Within a year of his birth in 1892 in Tupelo, Mississippi, Abe
Plough moved with his family to Memphis, where his father Moses operated a
clothing and furnishings store. Abe Plough attended Market Street School where
a teacher taught him to calculate figures without pencil or paper. He said this
"mental arithmetic" served him well in his business career since he
never needed a pencil to calculate his acquisition of thirty companies for the
Schering-Plough Corporation at a cost of over $1 billion.
Plough received his only
other formal education at St. Paul Street Grammar School, from which he
graduated. After school and on weekends he worked
at the George V. Francis drug store without pay because he wanted to learn the
drug business, determined that it would be his future. Moses Plough lent his
son $125 to start his own business, Plough Chemical Company, in 1908. At age
sixteen Abe Plough was owner, manager, and only employee of the new business,
located in one small room above his father's store. Using dishpans for mixing
the chemicals, his first formula was for Plough's Antiseptic Healing Oil, a
"sure cure for any ill of man or beast." On days when he was not
bottling his healing oil, Plough set out in his father's horse-drawn buggy to
sell his product to drug stores and country merchants.
Success came almost immediately for the new enterprise. Within two
years it doubled in size, entered the patent drug business, and branched out
into cosmetics. Adding aspirin to his line of products in 1920, Plough bought
the St. Joseph Company, a step he called his "first on the road to the big
Despite the worldwide depression in 1929, Plough raised his
employees' salaries and added one hundred others to his drug store and factory
labor forces. Plough, Incorporated, moved in 1951 to 3022 Jackson Avenue, a $2
million plant encompassing 250,000 square feet on six acres of land. The
business reported net sales of $254.5 million by 1954, a figure that doubled by
Plough retired from business in 1976 to devote his talents and
energies to his other chief interest, philanthropy. His generosity to the
community is legendary. His many gifts were often made as "challenge
grants," his stated goal "to help the greatest number of people in
order to do the most good." His legacy lives on not only in the business
he created, which bears his name, but also in his deeds of generosity and
leadership. The Plough Foundation continues to be devoted to the welfare of the
At Mr. Plough's death, his daughter, Jocelyn Plough Rudner, served as Chairman of the Board until 1995. During her tenure, a special emphasis was placed on school reform in public education and the growing problem of adult literacy.
At the present time, one of Mr. Plough's granddaughters, Diane Rudner continues to serve as Chairman of the Board of Trustees, a role she has held since 1995.
Jocelyn P. Rudner
This biography of Mr. Plough was authored by Selma Lewis in The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture.