Abe Plough (1892-1984)
He started with a $125 loan from his father and a small shop on the upper story of his family’s clothing and furniture store in Memphis.
In that meager setting, Abe Plough mixed up an antiseptic healing oil and an aid for rheumatism and sold them door to door. From there, Plough turned it into a pharmaceutical dynasty.
Plough went from a small-time seller in 1908 to one of the wealthiest businessmen in Memphis by the time he retired in 1976. His company, Plough Inc. (later Schering-Plough), was the creator of commonly-used products like St. Joseph Aspirin and Di-Gel antacid.
Even though Plough, who died in 1984 at age 92, is associated with his business and philanthropic work in Memphis, there was a bit of Lee County in him.
Plough was born in Tupelo and lived here for 11 months before his parents, seeking a better business opportunity, moved to Memphis. And while Memphis charities benefited from Plough’s generosity, there were times when he remembered the town of his birth.
Abraham Plough was born Dec. 27, 1891, the youngest of Moses and Julia Isaacs Plough’s eight children. Moses Plough, an immigrant of German Jewish descent, operated a clothing store in Tupelo. The Ploughs moved years before Abraham’s birth from Aberdeen, where Moses Plough had only moderate business success.
Seeking a better opportunity for him and his family, Moses Plough moved his family to a young town to the north. Tupelo appeared to be a good spot for a business, especially with a new railroad line running through the town.
Once again, Moses Plough’s business seemed to prosper only moderately. He sought the advice of a friend and fellow Jew, Emil Strauss, who encouraged him to move to Memphis. So in 1892, he and his family made the 100-mile move to Memphis and he established a store at 83 North Second Street.
There young Abe helped in his father’s store where he proved to be a born salesman. When the elder Plough had contracted with a railroad to dispose of salvage goods, he found himself with 50 tombstones already engraved with the names of the deceased. Abe, however, was able to sell them. He took the stones and convinced a stonecutter that the tombstones that needed finishing on only one side were preferable to those that needed finishing on six sides.
When he was 16, he took the loan from his father and began making products to help cure the ills of local residents. Using a supply of linseed oil, camphor and carbolic acid, he mixed Plough’s Antiseptic Healing Oil and began selling it door to door. He added more products and delivered them by buggy to grocery and drug stores around Memphis.
One of Plough Inc.’s most popular products, St. Joseph Aspirin, was introduced in 1921. In the late 1940s Plough created a St. Joseph Aspirin for children and was the first in the nation to market children’s aspirin.
“We were just then introducing a line of aspirin,” said Plough in a Daily Journal article published in 1954. “And we thought this new name, St. Joseph, would be a good one for our product. We gave away two boxes of aspirin with every bottle of liver oil we sold. Pretty soon customers were buying the oil to get the aspirin, and we started giving away a bottle of liver oil with every box of aspirin.”
Plough sold his first stock in the business in 1923. Over the years Plough Inc. (which became Schering-Plough following a merger with Schering Inc. in 1974) has produced proprietary drugs, cosmetics and home products like Di-Gel, Mabelline eye cosmetics and Coppertone Suntan Lotion.
With his wealth, he invested in radio stations. He created Plough Broadcasting, which in the mid-1970s had six AM and five FM radio stations.
While Plough was well known in the business world, he was also known as a philanthropist for Memphis-based charities and civic endeavors. In July 1974, he disposed of $46 million worth of stock to establish the Memphis-Plough Community Foundation, a charitable trust. He also took an interest in zoos, serving as a charter member of the Memphis Zoological Society and worked to expand the Overton Park Zoo in Memphis. He also contributed $3,000 to the old Airlane Zoo at the Mississippi-Alabama Fairgrounds in Tupelo for the purchase of an elephant.
The information for this story came from various newspaper articles and from research compiled by Tupelo resident Stanley Lower.
|Birth:||Dec. 27, 1891|
|Death:||Sep. 14, 1984|
It all began with a 16-year-old's dream. In 1908, young Abe Plough borrowed $125 from his father, purchased a horse and wagon, and created Plough, Inc., selling homemade remedies to small-town folks and farmers around Memphis, Tennessee. His plan worked, and his long career was launched with a long stream of product innovations that led him to help build the company presently known as Schering-Plough Corporation, a research-based pharmaceutical and consumer product manufacturer, with such well-known products as St. Joseph children's aspirin, Dr. Scholl's foot powder, and Maybelline cosmetics.
Throughout Mr. Plough's long career, he was known for his generosity, contributing millions to local and national organizations. He is fondly known to some as "Mr. Anonymous" because of the many anonymous gifts he gave during his lifetime. In 1960, he founded the Plough Foundation, whose focus is to provide aid to charitable organizations that benefit the greatest number of people in the City of Memphis and Shelby County. One of the city's major private philanthropies, the Foundation has supported programs for education, children, and families for many years. Although Mr. Plough died in 1984, he continues to achieve what he truly believed was success -- giving to the greatest number of people.
Mr. Plough's efforts have not gone unrecognized. Among the numerous honors and awards given to Mr. Plough were the Human Relations Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews and the Dean's Award for contributions to the field of pharmacy from the University of Tennessee. Mr. Plough was also the first individual to ever receive an award from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission for his pioneering efforts to assure safe products for children.
Moses Plough (1861 - 1926)
Julia Isaacs Plough (1861 - 1939)
Jocelyn Cohn Plough (1889 - 1961)*
Patricia Plough (1927 - 1927)*
Barney Barnett Plough (1889 - 1956)*
Abe Plough (1891 - 1984)
Sam Plough (1894 - 1972)*
Morris Plough (1896 - 1917)*
Clara Plough Shurman (1899 - 1973)*
David Israel Plough (1905 - 1912)*
Temple Israel Cemetery