Model plough and label, based on those used in Norcea, Naples, wood / iron / cardboard, purchased from Chrétian Vetter, Germany, 1884
The development of the plough represented a significant shift in human evolution. Although the first ploughs were simple devices made from forked sticks they allowed farmers to prepare larger fields for seeding. Instead of simply tilling the soil for their own needs the plough helped farmers develop commercially viable fields.
The plough was thought to have developed first in Egypt but as the technology was taken up around the world people soon found that they needed to modify the design to account for different soil types. However a major change to design occurred in the mid 1600s when Joseph Foljambe from Holland introduced a plough which had fittings and a coulter made from iron and a mouldboard and share covered with iron plate. In 1763 John Small applied mathematical calculations to the mouldboard shape and eventually produced a shape that would turn the soil more effectively with less draft, wear and strain. This plough known as 'Scots Plough' was the beginning of the plough we all know today.
The introduction of metal allowed ploughs to become more efficient in wetter climates and by 1850 attempts were made to use the steam engine to drive the plough. However the slowness and heavy weight of these machines meant it was introduced in a very limited way. For this reason almost all ploughs remained tethered to animals until the early years of twentieth century. The invention of the automobile in the early twentieth century and the subsequent development of tractors to pull larger ploughing equipment speeded up the farming processes. This allowed greater areas to be tilled and planted increasing the productivity of those nations able to untether the plough from animal power.
This is one of a collection of thirty model ploughs purchased for the original 'Technological, Industrial and Sanitary Museum' collection in 1884. At the turn of the century agriculture was a mainstay of the Australian economy and these models are examples of the importance Australia placed on the teaching of agriculture as a science. The ploughs were a part of a larger order, which included botanical and zoological models, compiled from the catalogue of the retailer Chrétien Vetter of Hamburg by the museum's Board of Trustees.
Powerhouse Museum, Blue file, 8432
Geoff Barker, March, 2007