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B2400 Header-harvester, ground drive, full size, 'Sunshine', made by H.V. McKay Pty Ltd, Sunshine Harvester Works, Sunshine, Victoria, Australia, 1935, used by the Hyland and Stapleton families of Cudal, New South Wales, Australia,. Click to enlarge.

Sunshine header-harvester, c.1935

  • 1935
This Australian cereal harvesting machine made by H.V. McKay Pty Ltd of Sunshine, Victoria, in 1935 is known by various names: a header-harvester, initially a reaper-thresher, and later just a header. It is an Australian innovation and is significant because it solved the problem in Australia of harvesting storm flattened crops, and by the 1920s it was the usual harvesting machine in New South Wales, though the stripper-harvester and even the stripper continued to be used for light crops and rough terrain.

This header was designed in 1913 by Headlie Shipard Taylor of Henty, New South Wales, and the principle was to cut the heads from the crop with a knife at the base of the comb rather that beat them off. In a good standing crop it cut just before the heads, but where the crop was down or tangled nearly all the straw went through the machinery via spiral augers to the threshing drum in the body of the machine.

H.V. McKay was so impressed with the capabilities of Taylor's header that in 1916 he bought the rights to his patents. At the time McKay's popular stripper-harvester was being challenged by the Canadian reaper-thresher made by Massey-Harris. McKay employed Taylor to manufacture his machine at his Sunshine Harvester Works, near Melbourne, marketing it as the 'Sunshine Header'. From its first sales for the 1916-1917 harvest it was an outstanding success. It not only met the Massey-Harris challenge but quickly superseded the stripper-harvester, especially after it spectacular triumph over the storm damaged crop of 1920-1921. This machine harvested wheat, oats and barley and with special attachments it could also harvest peas. It won the reputation of being the greatest harvesting machine ever built, enabling the successful harvesting of every condition of crop, whether light, heavy, storm-tangled or weed-infested, and was light in draught as it did not pull on the straw as with the stripper principle. By the 1920s the technology of cereal harvesting machinery had reached its ultimate general form. Although minor improvements continued to be made, the principle had been firmly established.

Simpson, Margaret & Phillip, 'Old Farm Machinery in Australia: A fieldguide and sourcebook', Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst, NSW, 1991, p.65-6.

'The Sunshine Header-Harvester' information booklet published by H.V. McKay Pty Ltd.

Margaret Simpson
Curator, Science, Technology & Industry
January 2011


Object No.


Object Statement

Header-harvester, ground drive, full size, 'Sunshine', made by H.V. McKay Pty Ltd, Sunshine Harvester Works, Sunshine, Victoria, Australia, 1935, used by the Hyland and Stapleton families of Cudal, New South Wales, Australia,

Physical Description

Header-harvester, ground drive, full size, 'Sunshine', made by H.V. McKay Pty Ltd, Sunshine Harvester Works, Sunshine, Victoria, Australia, 1935, used by the Hyland and Stapleton families of Cudal, New South Wales, Australia,



2200 mm


4200 mm



  • 1935


The harvester was made by H.V. McKay Pty Ltd at the Sunshine Harvester Works, Sunshine, Victoria. It was first sold in 1916 both in horse-drawn and engine functioned types. The latter involved the harvesting machinery being driven by a petrol engine and the horses were only required to pull the machine along. A self-propelled auto-header was built at Sunshine from 1924.

The header-harvester cut an 8 foot swathe through the crop and when horse-drawn required 5 to 6 horses to pull, according to the soil and condition of the crop. Generally 26 acres of crop could be harvested each day. The operation involved gathering, cutting, threshing, winnowing and cleaning the grain and making it ready for bagging. The comb first engaged the crop and guided it into reciprocating knives, which cut off the heads and some of the straw. The heads and straw were seized by the revolving spiral steel conveyors which carried them to the floating elevator and on to the threshing drum. The comb, knives and conveyors were adjustable to suit the crop. From the threshing drum the mass of grain and straw were delivered to the straw walker, which conveyed the straw to the rear of the machine and ejected it. The grain and chaff went on to the grain tray and then fell onto riddles and blown with a strong blast from fans which blew away the chaff. Any imperfectly thrashed grains which had reached the riddles were delivered to the seconds elevator and returned to the threshing drum for further treatment. The riddles delivered all the clean grain to the grain elevator and on to the revolving screen which rejected all the small or broken grains and dropped them into seconds box while the good grain passed into the large grain box ready for bagging.



This harvester was purchased between 1935 and 1938 by the Hyland family of 'Noalmae' Cudal, in the central western area of New South Wales. The harvester was purchased from Western Stores in Orange from the salesman Mr Phil Morrisey. The harvester was horse-drawn but during the mid to late 1940s it was converted to tractor operation with the addition of a power takeoff converted at Henry's foundry at Parkes, New South Wales. The header was later sold to the Stapleton family of 'Gundamain', Forbes Road, Cudal, and presented to the Museum by Dr D. Stapleton in 1981.


Credit Line

Gift of D Stapleton, 1981

Acquisition Date

10 June 1981

Cite this Object


Sunshine header-harvester, c.1935 2019, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 26 September 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Sunshine header-harvester, c.1935 |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=26 September 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}


This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.