The Emerson-Brantingham Company, as a "name" began in 1909,
but its' roots are firmly entrenched back to the 1850's. This was the beginning
of the mechanized revolution that forever changed farming in America. John H. Manny was what
many would refer to as an ambitious tinkerer. He was obsessed with helping his
father make farming easier.
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 mousetrap" 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, Pells Manny,
had developed a horse drawn machine that did just that. His successes came fast
and convincing. In 1852, his machine won the coveted Gold Medal for Achievement
at competitive trial in New York.
Because of both the
supply of natural resources and proximity to the growing agricultural
heartland, 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 J.H. 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 (cousin of Ralph Waldo) 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, IL., a Mr.
Abe Lincoln. Even more coincidently, McCormick's lawer
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 tender age of 30.
After Manny's death, the
company changed its name to Talcott, Emerson, and Co.
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
Emerson, always eager to
expand, went out and sought those individuals, both technical and financial,
who could take his company to the next level of performance. One of those
individuals was Charles S. Brantingham, 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
Part of that vision was
to expand rapidly. One way to do that was to "not reinvent the
wheel". He needed a company that produced high quality steam engines. He
acquired the Geiser Mfg. Co. in Pennsylvania. He needed to expand the
tillage business, so he jumped on the opportunity to acquire the Osborne Co.
Osborne was in the process of being divested from the International Harvestor Co. because of a monopoly suite with the
government. He saw a need for carrying and hauling. He acquired the Pontiac
Buggy Co. and the Newton
Wagon Works. There was a demand for more auxiliary gas engines so he obtained
the Rockford Gas Engine Co. Capitalization was increasing at a record rate.
His last acquisition was
the Big Four Tractor Co. from Minneapolis,
MN. This company built huge
tractors that were used to break and plow huge tracts of land in the west as
farming moved in that direction. Brantingham was able
to acquire Big Four fairly cheaply because the demand for the monster tractors
(these were machines whose rear wheels alone 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 beasts
became less and less. And with the demise of the steam engine, EB already had
one division in serious financial trouble. Now their two biggest money makers
..... WEREN'T! A close neighboring company was lurking in the wings. JI Case
out of Racine, WI watched closely as EB fell further and further behind. Their
particularly keen interest was in the plant and facilities and the 28 vital
patents that EB held. Finally, in 1928 (November), the Emerson Brantingham Co. fell to the hands of Case. For what it's
worth, Emerson Brantingham was one of the last of
over 800 implement companies to fall prey to the times.