Born in Cleveland, Ingersoll was a good athlete and wanted to be a professional baseball player, but his father wouldn't let him. He formed a partnership with W. R. Eynon in Cleveland in 1888 to make cutters for slab milling, then found existing machine tools were not heavy enough to drive these cutters and started making machines. In 1891 Ingersoll was lured to Rockford to take a spot in a new industrial park there. Ingersoll began to make fixtures, as well as machines and cutters, which allowed him to assume the total responsibility for the output of his machines. He developed the concept of the adjustable rail, or portal, machine before the turn of the century and built one for General Electric in 1903, which weighed almost 400,000 pounds.
About 1905, he abandoned standard machines to build only special machines. He built the first machine for cylinder blocks for Ford's Model T around 1909 and designed and built the first transfer machine ever built in the U.S. in 1924. These two machines-the portal-type machine and the transfer machine-originated with Ingersoll.