The single wing formation in football was developed by legendary coach Pop Warner in the early 1900s. The goal of the single wing was to give star player Jim Thorpe more control over the field, as the single wing provides blocking, running, and passing benefits.
The first thing to understand about the single wing is that positions were not as defined as they are in today's game_the quarterback rarely received the snap in a single wing, for example. Instead, he was lined up behind the first tackle on the strong side, while the tailback or fullback took the snap from the center.
The single wing is based around an unbalanced offensive line that very clearly defines a strong and weak side of the formation. This includes one guard, two tackles, an end, and a wingback on the strong side and a guard and end on the weak side.
The single wing was popular from its inception in the early 1900s all the way through the 1940s and 50s. It relied on blocking patterns to open up angles for the ball-carrier, whether that be the tailback, fullback, quarterback, or wingback. It also gave the tailback more passing options than the T formation, which was popular at the time.
Much of the offensive strategy of the time involved physically overpowering the opposing defense. The single wing was the first of its kind in that it was built to confuse the defense, putting players in motion and using misdirections and fakes to conceal plays as they developed.