Wool specimen, stud ram, bred by Phillip Russell, Carngham, Victoria, Australia, 1888
The wool collection held by the Powerhouse Museum contains thousands of wool samples collected between 1804 and 2003. These samples provide a record of wool growing in Australia. The different fleeces reflect the breeding programs and environmental conditions under which the fleeces were grown and, as such, they provide a valuable history of the areas of Australia in which sheep were grazed.
Sheep were introduced into Australia in 1788 from Cape Town in South Africa. Since then sheep from other countries, including the Spanish Merino were imported into Australia and selectively crossbred. Careful crossbreeding, paying particular attention to the impact of the environment on both animal and fleece, led to the evolution of the Australian Merino. It is an excellent example of the engineering, through selective breeding, of a domestic animal. Wool went on to become the mainstay of the Australian Economy from 1807 to 1960.
This particular wool specimen came from a sheep bred at Carngham station in Victoria. Carngham was an influential station in Victoria and the flock was started from high grade Tasmanian merinos. In 1843 Russell and Simpson purchased the stud and began buying high class Saxon-based rams. They selectively bred bloodlines from Larra, Ercildoun and Tasmanian stations until 1868 when they became a 'closed' flock and only bred with stock on Carngham. By the late 1880s Carngham was one of the few Victorian flocks that was not relying on Tasmanian or other Victorian ram infusions for its success and fame. It was producing fine high quality wool, and winning awards at various competitions.
Charles Massy. 'The Australian Merino', Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Victoria, 1990.
The wool was produced from a ram bred in 1888 by the Honourable Phillip Russell in Carngham, Victoria Australia.
In 1890 Alfred Hawkesworth, honorary wool-classer to the Museum, noted the following about this specimen which was entered in the Centennial International Exhibition Melbourne 1888-9:
The Carngham wool is placed next with six fleeces (rams), weighing 88lbs. of deep grown staple, bred by Hon Phillip Russell. This exhibit shows very irregular in a fine merino class, ranging from a fine to robust sort. The wool is of great character, and in excellent condition.
A sort lower than the two previous samples (F110 and F111), also a little heavier in condition, but loses none of that silky lustre and elasticity; so fully developed in these wools; will give a little noil. Spinning quality 84s, value 11d per lb. (Alfred Hawkesworth's valuation)
Alfred Hawkesworth, Technological Museum, Sydney, Descriptive Catalogue No 1. Raw wools and specimens to illustrate the woollen manufacture. Sydney Government Printer. 1890.
Originally donated by Phillip Russell, 1889.
This wool specimen is part of the Bill Montgomery Wool Collection which consists of approximately 7000 samples. In the older part of the collection there are 5000 samples from Australian sheep fleeces grown between 1856 and 1906. The samples were collected by the Museum at a time when scientific research was prominent in the Museum's activities. In 1979, when the Museum's focus changed, most of its wool collection was transferred to the teaching collection of Mr Bill Montgomery, a wool classing teacher at Newcastle Technical College. When Bill retired from the College, the collection was again in danger of being thrown away. He took the entire collection home and stored it in his garage for 15 years. His Collection also contains approximately 1500 wool samples grown between 1950 and 2000 and collected by Bill himself. It includes 147 examples of faults and stains occurring in Australian flocks, 20 pigmented wools and 33 rare and extinct breeds from around the world. The Museum purchased the entire collection in 2003. Bill Montgomery died on 7th July, 2007.