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The name of Bull has been associated with the development of Racine’s greatest industry and one of the most important manufacturing enterprises of the country-the J. I. Case Threshing Machine Company-since 1S63, when Stephen Bull assumed financial management of the enterprise. He was succeeded in the presidency of the company by his son, Frank Kellogg Bull, who remains in active connection with the business at the present time as chairman of the board, and in all the years his developing powers have proven adequate to the demands made upon him in the control and development of this gigantic concern. Mr. Bull has been practically a lifelong resident of Racine, although his birth occurred at Spring Prairie, in Walworth County, on the 7th of May, 1857. His ancestry is traced back to New England, he being a descendant of one of the Mayflower Pilgrims. His paternal grandparents, De Grove and Amanda M. (Crosby) Bull, established the family within Wisconsin’s borders and spent their remaining days as farming people of Raymond Township, Racine County, where both reached advanced age. Their son, Stephen Bull, who was born in Scipio, Cayuga County, New York, March 14, 1822, was accorded but few educational or other opportunities in his youth, mastering only such branches of learning as were taught in the subscription schools, but learning such lessons of life as could be gained through actual experience in the work of his father’s farm, for between the ages of ten and eighteen years he spent most of his time in the fields. Then came a broadening experience as clerk in a grocery store in New York City where he not only learned something of commercial methods but also of the broader phase of life in the great metropolis. Upon his return to Wisconsin in 1845 he located in Racine, but the following year established a general store at Spring Prairie, Walworth County, where he conducted business for a decade. He again came to Racine in 1857 and went to work with his brother-in-law, J. I. Case, an association that was thereafter maintained, Mr. Bull becoming a partner in the business in 1863 and assuming control of the financial interests of the firm, in which M. B. Erskine also became a partner. Upon the death of Mr. Case, Mr. Bull succeeded to the presidency of the business, which in the meantime had been incorporated under the name of J. I. Case Threshing Machine Company. He continued as the chief executive officer until 1897 and he was also a most prominent figure in banking circles, becoming a stockholder of the Manufacturers’ National Bank of Racine in 1872. In its presidency he succeeded M. B. Erskine, who in turn had succeeded J. I. Case, the first president. Mr. Bull remained at the head of the bank until January 1, 1904, when he resigned. His last days were spent in honorable retirement and, vigorous in mind and body, he retained his interest in questions and affairs of the day, bearing loyally the burden of advanced years. His worth as a factor in the development and promotion of Racine’s chief industry can scarcely be overestimated, as his sound judgment, keen discrimination and insight enabled him to so direct the finances of the company as to make for notable success. His death occurred November 15, 1913.
Stephen Bull was married June 7, 1849, to Miss Ellen C. Kellogg, who passed away March 27, 1880, leaving five children, while two of her family had previously been called to the home beyond, a son having died about three months old, while Herbert passed away at the age of twenty-three. The others are: Ida R., the wife of H. W. Conger, of San Francisco, California; Frank K.; Jeanette, the wife of Richard T. Robinson, of Racine; Lillian M., the wife of Frederick Robinson; and Bessie M., the wife of A. Arthur Guilbert.
Brought to Racine at the age of three months, Frank K. Bull attended its public schools and for six years was a student in Racine College. He was nineteen years of age when he became connected with the J. I. Case Threshing Machine Company under the immediate supervision of R. H. Baker, who had become a partner in 1863 and who directed his efforts in various clerical and mechanical departments with a thoroughness that made him master of the business in principle and detail. With the reorganization of the business in 1881 under the name of the J. I. Case Threshing Machine Company, Mr. Bull succeeded Mr. Baker as secretary-treasurer, the latter retiring on account of illness. Mr. Bull remained in that official connection for fifteen years and then became his father’s successor, retiring from the presidency in 1915 to become chairman of the board, and thus still remains an active directing force in the management of the business, which today has about four thousand employees, while its ramifying trade relations reach out to all parts of the world. A contemporary biographer has said of him: “The great growth of the business in the last two years is due largely to the individual efforts and foresight of Frank K. Bull. Though he commenced his business career with unusual opportunities, he nevertheless has been obliged to sustain a difficult role, for the responsibilities placed upon him have required great ability, and no amount of prestige would have compensated for lack of energy or executive force. His predecessors in his present position were men of remarkable strength, and to maintain their standards and continue to progress within reason requires a breadth of judgment and a measure of farsighted enterprise which few possess.”
The demonstration of his power to correctly solve intricate business problems and co-ordinate seemingly diverse elements into a unified whole has led many concerns to seek his co-operation and he has become an important factor in promoting the success of various Wisconsin corporations. He became the president of the Belle City Manufacturing Company, which he aided in organizing.
On the 16th of September, 1880, in Milwaukee, was celebrated the marriage of Frank K. Bull and Miss H. Belle Jones. a native of that city and a daughter of Louis Emery Jones. The children of this marriage are Stephen and Jeanette. Of the Episcopal Church Mr. and Mrs. Bull are communicants and he was one of the organizers and for some time a member of the surpliced choir of St. Luke’s. His political allegiance has always been given to the Republican Party and he keeps well versed on the significant questions and issues of the day that the weight of his influence may be given in support of the measures of value to the country: He belongs to the Union League Club of New York and his club relationships also extend to the Milwaukee Club, the Chicago Athletic Association and the Racine Club. In addition to his attractive home at No. 1121 Main street, Racine. the family occupy through the winter months a beautiful residence at Camden, South Carolina. In a review of the life history of Frank K. Bull one is led to the reflection that to accumulate a fortune requires one kind of genius, to retain a fortune already acquired, to add to its legitimate increment and to make such use of it that its possessor may derive there from the greatest enjoyment and the public the greatest benefit requires quite another kind of genius. Mr. Bull seems to be the possessor of both. He is a representative of that younger generation of business men who have been called upon to shoulder responsibilities differing materially from those resting upon their predecessors. In a broader field of enterprise he found himself obliged to deal with affairs of greater magnitude than those with which the founders of the Case Company had to do and to solve more difficult and complicated financial and economic problems. However, he has met each test and by reason of the judgment which has characterized his efforts at all times he stands today as a splendid representative of the prominent American manufacturer and capitalist.