The H. V. McKay Collection

The H. V. McKay Collection relates to archival material of Hugh Victor McKay (1865–1926) and the companies that carried on his successful agricultural manufacturing enterprise. It charts the remarkable business career of McKay and the rapid development of Australian agriculture and industry in the 20th century.

Since the 1960s, Museum Victoria has received material from family members and past employees as part of its Technology Collection. In 1993, Massey Ferguson Iseki donated a large collection of documentary material to Museum Victoria and to The University of Melbourne’s Business Archives.

The H. V. McKay Collection documents key events in the business and personal life of McKay through private notes, legal papers and newspaper articles. The Collection also houses a number of important objects relating to the company. These include a fully restored 1906 harvester and the original McKay bush ‘smithy’. The audiovisual part of the collection contains over 13 000 images and 700 films.

Museum Victoria’s Trade Literature Collection provides information on all phases of the McKay manufacturing process. It holds design plans, field test results, operation manuals and product catalogues.

H. V. McKay

Hugh McKay was a farmer who became one of Australia’s leading industrialists. During his long business career he also devoted time and energy to advancing national interests. McKay was consulted by the Federal Government in matters of defence and economic policy, and contributed financial support to the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Photo of Hugh Victor McKay

Hugh Victor McKay in about 1912
Source: Museum Victoria

McKay grew up on a farm in Drummartin near Elmore, Victoria. At the age of 18 he responded to Government incentives to produce an agricultural harvester that combined the functions of stripping, threshing, winnowing and bagging. In 1884 he developed the successful stripper harvester in a log smithy. He capitalised on its efficiency and established manufacturing works at Ballarat, before moving to Braybrook Junction near Melbourne in 1906.

The new factory, known as the Sunshine Harvester Works, produced a range of agricultural equipment and was the largest industrial plant in Australia. At its peak the company employed 3000 workers and the work site covered more than 30 hectares.

The complex was completely self-sufficient, manufacturing every item required including metal tubing, nuts and bolts, woodwork, and even the bikes used by plant supervisors. Mass-production techniques reduced labour costs and increased McKay’s competitive edge.

The ‘Sunshine Family’

In 1907 the name Braybrook Junction was changed to Sunshine in recognition of the importance of McKay’s industrial works to the locality. McKay’s business vision encompassed not only the creation of an industrial complex at Sunshine but the development of a thriving community.

Advertisement for ‘The Sunshine’ harvester

Advertisement for ‘The Sunshine’ harvester
Source: Museum Victoria

McKay implemented major infrastructure projects, including public buildings, parklands and a school and library. He also organised access by his workers to housing, which could be purchased on freehold title through interest-free loans. These were important schemes for social and industrial harmony and helped the company foster the concept of the ‘Sunshine Family’.

In reality, McKay had a complex relationship with his workers and organised labour. He respected his employees as individuals but was strongly opposed to radical unionism. Conflict erupted with the Harvester Works Strike in 1911, when McKay supported 12 of his workers who refused to join the Agricultural Implement Makers Union.

Global relations

McKay farm machinery was sold internationally. Sunshine Harvester Works developed Australia’s early export markets to Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Russia and South Africa.

The company competed successfully with local manufacturers but found itself in difficulty trying to compete against industrial conglomerates of the United States. McKay’s response was to fight vigorously to obtain tariff protection for Australian industry, putting his case before a Royal Commission. In 1906, largely as a result of McKay’s efforts, the Federal Government passed legislation giving some tariff protection.

The last 100 years have seen changes to the name of the McKay Company, highlighting the shift towards a global economy, changing fortunes in the agricultural industry, and increasing foreign ownership and control. After McKay’s death in 1926 the company was gradually absorbed by various global corporations (Massey Ferguson, Iseki and Agco) and stopped manufacturing equipment in the 1980s.

Visitor Information

An appointment to access the H. V. McKay Collection may be made by arrangement with the appropriate curator.

Further Reading

Lack, J. 1986. ‘Hugh McKay’. In B. Nairn and G. Serle (eds), Australian Dictionary of Biography, Melbourne University Press.

Lack, J. 1990. The Legend of H. V. McKay. Victorian Historical Journal 61(2,3), 124–157.

Sunshine Harvester website:

Museum Victoria Collections Online:

Picture Australia:

Comments (23)

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Ellie Newsome 22 March, 2010 11:23
I have some old photos of inside the factory taken by my husband's grandfather. Are you interested in them?
Discovery Centre 22 March, 2010 16:21

Hi Ellie – Thank you for your kind offer. You can make a formal donation offer through the Discovery Centre’s ‘Ask the Experts’ enquiry service. Before submitting your offer please also read Museum Victoria’s donation guidelines.

Denise Meadley 29 March, 2010 14:20
I have a 1928 original photo taken of my grandfather A.E.Thomas and employees who have been with the firm 25 years and upwards. Also a photo of the R.M.S.'REMUERA'ship he sailed on to Argentina.Wondering what to do with them
Discovery Centre 30 March, 2010 10:30

Hi Denise. Your images may be of interest to a cultural institution, such as Museum Victoria. If you are interested in making a donation offer you can do this through our Donations page. Before submitting your offer please also read the donation guidelines.

bob stephens 28 June, 2010 22:13
could you please tell me if their is a list of everyone who worked at hvmckays.
Discovery Centre 29 June, 2010 12:06

Hi Bob. The HV McKay archives can be found in the Australian Trade Union Archives at the University of Melbourne. They should have employment records from the company.

Ian Ennor 17 September, 2010 22:03
I came across an article in The Argus of 24/9/1929 which in part reads "With a view to catering for the bulk of the trade in the Commonwealth a new company had been formed". The online copy is barely readable at this point but I can make out "Mr. H. McKay of H. V. McKay" and "Sunshine". I understand that H.V. McKay died in 1926 so could you please tell me who H. McKay is and what is the company that was formed?
Ron Nash 18 October, 2010 20:28
I came across the remains a truck tipping body many years ago, and a plate on it, proudly proclaimed "H.V. McKay Shunt Tip". This was fitted to the remains of a 1934 Ford truck, and comprised a tipping body mounted on rollers, that was winched to the rear of the truck - whereby it tipped up, and emptied, once the mid-point was reached. The empty body was then winched back onto the truck again, and latched in place. Does anyone know anything about this unique, early, tipping truck body? Do any still exist? Are there any photos of one? Thank you in advance.
Discovery Centre 16 November, 2011 14:38

Hello Ron

We have contacted Volunteers at the Sunshine Harvester Project and they have no knowledge of this McKay Tipping Truck, but would very much like to see a photograph of this plate. If you happen to have a photograph please e-mail the Discovery Centre.

douglas comfort 10 June, 2011 01:26
while living in kitchener ontario canada,i purchased a sunshine seem to be from the 40's.,with solid handlebars,solid rubber tires,but most interestingly,a belt drive!can you send me a link to find more info on that or similiar models.i have collected antiques for 45 years,as well as a good selection of older bikes.thanks for your time.i will,this year be restoring this bike.
Discovery Centre 17 August, 2011 15:11

Hi Ian, the Museum's apologies for the delay in getting back to you. We suggest you try here and here which should be of assistance.

Discovery Centre 20 August, 2011 10:06

Hello Douglas - an interesting one! We've checked with our expert staff from the Sunshine Harvester Works Collection, and as far as we are aware, there were no bicycles made by Sunshine.  They certainly used bikes to get around the works site and all had pneumatic tyres, and were chain driven with no gears - quite different to the belt drive you describe. If you could send a photo via the 'contact us' link at the bottom of the page, we would love to see it - especially if it has ‘Sunshine’ on it.

Hannah Cole 8 September, 2011 17:14
Hello, ive got an agriculture assignment ive been working on and i cannot seem to find how the original Sunshine harvester actually worked and how it removed the husks from the grain etc. I have only found how the modern combines do this, by using air to blow them off. please help!
elizabeth Gibbs 7 June, 2015 15:34
I believe through family oral history that my grandfather William Barrow who began an iron foundry in Spotswood, then Footscray from about 1890 onwards was a friend of HV McKay and together in about 1913, both imported into Victoria a Prince Henry Vauxhall car each. I would love to be able to vwerify the truth of this. we have photos of my grandfather's car. I believe it was supposed to be one of the first cars bought into the Footscray area. I believe also my grandfather would have done foundry work for HV McKAY. Both being self made men they eould have got on well together. I would love to learn any further information about the above facts
Jacqui Donegan 13 August, 2015 15:08
I have thoroughly enjoyed researching this collection during my PhD in Business History. Can you please tell me how it should be cited, e.g. item or accession number? Thank you!
Discovery Centre 17 August, 2015 13:47

Hi Jacqui,

Thank you for your great feedback regarding the H.V. McKay collection. To correctly site information, please use: "Museum Victoria Collection" followed by the website url from which you are sourcing the information. All the best with your research.

John C Pfeiffer 3 September, 2015 16:45
Hi, We are at present extending our family history and have some oral pass downs of My great uncle and grandfather being involved in R&D for the H V McKay/Sunshine machinery in the early part of the 20th century. Uncle Charles has been accredited with the establishment of the Lucerne cropping in the Hunter Valley in NSW. From his mouth we have the information that he was sent in particular hay making implements for field trials, any alterations etc where carried out in his Blacksmith Shop. My Grandfather was also involved in the broad acre equipment, in 1948 he and my father won the wheat competion in North West NSW, This was quite a massive crop for those times with 1400 acres planted which ended up averaging 17 bags to the acre. for this crop a deal was done and a new auto header arrived on the property for trial and use, I can remember siting in the seat of this machine and what a dusty job it was. What I need is help in the research of the necessary archives to establish the truth of the stories, was it the manufacturing or the agencies that would have made these arrangements etc. I also would like to track down all documentation Pamphlets etc to marry up with our photographic records of our past history. Many Thanks John C Pfeiffer
Discovery Centre 4 September, 2015 09:03
Hi John, there is a great article on the Museum Victoria website talking about family history resources and employment records for the Sunshine Employees.  You can find some useful links and other information that should help you with your research here.
emmanuel 26 October, 2015 17:21
Hi i have found a round metal plate with a square hole in the centre with a Mckay emblem at my farm property in Tuena NSW there is also a bull pictured and Super written underneath the bull, what is this?
Discovery Centre 17 November, 2015 12:07
Hi Emmanuel,

We aren't able to identify the emblem from your description, but we can have a go if you send in an image to

Don't forget to include your contact details!
Trudy-Anne 15 November, 2015 17:43
I have some parts that look like points from a seed drill- a very large one has McKay and 15916KI etched on it. However the word McKay is represented kind of roundly and artistically. All the H V MCKAY logos i have seen on your site are very square and block- was the logo ever represented in the way i have described?
Allan Bartlett 6 February, 2016 09:15
Hello, we are researching our family business history as 2016 marks 70 years. Our founder Norman Bartlett worked for HV McKay from 1936 for an period of a few years. During that time we believe HV McKay may have provided some of the welded steel truss work for the McKillop(s) bridge that spans the Snowy River in East Gippsland. It seems the prime contractor was Gardner or Gardiner Constructions but I am having trouble finding a connection other than the summary notes above in this web page, 'McKay implemented major infrastructure projects, including public buildings, parklands and a school and library.' Perhaps there are some accounting entries? Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.
Bronwyn Irvine 11 March, 2017 13:44
My mother in laws great uncle worked for HV McKay in Argentina. Can you tell me what the connection is between HV McKay & Agar Cross & Co. If any??
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