The Age 1961
Australian Farmers Showed Genius For Invention Necessity was originally the mother of invention, though luxury has probably taken its place in this age of plenty. Necessity was certainly a great stimulus to Australian farmers in the 19th century, and some remarkable inventions were the result. THE STUMP - JUMP plough, the .stripper, the header - harvester, and the shearing machine are ,U basically Australian achievements. achievements. They have exercised a profound influence on agriculture agriculture throughout the world. Until the 1870 's farming methods In Australia were mostly well behind behind those of the motherland. Wheat waj sown by hand, sheep were, shorn with hand blades after being Individually Individually washed, and all crops had to be separately winnowed after harvesting. As a result, huge areas of territory territory could not be effectively farmed, ,nd workers In primary industry had a gruelling time. But the hard conditions served u an incentive to invention, so that Australia's contribution to the development development of agricultural machinery was impressive by any standards. In the early years of settlement cereal crops were cut with a sickle or icythe. The "rake and cradle" tcythe was regarded as particularly advanced, for it enabled the crop to be laid neatly in rows for tying Into sheaves by hand. The first mechanical reaper was in English invention of the early 19th century, but not many came to Australia In the convict days. Then Cyrus McCormick, an American, improved improved the model considerably, but the crop still had to be raked into heaps and tied into sheaves by hand. McCormick incorporated many Improvements Improvements during the next forty years, usually buying them from other inventors. In 1872 he bought out the first reaper-and-binder, reaper-and-binder, reaper-and-binder, reaper-and-binder, reaper-and-binder, which delivered bound sheaves in one operation-. operation-. operation-. He became a multi-millionaire multi-millionaire multi-millionaire as his machines spread all over the world. Wonderful though the reaper ana binder was, it was by no means perfect for countries growing millions millions of ncres. Ideally only the actual grain should be harvested, for by any other method immense weights oi useless stalks have to be handled before the grain Itself is finally winnowed out. The story of the invention of the stripper Is a complicated one, not fully unravelled because conflicting claims were made when patent rights were disputed. To a South Australian farmer named John Bull must go the credit for the original idea, but it was John Ridley; an Adelaide miller and farmer, who built the first model the "locomotive thresher" as he called it. In 1843 a really efficient reaper might mow an acre in a long day. One hot summer's day Bull's reapers reapers did not move from the "grogshop," "grogshop," and next day he showed them that the wheat was already over-ripe over-ripe over-ripe by gathering some standing standing heads between his forked fingers Bearded John Ridley demonstrating his "locomotive thresher" or stripper near Adelaide in 1844. The grain stripped from the standing c rop still had to be winnowed by a hand-operated hand-operated hand-operated machine, as shown on the right. (Reproduced from the large colored illustration in Macmil-lan's Macmil-lan's and striking them with his other hand. All the grain flew out, and a great idea was born. Ridley often grew or bought standing crops for milling, and grew Impatient at the slowness, unreliability unreliability and expense of hand-scything. hand-scything. hand-scything. Possibly he heard of the Ideas and rough plans of Bull, but In a remarkably remarkably short space of time he built a practical stripper. , This machine caught the heads of the wheat between long steel prongs, threshed them with swiftly revolving revolving beaters, and shot the grain, chaff and other debris Into a long bin. Thus the old technique of harvesting harvesting was both mechanised and short-circuited. short-circuited. short-circuited. The stalks were left standing standing in the field, and the stripper collected a mixture of grain and light debris that only had to be winnowed. This operation was done in a hand-driven hand-driven hand-driven machine on the field itself. Not only was the cost of harvesting harvesting greatly reduced when Ridley began to manufacture his strippers in Adelaide, but there was less reliance reliance on human labor. This was especially important in the 1850's, when the gold rushes caused an acute shortage of farm workers. A stripper would only work economically economically if the crop was of even height and not flattened by wind or hail. So James Morrow, pf Victoria, produced the first successful "header" in 1872. This machine cut as much of the head as was needed to secure a maximum return from the crop, and could be adjusted to suit various conditions. Winnowing was an expensive and Irksome business, so a number of Australians tried their hands at making a "combine" that would deliver deliver clean grain on the field Itself. It was Hugh McKay, the 18-year-old 18-year-old 18-year-old 18-year-old 18-year-old son of a Scottish migrant who had settled at Raywood,. Victoria, who built the first "combine" in the log-and-bark log-and-bark log-and-bark log-and-bark log-and-bark smithy on his father's selection. He disliked the back-breaking back-breaking back-breaking work associated with harvesting, and tinkered with parts of old machines and pieces of fencing wire with wonderful results. ' Treated at first as a joke by other farmers, McKay's "combine" showed that wheat and other grain crops could be stripped, threshed, winnowed, and bagged In-one In-one In-one continuous continuous operation. The cost of harvesting was reduced reduced from 12 to 4d. a bushel, and the "combines" built at Ballarat and the Sunshine works near Melbourne Melbourne saved the Australian wheat industry from possible extinction In the face of competition from Canada, Russia, and the Argentine. Later McKay made "header combines" as well as "stripper combines." and machines made under licence from bis firm were welcomed all over the world. The stump-jump stump-jump stump-jump plough was the Invention of Richard . Smith, of South Australia, in the early 1870's. This plough not only solved' the problem of damage to plough shares and mould boards caused by striking striking hidden Uumps and stones, but also made It possible to use the Mallee as a wheat-growing wheat-growing wheat-growing area without the huge expense of first grubbing out all the countless tough Mallee roots. - It is said that the Idea of the stump-jump stump-jump stump-jump plough was gained by chance in 1871 when Smith was ploughing stumpy ground. He broke one of the bolts holding the arm carrying the mouldboard to the beam. To his surprise the broken plough worked better over the rough ground, since It tended to ride over the stumps and- and- then return to its work. Smith developed this idea, placing a 56-lb. 56-lb. 56-lb. weight on a hinged extension extension to the beam, so that pressures SECTION FOR SCHOOLS of about 400 lb. were exerted on the point of the share, allowing it to jump over ground-level ground-level ground-level obstacles and immediately dig Into the ground again. The Vixen " plough, exhibited by Smith in June, 1876, had three stump-jump stump-jump stump-jump mould boards. Without this Invention, the Mallee lands might never have been tilled,- tilled,- yet Smith's life was one of bitter disappointment, for he could not establish patent rights, and died a poor man. The disc plough was an American invention, but it was H. V. McKay who first marketed a stump-jump stump-jump stump-jump disc machine in 1907. Although others had patented ideas for sheep-shearing sheep-shearing sheep-shearing machines bifcre him, the Australian Frederick Frederick Wolseley was the most notable pioneer. He bought Euroka Station, near Walgett, N.S.W., getting his first patent in 1877. The great test came eight years later in a historic demonstration at Melbourne. Dave Brown's hand blades finished first - by a few seconds, but Hassan All, Wolseley's Afghan machine shearer, went over Brown's sheep again and took off another 12 oz. of wool I It is true that machine shearing was delayed until the coming of Internal-combustion Internal-combustion Internal-combustion engines and electric motors, but Wolseley's invention invention was yet another triumph of practical genius among working Australian farmers.