Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Co.

A Fiatallis HD-41B, which weighed upwards of 140,000 pounds counting blade and ripper.

A Fiatallis HD-41B, which weighed upwards of 140,000 pounds counting blade and ripper.

The Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Co. (later Fiat-Allis and Fiatallis) made heavy construction equipment from 1928 until 1985 at a 70-acre plant between Sixth and 11th streets and Stanford Avenue and Stevenson Drive. At its peak in the 1960s, A-C employed about 6,500 people in Springfield.

Allis-Chalmers’ first Springfield plant was bought from Monarch Tractor Corp., which was in financial straits, in 1928. The Springfield Monarch factory, which was descended from a company that had manufactured crawler tractors in Watertown, Wis. since 1913, had opened in 1925. (The Wisconsin Monarch should not be confused with an identically named British manufacturer.)

RitchieWiki, a collaborative website about heavy equipment, explains Allis-Chalmers’ interest in Monarch.

Monarch’s pre-existing models, the Six-Ton and the Ten-Ton, would form the basis of Allis-Chalmers’ new track-type tractor line-up. Eventually, they would develop new models that included the Model 75/Model F and Model 50/Model H. These models were abandoned for the more favorable Model K, Model L, and Model M and in 1937 the Model S.

allis chalmers at warLike most manufacturing firms, Allis-Chalmers’ production was switched to wartime purposes during World War II. Although other portions of the firm contributed to the atomic bomb project, the Springfield plant’s output continued to focus on heavy equipment, such as artillery tractors and bulldozers, many of them used for airfield construction.

The Illinois State Journal noted A-C’s contribution to the war in a V-E Day edition on May 9, 1945.

The Allis-Chalmers Co. was the largest manufacturer of the crawler tread prime mover, and also the M-18, a machine which carried a crew of 15, supplies of ammunition and a large calibre field gun at high speed.

Following the war, A-C moved to outflank competitors like Caterpillar with the HD-19, the world’s largest track-type tractor. More than 2,600 were sold before the next model, the even more powerful HD-20,  went into production.

A-C expanded in Springfield by buying American Radiator Co.’s factory at 11th and Ash streets in 1944 (that facility, identified as A-C’s No.. 2 plant, closed in 1968) and then added the Baker Manufacturing Co. plant, 503 E. Stanford Ave., in 1955. A-C also had a proving ground along the Sangamon River near Mechanicsburg.

Allis-Chalmers warehouse, 1945 (Sangamon Valley Collection)

Allis-Chalmers warehouse, 1945 (Sangamon Valley Collection)

Major products at the Springfield plant included crawler bulldozers, such as the HD-14 and later the HD-41 lines, and heavy-duty graders.

Facing both a recession and increased competition in the construction machinery, Allis-Chalmers entered a joint venture with Fiat S.p.A. in 1974. (A-C was the junior partner, with 35 percent ownership.) The venture operated under the names Fiat-Allis and then Fiatallis, but never gained the sales it needed.

The Springfield Fiatallis factory finally closed, costing the area 1,700 jobs, in 1985. Fiatallis itself eventually was sold to CNH.

“The loss of Fiat-Allis was the final blow to manufacturing as a dominant employer in Springfield industry,” wrote Edward Russo, Melinda Garvert and Curtis Mann in their 1998 Springfield Business: A Pictorial History.

Hat tips: This entry has been edited to reflect Steve O’Connor’s better information on peak employment at A-C. See his comment below for much more information about the company in the early 1960s. In addition, Kenneth Vance’s comment below has more detail about Fiatallis’ last years and its final shutdown.  Thanks to both of them.

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47 Responses to Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Co.

  1. Sherri Boner says:

    I donated several Allis-Chalmers/Fiat-Allis items in 2011, to the Sangamon Valley Collection. See Curtis Mann to look at them. I donated a scrapbook and other small items. Be sure to check them out (book can’t be checked out of library)

    • editor says:

      Sherri: Thanks, I’ll do that. Even tho my dad worked at A-C/Fiatallis for more than 30 years, I was only in the plant once, so I’m interested in anything about the place.

      • Sherri Boner says:

        I was just looking at my comment and I see a type.I meant to say that the book could not be check out! Not ‘look, can’t be checked out”. Sorry.
        I also gave some things to a man who is in the A-C group. I forget his name now. I had found it in my parent’s papers. There is (or was) an A-C retirees group that met for lunch. However in 2011, the man said that not many came anymore. They are, of course, in their 80’s and 90’s, IF still alive.
        I think I also donated some photos to Sangamon Valley Collection, of A-C people. I was never in the plant either.

        • editor says:

          Sherri: I knew what you meant, but thanks for the reminder that I need to look at those photos.

        • Rosemary Hinrichs says:

          They are still alive and meet every other month for lunch and updates on members who are still living. My husband belonged and although he passed I still go to the lunches.
          .He retired after 30 years.

    • I believe there is a typo inside brackets (look should be book) Charles Ryan, 1980-1992

      • editor says:

        Ms. Boner noted the typo two years ago, but I apparently never made the change. Apologies to her, and thank you, Mr. Ryan for the reminder.

  2. Liz says:

    My dad worked at Fiat from 73-85. He worked near 11th and Stanford and would walk to work in good weather, since we lived in Southern View. He knew a lot of guys that worked the early shift that would clock in, walk to Spammy’s on Stanford, drink all day, then walk back right before quitting time. There were also guys that would finish their shift, drink at Spammy’s, then head back to work for their next shift.

  3. In the 1962 Illinois Manufacturers Directory ( 50th edition ) it listed the following information about the Springfield, IL. Allis-Chalmers plant:
    Allis-Chalmers MFG. CO.
    3000 S. 6th St.
    Telephone – 544-6431
    Gen. Mgr.-A. C. Book
    Works Mgr.-H. J. Detjen
    Works Pur. Agt.-W. V. Kauffman
    Traf. Mgr.-A. J. Bianco
    Chief Eng.-F. A. Schick
    Products-Tractors (crawler), Graders, Bulldozers, Snow Plows
    Employs at this plant-6,500
    Other plants at Springfield-1901 S. 11th St.
    Other plants-see Deerfield, Harvey, Ill.
    Employs in Illinois-9,000
    Home Office-West Allis, Wisc.
    1126 S. 70th St. (Milwaukee 1)
    Telephone-SPring 4-3600
    Pres.-Robert S. Stevenson
    Exec. Vice-Pres.-W. G. Scholl
    Sr. V-P., Tractors-B. S. Oberlink
    Sr. V-P., Industries-J. L. Singleton
    V-P’s-John Ernst, W. J. Klein, C. W. Schweers, T, D. Lyons, B. E. Smith, A. Van Herckes, W. Yost, P. F. Bauer, E. J. Mercer, W. M. Wallace, R. M. Casper, L. W. Davis
    Secy.-A. D. Dennis
    Treas.-Asst. Secy.-G. F. Langenohl
    Comptroller-W. S. Pierson
    Total Employees-38,000
    Cap.-over $100,000,000.

    • editor says:

      Mr. O’Connor: It took me two readings, but it finally dawned on me that you had better information than I did about A-C’s employment totals in the 1960s. I edited the post (and gave you credit) to reflect the change. I also appreciate the additional information on plant management and output. Thanks for the additional information, and thanks very much for reading.

      • Editor – you are very welcome. I am going to do a post on my Facebook page this weekend about this factory and would love to use your images giving you credit.

        • editor says:

          Thanks for reading, Steve. As far as photo credit, however, you may certainly say those photos were published on SangamonLink. However, Allis-Chalmers was one of the first entries I did, and I obviously did not give sources for the pic of the HD-19 or the WW2 ad. I’m confident they are in the public domain — I have always tried to make sure of that — but I don’t know now exactly where I got them. So giving SangamonLink “credit” for them would be overstating the case. In the case of the third photo, please identify the source as the Sangamon Valley Collection at Lincoln Library, Springfield’s public library, as I did. And thanks again for improving our entry.

  4. Sandy Baksys says:

    Reading your post, I felt nostalgic about this place, the factory, where Dad went around 3:30 p.m. and returned home around a quarter after midnight five days a week. I still remember his cap with the badge on it and his battered metal lunch (dinner) pail.
    I, too, only visited once, when I was in college, I believe. Dad still dreamed about going to work there late into his ’80s, 25 years after it was no more. I can tell you he didn’t clock in and go to a bar. In fact, post-World War II Soviet refugees there, Poles, Lithuanians and Ukrainians, had a reputation for being very hard workers.
    One time when we were visiting in Kentucky, he told me that seeing roads carved into the sides of mountains, he knew where the earth movers they built had gone, and he was proud at what the machines had allowed this country to do.

  5. frank weitzel says:

    my father , grandfater and uncle all worked at the plant . my grandfather was the president of local 1027.

  6. David C. Hollis says:

    Dave says ….

    I worked at the Springfield plant from 1973 to 1976 as a welder. My parents had each worked there for a while in the 1950s. I had about four of my uncles there at times, one retiring after many years. My grandfather worked there running drilling machines for some thirty seven years from near the start in 1930 until his retirement in 1967. I think in the the decades from the thirties to the eighties, practically everyone from the Springfield and surrounding area had at least someone in their family who worked there. It was truly awesome to see the huge machinery that was put out in the plant. The sights and sounds from such a scale of production are no longer a part of Springfield. I am one who misses it and what it meant to the community.

    • editor says:

      Dave: Springfield really was a manufacturing center for much of its existence. That’s hard to keep in mind these days.

      Thanks for reading.

  7. Donald Jordan says:

    I worked at FiatAllis for 34 years, We raised four children, bought a home and have
    lived here in the same house for 56 years. FiatAllis was good to me and my family. I’ll
    not ever forget them. I will be 83 coming January first 2016. And still remember the good times.

  8. Susie (Larson) Weitzel says:

    My Grandfather Earnie C. Farnam worked at Allis-Chalmers and retired from there, as My Dad Albert D. Larson worked there and retired as well. And my Father -in- Law Harold Weitzel worked there also. I remember going with my Mother and taking supper to my Dad and meeting him on 11th street and watching in the end buildings as the men worked on the big tractors. It was a fun time to watch and some times my Dad worked from 4 pm to 12 Midnight and other times he worked from 4 pm to 4 am. So many times My Mom took my Dad to work and I would ride with her to pick him up at Midnight and watch all the Men come out of the Plant caring there Lunch Buckets, And knowing they all worked very hard on there shift. Lots of memories for so many familys . It will always be Allis- Chalmers corner to me.

    • editor says:

      Ms. Weitzel & Mr. Jordan: My folks raised 11 kids with my dad’s A-C pay check being their only income for many of those years. Those indeed were tough jobs, but they were good ones. Thanks for commenting.

  9. Barney says:

    I just stumbled on this site and enjoyed reading the article and comments. It’s the kind of history I really like reading about. Thanks.
    I had heard on the radio this morning that the Springfield plant closed because the union workers went on strike. Is that true? Thanks again for the site.

    • Kenneth Vance says:

      I work at the plant from 1963 until they closed in 85. In reply to the question about the plant closing because the union went on strike, no I don’t believe so.

      Our last contract negotiations, the company insisted that the union give concessions to the company in order to keep the company afloat, which we did give up 10% across the board.

      A-C/Fiat-Allis had struggled for years, and with foreign and domestic competition. Before pulling out of the US, they were close to reaching an agreement on a contract with Russia for HD 41 units that would have guaranteed a additional 5 years work. However, when President Reagan placed an embargo on trade with Russia, that was the final blow to our plant in Springfield.

      • editor says:

        Mr. Vance: Thanks very much for clarifying the reason behind the shutdown. My memory (I was an editor at the Journal-Register when A-C folded, and my dad worked there for 30-plus years) coincides with yours. Cancellation of the earthmover deal really was the last straw.

  10. Kendra (Castles) Deane says:

    My Dad, Kenneth Castles, worked for Allis-Chalmers / Fiat-Allis for almost 20 years. He was in management and left around 1981 or 1982 (because the plant was closing). Was a great job for him, but was not old enough to retire (He would have been about 38 at the time he left). Took him 2 years to find another job (in another state). Dad was in management. My brother and I would go in to work with him sometimes on Saturdays. Such an amazing building, but didn’t appreciate it as much as I would now. We would also attend the summer picnics. They were always so much fun. My father passed away in 1995 (Age 53). I still have items with the Fiat-Allis logo (not sure if anything with Allis-Chalmers). Some things that were given away at the picnics and/or the open houses that were held. Many good memories.

    • editor says:

      Ms. Deane: Thanks for the memory. The period when A/C was in full operation was really a golden time.

  11. Josephine says:

    Would anyone know if this image is from the Allis-Chalmers Manufactoring plant. How would one go out about receiving permissions to use this image?

    Image found and then sold on Etsy. http://www.etsy.com/listing/101480648/photo-vintage-factory-nurses-and-worker. (Yes, I have contacted the buyer and seller of this image, no luck).

    • editor says:

      Josephine: OK, now I’ve seen the image (sorry for earlier confusion). Assuming that this is an image from Allis-Chalmers, I believe the copyright is held by CNH Industrial, which eventually bought out Fiatallis. You can follow the link above to CNH’s home page. Good luck.

  12. Eric Beyers says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading article & comments. I’m 53 years old, born in 1963 in Pana, Illinois. I great up on farm which used Allis-Chalmers equipment. I now own a 1965 Allis-Chalmers HD16 bulldozer which may have been built in Springfield. How is it that our State of Illinois has lost so many good companies & jobs over the years? Allis-Chalmers, later Fiat-Allis, employed 6500 people in Springfield, Illinois. That’s amazing! I understand that Allis-Chalmers went out of business. But how is it that another large construction equipment company did not purchase the old ALLIS-Chalmers buildings, toolings, & experienced employees? I drive by this part Springfield & see nothing of these past eras. Was all of it just scrapped? If so, that’s sad.

    • editor says:

      Good points, Mr. Beyers. Thanks for reading.

    • Sean Carmody says:

      My grandfather and his brothers all worked at AC and grandpa retired there. I remember the article in the paper when the plant was torn down. Not one Fiat Allis or AC piece of equipment was used. It may have even said not one piece of equipment made in the US was used.

    • Duke beal says:

      I worked there from 70 till 85 and most of the machines went to Italy .What didn’t go was auctioned off or scrapped

  13. Sudeep kumar N. says:

    I am Mr.Sudeep kumar N, an Engineer from Sabarigiri Hydro Electric Project which was constructed and commissioned by Allis Chalmers in early 1960s in Kerala, India. As we are crossing 50 years of successful production of Hydro Power, we would like to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the Power House. We came to understand that your esteemed firm VOITH acquired the Hydro Business of Allis Chalmers in 1986.

    As part of our celebration and honor, we would like to get in touch (at least) with any of the staff/member of Allis Chalmers Manufacturing Company (Pennsylvania, US) during 1960s or later. We would be most blessed if we could get such an opportunity during this occasion. Since I got this one link to get connected to Allis Chlamers, I request you to kindly provide us a traceable link to any person or information regarding to it.

    Thanking you

    Sudeep kumar N.
    Assistant Engineer,
    SGHEP, KSEB Ltd,
    Moozhiyar, Kerala,.
    India-689662
    +91-9447766194
    sudeepkn@gmail.com

    • editor says:

      Mr. Kumar: I’m not sure anyone from A-C’s hydropower division has ever read this encyclopedia, but perhaps another reader has the right connections. I’m willing to be surprised by anything. Thanks for the note.

  14. Joe Kumpf says:

    Greetings all Fiat-Allis friends. I worked for the company from 1974 until 1980 at their Sacaton, AR proving grounds and also at the main plant in Springfield, IL. Had many friends there, most of which have now unfortunately passed away. When we developed the HD-41 as the world’s largest crawler tractor I remember the great pride by all the employees and the community. It was unfortunate that we were not able to stay competitive and continue the great heritage.
    I am now turning 65 and trying to find out who has control of the FiatAllis pension fund so I can apply. My pension will be small, but is needed.
    If anyone out there knows who I should contact to submit for my pension, please let me know.
    Thank you, Joe Kumpf joeandgretta@gmail.com

  15. Liz says:

    Hi Joe,

    I will pass your post onto my dad, who worked at FA from 70-85. He may have some information as I think he may be getting a pension from Fiat.

  16. Nick Penning says:

    I had remembered my father-in-law, John Templeton, telling of an AC contract with Russia to buy trucks, at one point in his long career as a welder at “AC,” and then Fiat-Allis. The truck order surprised me, because I didn’t know we had commerce with Russia. I hadn’t known that the factory’s closing was caused by a Reagan embargo that blocked the HD 41. AC was the heart of good, union-negotiated middle class jobs, and one of our two (the other being Sangamo on the north side) large factories in Springfield. When AC closed, I was dumbstruck. How could that possibly happen? It had been a fixture of town all my life (I’m 70 now). That huge parking lot, with its own traffic light on 6th Street during shift changes, suddenly went empty. Thanks for the info, Mr. Vance; and for this great piece, Mike.

  17. Liz says:

    It was the older union guys not wanting to give in to certain things as well. It was a damn shame that Fiat closed. My dad started in 1970 at the age of 19 and the plan was to retire in 2000, at the age of 49. Fiat provided for our family as it expanded from 3 in to 1971 to 6 in 1980.

  18. Joe Kumpf says:

    Good morning everyone,
    Thanks for the support in finding the source of the old Fiat Allis pension plan. With your help I was able to make contact with the right people.
    However, now there is a difference of opinion on the amount of service time needed to vest for pension benefits and I could sure use your assistance again.
    Does anyone have an old Fiat Allis employee handbook or employee benefits summary sheet that includes the pension vesting period? If so, could you let me know?
    Our pension benefit from Fiat Allis is small but it will be helpful for my wife and I.
    Thank you so much,
    Joe Kumpf joeandgretta@gmail.com

  19. PRESTON STEVEN says:

    I was in my travels and found a horse drawn road grader made by The Baker Manufacturing Co., Springfield,Ill. I have a few old farm relics and I could not pass this up, I was born and raised in Springfield until I left in 1988, but still have very strong ties to the community and the history. I hope to someday restore the grader to original working condition as a reminder of my roots.
    I would like to know if there is still info out there on this road grader, the tag is still intact and would be glad for any info on it.

    • editor says:

      Sir: Perhaps another SangamonLink reader can help. In any case, it probably is worth your while to check with the Sangamon Valley Collection at Lincoln Library (217-753-4900). They might have some ideas for other places to check. It’s very cool that you found a Baker grader. Good luck with the restoration, and thanks for reading.

  20. Jared says:

    Does anyone have some photos of the penthouse of the plant from late 1956 or later? The penthouse is located across the street from 11th and East Oak Street. Thanks.

  21. Sherri Boner says:

    My maternal grandfather, Earnie Metzger, was a guard at plant 2 (on Ash St) for many years I believe. My dad worked at this site, then later at plant 1 (main plant) and on Stevenson and 11th for a time. I have donated a scrap book, compiled by my grandmother?, to the Sangamon Valley Collection, several years ago. Also some photos I found when cleaning out my parent’s home. Be sure to go see Curtis Mann for these.

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