Allis-Chalmers was a U.S. manufacturer of machinery for various industries. Its business lines included agricultural equipment, construction equipment, power generation and power transmission equipment, and machinery for use in industrial settings such as factories, flour mills, sawmills, textile mills, steel mills, refineries, mines, and ore mills.
The first Allis-Chalmers Company was formed in 1901 as an amalgamation of the Edward P Allis Company (steam engines and mill equipment), Fraser & Chalmers (mining and ore milling equipment), the Gates Iron Works (rock and cement milling equipment), and the industrial business line of the Dickson Manufacturing Company (engines and compressors). It was reorganized in 1912 as the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company. During the next 70 years its industrial machinery filled countless mills, mines, and factories around the world, and its brand gained fame among consumers mostly from its farm equipment business's orange tractors and silver combine harvesters.
Edward P. Allis was an entrepreneur who in 1860 bought a bankrupt firm at a sheriff's auction, the Reliance Works of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which had been owned by James Decker and Charles Seville. Decker & Seville were millwrights who made equipment for flour milling. Under Allis's management, the firm was reinvigorated and "began producing steam engines and other mill equipment just at the time that many sawmills and flour mills were converting to steam power." Although the financial panic of 1873 "caught Edward Allis overextended" and forced him into bankruptcy, "his own reputation saved him and reorganization came quickly," forming the Edward P. Allis Company. He set out to hire known experts: George Hinkley, who perfected the band saw; William Gray, who revolutionized the flour-milling process through roller milling; and Edwin Reynolds, who ran the Corliss Steam Engine works." Allis died in 1889, but under his sons (Charles and William) and the other principals, the firm continued to prosper, and by 1900 it had grown to become of of America's largest steam engine builders.
In the 1980s and 1990s, a series if divestitures transformed the firm and eventually dissolved it. Its successors today are Allis-Chalmers Energy and AGCO.
Jumping forward: In 1928, Allis-Chalmers acquired the Monarch Tractor Company of Springfield, Illinois, thus adding a line of crawler tractors. In 1929, it acquired the La Crosse Plow works of La Crosse, Wisconsin. This now expanded the Allis-Chalmers implement line. Also in 1929, Harry Merritt, senior executive in Allis-Chalmer's tractor business, was in California when the bright orange California poppy blossoms inspired him to think about the use of bright colors in marketing. Brightly colored things that can be seen from far away had potential in farm equipment marketing. He soon changed the paint color of Allis-Chalmers' tractors to Persian Orange, the available paint color that he felt most closely resembled the California poppy's color. This began the tradition of orange Allis-Chalmers tractors. Various competitors would follow suit over the next decade, as International Harvester switched to all-red (1936), Minneapolis-Moline switched to Prairie Gold (late 1930s), and Case switched to Flambeau Red (late 1930s). john Deere already had a distinctive color scheme with its bright green and yellow.
the 1930s were a pivotal decade. Despite the Grat Depression, Allis-Chalmers succeeded as demand for its machinery continued.
World War II in the 1940s caused Allis-Chalmers, like most other manufacturing companies, to become extremely busy. As happened with many firms, its civilian product lines experienced a period of being "on hold", with emphasis on parts and service to keep existing machines running, but its war material production was pushed to the maximum of productivity and output.
The 1950s were a time of great demand for more power in farm tractors, as well as greater capability from their hydraulic and electrical systems. It was also a decade of extensive dieselization.
In 1953, the WD-45 was introduced, replacing the WD. The motor was increased to 226 cubic inches, giving it 30 horsepower on the drawbar. This was almost double the horsepower of the WD. A new Allis Chalmers designed Snap-Coupler hitch was used. It allowed the operator to hook up to an implement from the seat of the tractor. The D-series tractor was introduced in 1957 and continued to be successful in the 1960s.
The company began to struggle in the 1980s in a climate of rapid economic change. It was forced amid financial struggles to sell major business lines. In 1983, Allis-Chalmers sold Simplicity, the lawn and garden equipment division.
In 1985 Allis-Chalmers folded three of its main business lines. The Fiat-Allis construction equipment venture, The Allis-Chalmers farm equipment business which was sold to Deutz AG of Germany and the Siemens-Allis venture in electrical controls.
In 1988, Allis-Chalmers sold its American Air Filter filtration business to Snyder General Corporation.
In 1990, Deutz-Allis was sold to its management and became Allis-Gleaner Corporation (AGCO). The AGCO tractors were produced until 2010 when AGCO announced that it was phasing out the brand.
In August 2008, Briggs & Stratton announced that it would sell lawn tractors under the Allis-Chalmers brand name.
Allis-Chalmers tractors were not known for their styling. Instead, that firm's approach was utilitarian, almost to a fault. Such was not the case, however, with the company's Model M crawler tractor. the louvered engine panels and track fenders combined to produce automotive refinement. then the Model M was introduced in 1932, it offered farmers 29 1/2 drawbar hp by way of a 300-cubic-inch, four-cylinder Allis-built engine. Allis-Chalmers entered the crawler market with its 1927 purchase of Monarch Tractor Company in Waterton, Wisconsin. The company would continue to produce a long line of crawler models until 1975, when tht division of the firm became known as Fiat-Allis after the creation of a joint venture between Allis-Chalmers and Fiat. Today that firm is part of New Holland Ag.