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International Harvester (IH) Collection

Negative - International Harvester Farmall A at Albury

Image: Negative - International Harvester Farmall A at Albury

Source: Museum Victoria

The International Harvester Company of America was formed in 1902 by the merger of five of the leading US agricultural machinery manufacturers, including the McCormick and Deering Harvester Companies of Chicago. Initial product lines inherited from the company's predecessors included reapers, mowers, hay rakes, harvesters and other agricultural equipment. By the end of the decade cultivating implements, milking machines, internal combustion engines, tractors and motor vehicles were added to the product line up.

A Melbourne-based subsidiary, the International Harvester Company of Australia Pty Ltd was established in 1912 to manage Australian distribution and sales of International Harvester products, with branch offices in interstate capital cities and a network of 550 dealers by the late 1940s. International Harvester became a major competitor to local manufacturers like H.V. McKay's Sunshine Harvester Works.

In response to restrictive Commonwealth import tariffs, International Harvester established its own Australian manufacturing operations, opening factories at Geelong in 1937, to produce agricultural equipment (and later tractors), at Dandenong in 1952, to produce motor trucks, and at Port Melbourne in 1958, to produce earthmoving and construction equipment. To assist in the development of products specifically for Australian markets a truck proving ground was established at Anglesea in 1961 and a Product Engineering Centre at Geelong in 1962.

By the late 1970s, the International Harvester Company was suffering from declining sales and rising costs prompting a drastic rationalisation of its worldwide operations, which included the closure of the Geelong and Port Melbourne factories by the mid 1980s. International Trucks Australia Ltd which operated the Dandenong factory was acquired in 1992 by IVECO, part of the Italian-based Fiat Group, and is still in production.

The International Harvester Collection was acquired by Museum Victoria from International Trucks Pty Ltd in 1992. It includes in excess of 50,000 glass plate and film negatives, photo albums, product catalogues, videos, motion picture films, press clipping books, company publications, advertisements and other records relating to the operations of the International Harvester Company in Australia. It includes an extensive photographic record of the company's Australian sales, distribution and manufacturing activities in agricultural equipment, tractors, trucks and earth moving equipment and their manufacturing works at Geelong, Port Melbourne and Dandenong. The collection does not include business archives, detailed production records or employee records.

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