The Case Eagle, Old Abe, is a well-known industrial trade-mark throughout North America and the world over. King of the air, the eagle is an established symbol in North American life and heritage. The Case Eagle, Old Abe, is far more than merely a trademark. He is a character out of history, a bird with a personality and a story all his own. The story begins in the early spring of 1861. In the wild north woods of Wisconsin, along the historic Flambeau River, the Chippewas First Nations had just set out on their annual sugar making pilgrimage.
Atop a great pine along the trail was a nest of mud and sticks and in the nest, an eaglet. The Chippewas felled the tree and took the eaglet captive. The bird was still too young to fly. Chief Sky, leader of the Chippewas, carried the eaglet back to Jim Falls, Wisconsin as a pet. There, Thunder of Bees, son of the Chief, bartered the bird for a bushel of corn to a settler named Daniel McCann. Remarking on the incident many years later, a poetic commentator wrote: 'And for this paltry sum was a noble bird sold from freedom to captivity; from barbarism to civilization; from the murmur of pines to crash of battle; from obscurity to fame.'
The eagle was magnificent in appearance and displayed much spirit. The United States Civil War had started in 1861, and men were being recruited for service. Soldiers have a weakness for mascots, so McCann took his eagle directly to the nearest camp at Eau Claire, where Company C of the Eighth Wisconsin Regiment was being organized. The men of the Company admired the bird, McCann made a sale for 21 dollars, and the Eau Claire outfit had a mascot. They dubbed the eagle 'Old Abe' after their President, Abraham Lincoln. Once he had joined Company C, 'Old Abe' became a legend almost overnight. Gifted with remarkable intelligence, he became a soldier among soldiers, more than a mascot, but an inspiration to the men around him.
When Company C joined the Eighth Regiment at Madison, Old Abe became the mascot for the entire outfit. He was inducted into military service in a special ceremony, which included placing red, white and blue ribbons around his neck and a rosette of similar colours on his breast. He was carried on his perch in regimental parades and given a place of honour in the very center of the front ranks, alongside the flag. Throughout the civil war, Old Abe went through thirty-eight battles and skirmishes, and the Eighth Regiment became known as the Eagle Regiment. With his wild piercing cry, he was familiar to men on both sides of the fight and gained equal respect as one of the brave and courageous fighters.
Old Abe's remarkable loyalty was known to all and on occasions he broke his bonds and winged swiftly away and disappeared. After a short interval of freedom, the kingly bird, his wings spread to a magnificent six and a half feet, would swoop silently down to his perch beside the flag.
After the war, Old Abe appeared in many parades and reviews and received the cheers of the nation. He was placed in the Wisconsin State House to spend his mature years and he was visited by thousands annually. His last public appearance was in 1880 at a great reunion of veterans held in Milwaukee. He shared the platform with General Ulysses S. Grant. In the big parade Old Abe was a figure of magnificent dignity. When the band struck up a stirring march, he answered with his celebrated battle cry.
In 1881 a fire broke out in the basement of the State House. Almost suffocated by heat and smoke, Old Abe never recovered and the great eagle died on March 26 188I. Stuffed and mounted in a glass case, he continued to attract attention long after his death. In 1904 his remains were destroyed by another fire. Today there are two oil paintings to keep fresh the memory of the fighting eagle who had earned his place in the sun.
Mr. Jerome Increase Case first encountered the eagle in 1861 while on a business trip to Eau Claire where Company 'C' was parading. Over the rumble of drums and the tramp of marching feet, the bird was screaming his battle cry. Mr. Case questioned a boy standing alongside: “Where did he come from, the eagle?” The boy told him Old Abe's story. Then and there Mr. Case determined to adopt Old Abe as the symbol of his business just as soon as the civil war was over.
In 1865 Old Abe began his career as the most famous bird in agricultural history as the trademark of the J. I. Case Company. For over 100 years the Case Eagle trademark identified Case machinery, parts, literature, and dealerships. Just as Old Abe came through the battles of a long, hard war to make a place for himself among the immortals, so has Case endured and survived battles of a different kind, and has emerged as one of the great leaders in the agricultural industry. Just as the image of the American eagle has come to represent prowess, freedom, and strength, the name Case is has come to represent strong, dependable, reliable, long-lasting machinery.