Search the collections
The Sunshine Harvester Works, Sunshine, Victoria, Australia
Image: View of the Sunshine Harvester Works
Source: Museum Victoria
Hugh Victor McKay assembled the first prototype of his famous stripper-harvester in a bush smithy on his father's farm at Drummarton, near Elmore in 1883-84. By 1888, he had moved to Ballarat, where he established his first manufacturing base in partnership with his brother John, modifying farmers' existing strippers to his patented harvester design that combined an elevator, thresher and winnower on the rear of the machine, enabling cleaned grain to be produced in a single process.
In 1890, the bussiness was floated as a public company under the title The McKay Harvesting Machinery Company Ltd, but within two years was forced into liquidation as a severe ecomonic recession caused a decline in demand for harvesters and saw many struggling farmers default on their repayments for harvesters bought from the company on credit. McKay was fortunately able to repurchase his patent rights from the company and began manufacturing from a new manufacturing works, based in Yuille Street, Ballarat. He developed and extensively trialled an improved design of the harvester, which by 1895 he was selling under the "Sunshine" brandname. The Ballarat factory was soon known as the "Sunshine Harvester Works" and output expanded rapidly from 50 harvesters built for the 1895 season, to 501 produced in 1901. New product lines such as seed & fertilizer drills, horseworks and chaffcutters were also added to the output. When a drought in 1902 led to a sudden drop in demand, McKay turned to export markets and began selling harvesters to South Africa and Argentina, in order to keep the factory in production.
In 1904, McKay purchased the Braybrook Implement Works, a defunct manufacturing plant on the western outskirts of Melbourne near the railway junction where the two main lines to Ballarat and Benidgo diverged. McKay's interest in Braybrook was stimulated by the high rail freight he was paying to bring fuel and raw materials to Ballarat and then transport completed harvesters back to the seaboard for export or shipping interstate. He was also attracted by the vast open space available for future expansion at Braybrook and by the fact that being situated in a shire, any manufacturing works there would fall outside the jurisdication of the Factories Act and associated Wages Boards.
McKay reopened the Braybrook Implement Works in 1905, resuming production of the factory's previous range of stump-jump ploughs and cultivation equipment, strippers, winnowers and farm gates, which complemented his own product lines. In 1906, McKay began relocating his entire Sunshine Harvester Works from Ballarat to Braybrook, including manufacturing equipment and many of his Ballarat workers, in a process that would take 18 months to complete. H.V. McKay aspired to create the "Birmingham of the future", and used his entrepreneurial vision and industrial skill to create the largest industrial enterprise in the southern hemisphere. By 1910, the Sunshine Harvester Works was employing 1,300 workers and had given its name to the surrounding suburb, that was renamed from Braybrook Junction to Sunshine. By the 1920s McKay's factory employed over 3,000 workers and covered 76 acres (30.7 hectares), making it the largest manufacturing plant in Australia. Techniques of mass production reduced labour costs and increased McKay's competitive edge. The plant was completely self-sufficient and manufactured every item needed, including metal tubing, nuts and bolts, and even the bikes used by plant supervisors.
Despite his beligerent approach to trade union, McKay had a parternalist attitude to his workers' welfare and invested heavily in public infrastructure and amenitities. In 1906, he had purchased an estate of 300 acres on the opposite side of the railway line to the Sunshine factory and subdivided it to provide housing for his workers. Later when the factory installed it's own electric power generating plant, electricity was supplied to domestic customers in the surrounding suburb.
H.V. McKay Sunshine Collection
Sunshine Stripper Harvester
Origin of the 'Sunshine' Brandname
Hugh V. McKay, Agricultural Implement & Machinery Manufacturer, Ballarat & Sunshine, Victoria
H.V. McKay Massey Harris Pty Ltd, Agricultural Equipment Manufacturers & Importers, Sunshine, Victoria
Massey-Ferguson (Aust.) Ltd, Agricultural & Construction Equipment Manufacturers & Importers, Sunshine, Victoria
1. John Lack, 'McKay, Hugh Victor (1865 - 1926)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol.10, Melbourne University Press, 1986, pp 291-294.
2. The Argus, 6 Feb 1905, p.6, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article9888735.
Items per page: 10 50 (showing 31 - 40) 132 items
A handwritten letter from S. B. Clarke of Armagh, Ireland to his cousin H. V McKay, 1906. The letter seeks monetary assistance from H. V. McKay for S. B. Clarke to travel to Australia ...Images: 2
A typewritten letter from R. Reeman, London Agent for H. V. McKay Pty Ltd, to H. V. McKay, dated 25th March 1926. The letter discusses Mr Reeman's contact with Major Vickers regarding m ...Images: 2
A typescript transcribed from a handwritten manuscript (not found) written by H. V. McKay while on his business trip through Russia in 1912. This part describes the trip from St Peters ...Images: 7
An invoice issued by Kellow Motor Company to H. V. McKay of Braybrook, for a 20 HP Beeston Humber car complete with canopy, glass scree, lamps, jack, tools, and consumables (petrol, oil ...Images: 1
A typewritten letter from H. M. Murphy, Chief Inspector of Factories, to H. V. McKay, dated 8th March 1911. The letter is in response to an earlier letter from H. V. McKay. It replies ...Images: 1
A handwritten letter on Commonwealth of Australia letterhead from Prime Minister Andrew Fisher, to Mr H.V. McKay, dated 26th February 1911. The letter is in response to H.V. McKay's ea ...Images: 2
A newspaper cutting of an article about H.V McKay, founder of the Sunshine Harvester Works. Written by S.C.P Turnbull, the article appeared in The Argus on 8th March 1930, page 6. This ...Images: 1
Three newspaper articles, titled 'Men of the Moment, New Members and Candidates', 'Neck and Neck Finish, Mr McKay's Slight Lead, Absentee Votes Not Counted', and 'Illicit Voting, Startl ...Images: 1
A newspaper cutting of an article, titled 'Tributes Paid To Late H.V. McKay', which appeared in Sunshine Advertiser, 19th November 1954, page 1. The article reports on the unveiling o ...Images: 1
A newspaper cutting titled 'Death of Mr. H. V. McKay' in the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures' Gazette, Vol. 7 No. 10, dated 25th May 1926. This item is part of a collection of photog ...Images: 1