Chattanooga Plow Company
The Chattanooga Plow Company was once the largest factory in Chattanooga and an international leader in plow design and production. The company dates to the business activities of Newell Sanders, who arrived in Chattanooga in 1877 from Bloomington, Indiana, where he had owned and operated a bookstore for students of Indiana University. Sanders arrived with a letter of introduction to John T. Wilder, fellow Indianan, industrialist, and former Union Civil War officer. Sanders was intent on starting a manufacturing business and, after touring the city and discussing his options with Wilder, Sanders decided to begin with the manufacture of plows. At that time, the majority of plows used in the South came from the Midwest. To gain some knowledge of the plow business, Sanders returned to Indiana and spent a year working in a plow factory and studying plow design. Sanders returned to Chattanooga in 1878 and began the Newell Sanders Plow Works-advertised as Newell Sanders & Company. From its inception, Sanders advertised his plows as the plow designed for southern soils and for use expressly in the South.
Newell Sanders & Company operated out of an eight-hundred-square-foot building manufacturing plows with castings purchased from Wheland Foundry. By 1881, Sanders and his agents were selling plows in Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. Two years later, Sanders, Charles D. Mitchell, George W. Wheland, C. C. Bloomfield, and Judson Buchanan increased the company’s capitalization, moved and expanded the works, built a dedicated foundry, and renamed the organization the Chattanooga Plow Company. Newell Sanders was the first president of the company, and C. D. Mitchell was the secretary and treasurer.
Chattanooga Plow Company utilized the same designs as those of Newell Sanders & Company. The factory at Carter and Montgomery (now Main) Streets employed approximately three hundred people and covered six acres by 1895. They focused on a “southern plow,” the one- or two-horse plow most commonly used by southern farmers. As the company expanded into new markets, they held expositions and field schools to prove the ability of the plow and to teach the proper ways to use the plows.
The aggressive sales increased the business to the point where the Chattanooga Chilled Plow became a style of its own, known simply as the “Chattanooga plow.” The company added variations of its one-horse, single-foot plow to appeal to farmers in different regions of the United States. It expanded sales into Texas, the Midwest, the Territories, and Mexico. Chattanooga Plow also added a line of cane mills, evaporators, and furnaces for processing sugar cane and making syrups. The line of cane mills, evaporators, and furnaces gained the company substantial business in the Caribbean, particularly Jamaica where Sanders sold over five thousand cane mills. These new international sales were in addition to the company’s sales in Europe, Mexico, Cuba, South America, and Central America.
A disagreement with other stockholders in 1901 led C. D. Mitchell and his supporters to vote out Newell Sanders and elect Mitchell as the second president of Chattanooga Plow Company. Several months later, in 1902, Sanders opened the Newell Sanders Plow Company. This separate company manufactured only disc plows for tractor use and sought markets in California, Oregon, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, and South Africa, all regions where Chattanooga Plow’s business was minimal or nonexistent. Sanders operated Newell Sanders Plow Company until 1927, when he sold that business to the Rock Island Plow Company in Dallas, Texas.
After taking control of Chattanooga Plow in 1901, C. D. Mitchell along with G. W. Wheland, the secretary and treasurer, continued business in much the same fashion as Sanders. In response to a substantial growth of sales in the United States as well as an expansion into Asian markets, the company in 1903 expanded into the largest factory in Chattanooga and one of the largest plow companies in the world.
Mitchell and Wheland’s control of Chattanooga Plow ended in 1915, when Newell Sanders purchased Wheland’s shares while Sanders’s ally John C. Miller gained control of Mitchell’s stock. With the support of his nephew, and long-time superintendent of the factory, Judson Buchanan, Sanders gained a three-fifths majority in the company and was reelected as president in May 1915. Four years later, Sanders and his partner sold Chattanooga Plow to International Harvester for an estimated one million dollars.
The Chattanooga works would continue making chilled plows, cane mills, evaporators, and furnaces for International Harvester until 1944, when the company built a new factory in Memphis, Tennessee. The Harriman manufacturing company of Harriman, Tennessee, bought the Chattanooga works and continued to produce the Chattanooga plow until 1972. Today, Chattanooga’s Finley Stadium occupies the former site of the Chattanooga Plow Company.