MV Blog


Poetic tribute to the first fridge

by Kate C
Publish date
13 July 2012
Comments (1)

When was the last time a household appliance moved you to poetry?

refrigerator pamphlet Flyer advertising Electrolux Refrigerators, circa 1960. (TL 011888)
Source: Museum Victoria

The Discovery Centre recently received an unusual inquiry from Sherryn Danaher who was seeking more information about the Harrison Refrigerator model at Scienceworks. Accompanying her request was a poem dedicated to the tale of the first commercial-scale refrigerator - invented in the 1850s by a Geelong man called James Harrison. Sherryn explained: 

Some years ago I read the fascinating story of James Harrison and his fridge. It wasn't until the 1930's that Kelvinator (if my memory serves me right) seriously started producing refrigerators for the mass market. It struck me that, as so many times since, Australia dipped out on being the forerunner in the development of this appliance. Being a poet, I was inspired to put the story to rhyme and A.A Milne popped up from the dark recesses.

She gave us permission to publish her poem here. Enjoy!


Mr. Harrison's Invention
(apologies to A.A.Milne)

James James Harrison Harrison
Inventor of cooling our beer
Never had heard of whitegoods
Though he's their pioneer.
James James
Said to his country
'Australia' he said, said he
'You must never let meat rot in the heat
Without first consulting me.'

James James
Harrison's invention
(commonly known as fridge)
Was the talk of our town
With its compressor renowned
Cooling lamb and our national swig.

James James Harrison's fridge
Finally wreathed in gold
James James Harrison spoke
When officially told
'So the Melbourne Exhibition
Lauds my invention'
Said to the crowd said he
'I'm proud to receive
though hard to believe in 1873.'

The very next century
We put up a notice
He tried for his country, like many a discovery.
No one had given a toss.


Three generations of Harrisons with the Harrison Refrigerator Model. Three generations of Harrisons with the Harrison Refrigerator Model on display at Scienceworks. Left to right: Christopher, James and Mark Harrison.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

The Harrison Refrigerator Model is on display at Scienceworks

Steam 'dinosaur' at Scienceworks

by Max
Publish date
5 February 2012
Comments (0)

Your Question: Does Museum Victoria have the only working Australian-made traction engine?

It is believed that in 1916, Cowley’s Eureka Ironworks of Ballarat built one of Australia’s last steam traction engines. The Cowley Traction Engine, acquired by the Museum in 1985, was restored with the help of about 30 staff and volunteers over 16 years with a total of 10,000 paid hours and 6,000 voluntary hours.

Cowley Steam Traction Engine (1916) at Lake Goldsmith. Cowley Steam Traction Engine (1916) at Lake Goldsmith.
Image: Matthew Churchwood
Source: Museum Victoria

It was dismantled and major mechanical repairs were carried out. New parts were manufactured when the old parts were found to not be restorable or could not be repaired in a way that could be reversed at a later time. Such parts included the steam boiler, the boiler fittings, tender, roof, crankshaft, feed pump, and many of the gears. All components that were replaced have been retained in storage for future reference and research.
Scienceworks 10th Birthday Celebration Scienceworks 10th Birthday Celebration - Cowley steam engine from 1916 in action on the arena.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria

The Cowley was used to move houses and other timber-framed buildings, as well as hauling logs for the Sawmilling industry in Western Victoria and is unusual in that it has solid sided wheels, rather than spoked ones. This design serves the dual purpose of not only being cheaper to produce, but the wheels can then double as extra water tanks – a handy advantage in the dry Australian bush.

Detail of Cowley Steam Traction Engine at Machinery in Action show Detail of Cowley Steam Traction Engine at Machinery in Action show
Image: Paoli Smith Photography
Source: Museum Victoria

In 2001 the Cowley was fully restored and ready to go. It made its debut at the Lake Goldsmith steam Rally and can now be seen at Scienceworks on Machines in Action Days.
Men in the boiler shop at Cowley 's Eureka Ironworks, Ballarat, Victoria, circa 1910 Men in the boiler shop at Cowley 's Eureka Ironworks, Ballarat, Victoria, circa 1910
Source: Museum Victoria

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.