Wool specimen, six-tooth ewe, breeder unknown, Marathon Station, Hughenden, North Queensland, Australia, 1889
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
In 1890 Alfred Hawkesworth, honorary wool-classer to the Museum, noted the following about this specimen:
Station bred; long, strong, deep grown for a merino wool, having the appearance of a cross-bred; is a useful and paying type, one that finds a ready sale; used in the medium worsted trade. Spinning quality 50s, value 9d 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 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.