December 5, 1916: Benjamin Gravely Receives Patent for Motor Plow


On December 5, 1916, Benjamin Franklin Gravely of South Charleston received a patent for his Gravely Motor Plow.

He had first started working on the invention five years earlier.  Gravely’s first crude attempt had combined a push plow, a tractor wheel, and a two-and-a-half-horsepower motorcycle engine. From this simple start, he kept adapting the plow until he perfected it.

In 1922, he founded the Gravely Motor Plow and Cultivator Company in Dunbar. His first plows sold for between $150 and $175.  They were so popular, he could sell a year’s worth in three months. As a result, he set up sales outlets in Florida and California and even in France, Germany, and Switzerland.

He eventually transformed his simple plow it into a five-horsepower walk-behind garden tractor. It was capable of plowing, mowing, and various other tasks.

In 1937, Gravely retired from day-to-day management of the company and sold out to his business partner D. Ray Hall. Then, in 1960, Hall sold the company to Studebaker for a reported $12.5 million.

The Dunbar factory continued cranking out Gravelys until 1968, when the operations were relocated to North Carolina.