Charles Angell, Sr.
Inventor of the one-way disc plow. Born: February 27, 1882, North Carolina. Died: August 1, 1927, Plains, Kansas.
Charles John Angell, Sr., better known as Charlie, was a Meade County wheat farmer with a special knack for machines. As a child, Angell dismantled and reassembled many of the family's household appliances, much to the consternation of his parents, to see how they worked.
In the 1920s, Angell sought to develop a plow that was particularly suited to the environmental conditions in the windy, semi-arid plains of western Kansas where he lived and farmed. He eventually perfected a new type of implement. It became known as the one-way disc plow because its vertical discs were mounted on the same axle and, therefore, they moved the soil one way. Angell's plow became the first minimum tillage implement to successfully practice the dryland farming technique of stubble mulching.
Traditionally farmers had treated stubble as a nuisance to be rid of by plowing under or burning. Angell, on the other hand, saw a way to use the stubble for the advantage of the dryland farmer. Instead of completely burying the stubble as the standard moldboard and disk plows had done, Angell's one-way, by merely tilling the soil, incorporated the stubble into the upper layer of the topsoil. As a result, the stubble served as a mulch which helped conserve precious moisture and reduced erosion of the soil by wind and water.
Angell's one-way disc plow was enthusiastically received by farmers and became the most commonly used tillage implement on the plains from the 1930s through the 1960s. It helped to make Kansas the leading wheat-producing state in the nation and the plains the "bread basket for the world."
On the negative side, however, some historians have listed the one-way plow as a contributing cause of the dust bowl. Because its discs thoroughly pulverized the soil, the ground was more susceptible to blowing.
For good or bad, no one can deny that the one-way disc plow has had a major impact on agriculture in the plains region. And it all began as an idea in the mind of Kansas farmer Charlie Angell.
Entry: Angell, Charles Sr.
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: June 2003
Date Modified: January 2013
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