Wool specimen, stud ram, bred by Darling Downs Pastoral Company, Jimbour, Darling Downs, Queensland, 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.
Written by Erika Dicker
Assistant Curator, July 2007
The wool was produced from a ram bred in 1888 by the Darling Downs Pastoral Company in Jimbour, Darling Downs, Queensland, Australia.
In 1890 Alfred Hawkesworth, honorary wool-classer to the Museum, noted the following about this specimen:
Stud ram lucerne fed, classed in the long, strong, deep grown type; staple is full, bold, even, and well proportioned, with nice wavy fibre; lustrous; in healthy, rich, condition, with small black tips. Spinning quality 56s, value 9 1/2d per lb. (Alfred Hawkesworth's valuation)
This once famous flock is fully represented by the specimens of rams, ewes, and hoggets wools which are generally well grown and robust, sufficiently long for any manufacturing purpose, but are deficient in fineness, for which they were once renowned. The fibre is what is termed in the wool trade thick or broad, to a great extent caused by the very hard times experienced for about nine months on the Darling Downs, also, by not being suitably crossed, resulting in the fibre becoming hard and unkind to feel, which detracts from its value and general manufacturing properties. This flock would be greatly improved by an introduction of wither Mudgee, NSW, or Barunah Plains, Victoria blood which would produce a long silky soft type- the delight of users.
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 Darling Downs Pastoral Company, Queensland, 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.