The Wonder Plow

Tennessee inventor’s plow, also known as The Wonder Plow, was designed for stability.

| July 2017

I recently donated one of my great-grandfather’s horse-drawn plows, which is covered by two patents issued to him, to the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville. My great-grandfather, Archibald C. Morrison (1851-1937), was a Tipton County, Tennessee, blacksmith and inventor. Archibald was the son of Chestnut Peacock Morrison, a shoemaker who came to the U.S. with his family during the Irish potato famine. He later manufactured shoes for the Confederacy.

I have been comparing Archie’s plow (known locally as The Wonder Plow) with another horse-drawn plow of that era, a Lynchburg Kutter built in Virginia, advertised as being “lighter and stronger.” I guess Archie’s plow was lighter, mainly because it had a unique, open-beam design.

Archie’s plow beam is made of steel and has a unique design. It’s an open beam with a brace across the bend and a rudder for stability. It also has a coulter, as is typical of plows built from 1900-25.

Today, the Wonder Plow looks basically intact. I acquired appropriate handles and a shovel plow point from plow collector Harold Eddy at his fascinating museum in Slater, Missouri. Using the plowmaker’s anvil used by my great-grandfather in producing his “Wonder Plow,” I installed them on the plow beam.

The improved Wonder Plow

Archibald was granted a patent (no. 814,721) for his Wonder Plow in 1906. In 1925, he was granted a second patent (no. 1,548,734) for an improvement to the first invention. The improved design calls for a gauge and rudder element made of steel (measuring 1-1/8 inches wide by 1/4 inch thick) that can be fabricated and bolted onto the beam. The patent describes it:

“The device comprises a combined rudder and gauge, fashioned from a single piece of metal and including a shank, which is bent upon itself to form a double-walled gauge, the constituent members of which are in contact, the lower element of the gauge being twisted upon itself to form a depending rearwardly inclined rudder disposed substantially at right angles to the gauge and in a vertical position. The shank of the gauge and rudder is held adjustably on the standard by the bolt and the gauge and rudder may be raised and lowered, accordingly. The part limits the penetration of the plow point into the soil, and the rudder aids the plow in holding its course.”