Benjamin Franklin Gravely of Dunbar, West Virginia, introduced his power-driven push plow in 1916. It used belts to transfer power from an Indian motorcycle engine. He called it a motor plow. He incorporated the Gravely company and, in the middle 1920s, marketed a 2½-horsepower Model D tractor from a manufacturing plant in Dunbar.
Eustace Rose, an inventor said to have created Chrysler's first automatic transmission, was a friend of Gravely and a Gravely company stockholder. Rose did much of the engineering on the first tractor. The crankshaft of the engine served as the hub of the wheel. The piston and crankcase were on one side of the crankshaft; the gear drive was on the other. The first tractors weighed about 190 pounds each.
Gravely first marketed the 2½ horsepower, two-wheeled Model D in the mid-1920s. Gravely made cultivator, sickle mower and lawn mower attachments for the Model D.
Gravely introduced the two-wheeled Model L tractor in 1935. The Model L had a four-cycle engine with one cylinder; it delivered 5 horsepower. The tractor could pull two 25-inch gang mowers, making it useful for mowing golf courses and other large areas of turf. Early models came with flail mower and rototillers. The company later added snow blades, snowblowers and sprayers as well as seats and steering wheels.
Benjamin Franklin Gravely sold the last of his stock in the company in 1940. He died in 1953. The Studebaker company eventually bought a majority interest in the company. Using a rear-engine design, Gravely began marketing a four-wheel garden tractor in 1964. The Ariens company bought Gravely in 1982. Garden tractors designed by Gravely ceased around 2000. The Gravely name was dropped from tractors in 2002 although it is still used on lawn equipment.
The serial numbers in the first year of the Gravely 5-horsepower Model L tractors in 1939 range from 2465 to 2761. The serial numbers in 1955, the first year of the 6.6-horsepower models, range from 95441 to M-5565. The 1966 serial numbers, the first year of the 7.6-horsepower models, range from 2M34216 through 2M51800. The serial numbers for 1969, the first year of the four-wheel Gravely tractor, range from 000100-A through 003848A. In 1970, the first year of the Gravely Model 408, the serial numbers range from 01003 to 01845. Serial numbers are unknown for models earlier than 1939.