractors. The chief engineer at the La Crosse Works, Willard Tanke, submitted the design trademarked Snap-Coupler. However, another design was patented but never used on Allis-Chalmers tractors.


Wendelin “Shorty” Voegeli submitted his patent of a tractor hitching mechanism the same day as Tanke, August 13,1953. He began working at the Allis-Chalmers Farm Equipment Division in 1935.  By the time he retired in 1975 he had worked his way up to vice-chairmen of the Simplicity Manufacturing Company, an Allis-Chalmers acquisition. Voegeli acknowledged the submission of his co-worker’s patent, however he pointed out features he said “encumbered” smooth operation. His design allowed easier unhitching implements and increased safety. To add a more visual perspective to what this design looked like, I have a good friend who’s boyfriend created the coupling mechanism in a CAD program.

Voegeli Hitching Patent

Voegeli Hitching Patent

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According to the wording in the patent, the coupling device released from the stud journal when under tension. The coupling would detach from the stud journal if the implement tongue detached from the bell under the tractor, preventing the implement from swinging up and injuring the operator. To unlatch the implement the operator released the implement tongue under the tractor and drove away. The tension put on the coupler would automatically release it from the stud journal.

Voegeli’s design sheds some light on other implement latching mechanisms Allis-Chalmers engineers were designing. I thought a good way to learn more about it would be to talk to the man who designed it himself. Unfortunately Mr. Voegeli passed away in 2011, taking the background information of his design with him. It would have been interesting to know why the design was passed on in favor of Tanke’s. I would be very curious to know more about Voegeli’s design, and it would be more intriguing to see it work in real life.