The working model of the Sunshine Stripper Harvester is approximately one-fifth in scale. It was made at the H. V. McKay Sunshine Harvester Works, Ballarat in 1899.
A Revolution in Harvesting
The Sunshine Stripper Harvester is famous for combining the functions of a stripper and winnower in one machine. In one operation it could gather and thresh the ripe heads, separate the grain from the chaff and deliver the grain for bagging.
Early Sunshine Stripper Harvester
Source: Museum Victoria
A number of Australians were involved in the development of the stripper harvester. The most important was H. V. McKay who produced a successful machine in 1884 and subsequently manufactured large numbers as the “Sunshine” Stripper Harvester. The development of the stripper harvester increased the efficiency of cereal harvesting and helped to establish Australia as a leading cereal producing country. The innovative stripper harvester was the basis on which the McKay company became the largest agricultural manufacturing enterprise in the Southern Hemisphere.
Marketing Australian Innovations to the World
The great drought of 1902 froze the demand for harvesters. With 200 machines and no crops to harvest, or a prospect of selling them, McKay was compelled to look outside Australia for an alternative market for his equipment. He sent his brother Sam with 50 machines to Argentina. This was the start of a very successful export market that included South America, South Africa, Siberia and the United States. H. V. McKay took the harvester to Russia in 1912 to pursue the “splendid prospects” of developing an export market to the cereal growing areas of Russia.
H. V. McKay (seated second on left) with members of the Russian Agricultural Society, 1912
Source: Museum Victoria
McKay Heritage Project
The McKay collection has been acknowledged as one of the most significant industrial heritage collections in Australia.
The collection dates from H. V. McKay’s blacksmith shop, where the first stripper harvester was made in 1884, and includes material up to the 1990s when the company became known as AGCO Australia. Since 1996, a team of 23 volunteers has worked on documenting over 13 000 photographs, 750 films, over 3 000 trade publications, and has conducted a detailed survey of the Sunshine Harvester Works and the equipment manufactured on the site. In 2002, they were awarded a Museum Industry Award for the “Most Outstanding Volunteer Project in the Victorian Museum Sector”.