Model, stripper harvester, 'Sunshine', made by H V McKay - Massey Harris Pty Ltd, Australia, 1930-1938
James Morrow of Melbourne actually perfected, patented and exhibited a stripper-harvester in 1884 but Hugh Victor McKay took the credit for its invention. By 1904 McKay's Sunshine Harvester Co. was the largest manufacturing exporter in the Commonwealth with extensive markets in South America and North Africa. In 1907 he established a model community of worker freeholds opposed to militant unionism. The Sunshine Harvester works was for many years the largest factory in Australia, eventually covering 30 acres and employing 2500 workers. By 1920 nearly two thirds of the wheat, oats and barley crop in Australia were harvested with Sunshine machines.
Hugh Victor McKay was responsible for significant innovations in the design and production of agricultural machinery, namely the combined stripper harvester and winnower in 1884 (known as the Sunshine Harvester). McKay's Harvester Co was also responsible for developing the Sundercut, a combination of stump-jump cultivator and plough, the Suntyne combined grain and fertiliser drill and tine cultivator, and the header harvester. The commercial production and export of the 'combined' harvester pioneered large scale secondary production in Australia.
The factories in Victoria were modern and efficient, and they employed a large number of workers. After moving from Ballarat, production was concentrated at Braybrook Junction, west of Melbourne. The Harvester Co formed the basis of an industrial town which became known as Sunshine in 1907. McKay was benevolent to his workers and established, from his own profits, a fund to retire his long-serving employees. He was also opposed to wage regulation and was often in conflict with trade unions. In 1907 he was involved in a court case that became known as the Harvester Judgement. The ruling gave rise to the Australian Basic Wage. Justice H.B. Higgins, the president of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, declared that an unskilled labourer should receive a minimum of seven shillings for an eight-hour working day, enough to sustain a family of five in "frugal comfort".
McKay was also a philanthropist. In 1926 he donated 2,000 pounds to John Flynn to establish the Royal Flying Doctor Service. McKay died in 1926 and, when the Great Depression hit in 1930, his company amalgamated with the Canadian firm of Massey-Harris Co. Ltd to form HV McKay-Massey Harris. During World War II, as well as producing agricultural machinery, the firm supplied aircraft, truck and tank components, tools, gauges, lathes, gears and radar equipment.
This model was made by H V McKay-Massey Harris Pty Ltd of Sunshine, Victoria around 1930-1938.
The stripper-harvester combined the jobs of stripping the wheat with threshing and winnowing in a single machine. It stripped the ears of grain from the standing wheat crop and the grain and chaff passed through a winnowing drum with riddles. The separated grain was elevated by a continuous belt to a storage bin. This machine required three to five horses to pull it. It came in comb widths of 5ft, 6ft, 8ft and 10ft and harvested up to 20 acres per day.