Wool specimen, stud ram, bred by James Gibson, Bellevue, Tasmania, Australia, 1898
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 specimen of wool is from Bellevue station in Tasmania. Bellevue was a hugely influential Tasmanian sheep stud founded by James Gibson in 1863. Gibson formed his flock from a selection of ewes from Winton station which he then bred to three rams from Beaufront station, one of whom, King Billy, was considered outstanding. King Billy produced one of Australia's greatest merino sires named Sir Thomas. This ram influenced significant studs from all over Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria.
Charles Massy. 'The Australian Merino', Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Victoria, 1990.
The wool was produced in 1898 by James Gibson, Bellevue, Tasmania, Australia.
Originally donated by J K Doyle, Cannonbar, Nyngan, New South Wales, Australia, 1898.
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.