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Emerson Brantingham Company

Ralph Emerson

 

Charles S.

Brantingham

This name Emerson-Brantingham name came into existence in 1909, but can trace its roots back to 1852. J. H. Manny & Co. was founded in 1852. This was the beginning of the mechanized revolution that forever changed farming in America. One of the hardest chores about the farm in those days was harvesting wheat, Manny, along with several other inventors including Cyrus McCormick were racing to see who could build a better machine that would greatly reduce the manual labor involved in the mowing, gathering, tying, and stacking of the wheat from the fields. Manny, along with his father had developed a horse drawn machine that did just that. Manny moved his operation to Rockford, Illinois. There he was introduced to the Talcott brothers, Wait and Sylvester. They were both impressed with Manny's integrity and enthusiasm and bought in to his invention as investors.

The company became Manny and Company in 1854 and soon was heralded as the largest manufacturer of reapers in the world. Later that same year, financier and business leader Ralph Emerson joined the firm. They saw mechanical brilliance with no financial guidance and quickly turned the company into a very profitable venture. During this time, Cyrus McCormick decided that his machine was being "infringed" upon and filed a suit against Manny. The most significant aspect of this part of the history is that Manny’s lawyer was a self-taught country lawyer from Springfield, Illinois, a Mr. Abe Lincoln. Even more coincidently, McCormick's lawyer was a Mr. Stanton. Mr. Stanton eventually became Secretary of War Mr. Stanton under President Lincoln. The trial ended with a victory for Lincoln and Manny. Unfortunately, Manny took ill and passed away in 1856 at the age of 30.

After Manny's death, the company changed its name to Talcott, Emerson, and Company and continued to build on the 28 plus patents that Manny had left. The company grew at a high rate and several years later became the Emerson Manufacturing Company.

Emerson, eager to expand, sought out those individuals who could take his company to the next level. One of those individuals was Charles S. Brantingham, (cousin of Ralph Waldo Emerson) who up until that time had been applying his business savvy at the Nelson Knitting Company in Rockford. He brought a much broader business approach to the Emerson Company. His reputation was as a ruthless competitor, a fair employer, and a model citizen. He had visions of a global business that would supply the world with agricultural equipment.

Part of that vision was to expand quickly. Brantingham needed a company that produced high quality steam engines. He acquired the Geiser Manufacturing Company in Pennsylvania. He saw a need for carrying and hauling so he acquired the Pontiac Buggy Company and the Newton Wagon Works. There was a demand for more auxiliary gas engines so he obtained the Rockford Gas Engine Company. Capitalization was increasing at a record rate with the acquisitions.

Brantingham needed to expand the tillage business, so he jumped on the opportunity to acquire the Osborne Company, Springfield, Illinois. Osborne was in the process of being divested from the International Harvester Company because of a monopoly suit with the government.

Brantingham's acquired the Big Four Tractor Co. from Minneapolis, Minnesota. This company built huge tractors that were used to break and plow huge tracts of land in the west. Brantingham was able to acquire Big Four fairly cheaply because the demand for the large tractors (The rear tractor wheels stood over 8 feet tall!) was dwindling rapidly.

With the uncertain financial situation in the country and with the move to smaller, more efficient farms, the need for these large Big Four tractors became less and less at home and overseas.

Another version of the postcard above showing a Russian Plowing Scene.

The sprawling, 1,700 employee manufacturing facility encompassed a 24 building, 175 acre complex at 500 South Independence Avenue was the largest modern agricultural implement machinery facility in the world at the time.

With the demise of the steam engine, Emerson Brantingham already had Geiser Manufacturing Company division in serious financial trouble. Now with less demand for tractors from their Big Four Tractor Company their two biggest money makers had become unprofitable.

Emerson Brantingham Minneapolis Works where Big Four tractors were manufactured. This was one of eight factories owned by the EB Company

A close neighboring company was lurking in the wings. J.I. Case out of Racine, Wisconsin watched closely as Emerson Brantingham fell further and further behind. Their particularly keen interest was in the plant and facilities and the 28 vital patents that Emerson Brantingham held.

Finally, in November 1928, the Emerson Brantingham Company fell to the hands of J. I. Case. For what it's worth, Emerson Brantingham was one of the last of over 800 implement companies to fall prey to the times.

J. I. Case continued to manufacture agricultural implements at its Rockford works until 1970 when they closed the aging manufacturing facility. Finding no buyers for the sprawling complex Case donated the site and 1.4 million square feet of buildings to the City of Rockford for use as the City Yards.

  • EVOLUTION OF THE EMERSON-BRANTINGHAM COMPANY
  •  1852: J. H. Manny & Company founded
  •  1854: Name changed to Manny & Company
  •  1860: Name changed to Talcott, Emerson, & Company
  •  1860: Name changed to Emerson & Company
  •  1871: Name changed to Emerson & Talcott
  •  1895: Name changed to Emerson Manufacturing Company
  •  1909: Name changed to Emerson-Brantingham Company
  •  1912: Acquired sawmill maker Geiser Manufacturing Company, Waynesboro, Pennsylvania
  •  1912: Acquired sawmill maker  Reeves and Company, Columbus, Indiana
  •  1912: Acquired buggy maker Pontiac Buggy Company, Pontiac, Michigan
  •  1912: Acquired hay rake maker La Crosse Hay Tool Company, Chicago Heights, Illinois
  •  1912: Acquired gas engine maker Rockford Gas Engine Works, Rockford, Illinois
  •  1912: Acquired tractor maker Gas Traction Company (Big-4), Minneapolis, Minnesota
  •  1912: Acquired wagon maker Newton Wagon Company, Batavia, Illinois
  •  1912: Acquired drill maker American Drill Company, Marion, Indiana
  •  1918: Acquired implement maker Osborne Harvesting Equipment Company, Springfield, Illinois
  • 1928: Sold to J. I. Case & Company, Racine, Wisconsin.

The Emerson Carriage Plant on South Main Street in 1912

This section has been temporarily condensed, more information to be added soon

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