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H10347 Harvesting machine, 'Sunshine' stripper-harvester, horse-drawn, metal / timber, made by H.V. McKay Pty Ltd, Sunshine Harvester Works, Sunshine, Victoria, Australia, c.1909. Click to enlarge.

‘Sunshine’ stripper-harvester made by H.V. McKay Pty Ltd, Sunshine, Victoria, c.1909

Made by H V McKay Pty Ltd in Victoria, Australia, c.1909.
The stripper-harvester is an Australian innovation for harvesting cereal crops devised in the late 1880s in Victoria. The machine combined the operations of the South Australian stripper with the irksome job of winnowing. It reduced the labour requirements on Australian farms and increased the efficiency of wheat production. At the same time construction of the railways enabled a massive expansion of the wheat growing areas which all contributed to Australia becoming a leader in cereal production.

The 'Sunshine' stripper-harvester is the most famous and successful of the harvesters produced up until that time. Although not invented by Hugh Victor McKay, he took the idea and developed it into an extremely successful machine. His entrepreneurial flair saw the machine sell some 10,000 units overseas by 1914.

The stripper-harvester was the first product made by McKay's company which by 1907 was called The Sunshine Harvester Co. This firm went on to produce a wide range of agricultural machines and implements under the 'Sun' label including the 'Sunflower' disc cultivator, 'Sundercut' stump jump plough, and 'Suntyne' seed drill, at their works near Melbourne. For years it was the largest factory in Australia, covering 30 acres and employing over 3,000 workers, and the largest agricultural manufacturer in the southern hemisphere.

The stripper-harvester certainly saved the farmer's family the dirty job of winnowing and lessened the labour requirements for the harvest, but could not cut any more acres in a day than the stripper. Despite the stripper-harvester's development occurring in the 1880s, its adoption in Australia was fairly slow and it was not until after 1910 that the stripper was replaced as the most common harvesting machine. By 1920 however, nearly two-thirds of the wheat, oats and barley of Australia was harvested with 'Sunshine' stripper-harvesters.

Quick, Graeme & Wesley Buchele, 'The Grain Harvesters', American Society of Agricultural Engineers, St Joseph, Michigan, U.S.A., 1978, pp.119-121.

Simpson, Margaret & Phillip, 'Old Farm Machinery in Australia : A Fieldguide & Sourcebook', Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst, NSW, 1991, pp.62-65.

Margaret Simpson
Curator, Science, Technology & Industry
September 2009


Object No.


Object Statement

Harvesting machine, 'Sunshine' stripper-harvester, horse-drawn, metal / timber, made by H.V. McKay Pty Ltd, Sunshine Harvester Works, Sunshine, Victoria, Australia, c.1909

Physical Description

Harvesting machine, 'Sunshine' stripper-harvester, horse-drawn, metal / timber, made by H.V. McKay Pty Ltd, Sunshine Harvester Works, Sunshine, Victoria, Australia, c.1909

The 'Sunshine' stripper-harvester is a two wheel, horse-drawn, harvesting machine with tiller steering and front end combs. The stripper-harvester stripped the ears of grain from the crop. The chaff and grain were separated after they passed through a drum and riddles. The separated grain was then elevated by a continuous belt to a grain storage bin mounted on the side. Power for the various internal functions was taken through a dog clutch and gear train from the heavy main wheel situated under the grain bin on the left hand side. This wheel 'lugged' with diagonally placed iron angles so that the driving power did not depend on ground-wheel friction alone.

The crop was delivered to the machinery by way of a comb which was adjustable from the driver's seat for crop height. The stalks were separated into the fingers of the comb and either held until the beaters struck them off or pulled off in a 'stripping' action. Partial threshing occurred in the beater housing. The material was flung onto the broad elevator which in turn delivered it to the threshing drum. (The threshing drum is essentially a housing perforated on the delivery side with a grid over its full length). The beater or thresher consists of spigots or pegs mounted spirally on a central shaft. The shaft rotated the pegs and material through the grid, breaking open the seed heads. All the material had to pass through these grids before moving onto the shaking table which was crosswise to the direction of the harvester's travel.

As the material fell from the shaker to the top riddle or screen it encountered an air blast from a rudimentary centrifugal fan or blower mounted at the rear of the machine. This blast removed the lighter material such as chaff and stalks while the heavier seeds and material were trapped in the riddle. The strength of air flow was controlled by the operator to suit the particular weight or moisture content of the crop.

The clean grain passed through the bottom riddle and was oscillated or vibrated into the hopper of the clean grain elevator. The husked or 'cloaked' grain failed to enter the bottom riddle and was blown and tipped over the forward end. It fell into a separate receptacle which discharged into the hopper of the headings elevator from where it was carried to the beaters and underwent the complete threshing process again. The riddles could be angled up or down to suit the winnowing rate. The clean grain was lifted by an elevator to the rotary screen which separated out the smaller weed seeds and broken grain and delivered them to a separate hopper or 'seconds' bin. The normal-sized grain travelled to the end of the screen and was delivered into the main container. Bagging both from the mains and seconds box was quickly accomplished by a trap door and the use of quick release bag hooks.

The blades are proteted by a Perspex guard made by museum staff.



2280 mm


3000 mm



This 'Sunshine' stripper-harvester was made in Victoria at H.V. McKay's Sunshine Harvester Works after 1909. As a teenager, Hugh Victor McKay (1865-1926) completed a prototype stripper-harvester in January 1881 on his father's property at Drummartin, and persuaded plough makers McCalman, Garde & Co., of North Melbourne, to manufacture it. Despite McKay's boast that these were the first successful stripper-harvesters on the market and that he had invented the first machine, James Morrow (of Nicholson & Morrow) had actually perfected, patented and exhibited a stripper-harvester a year earlier.

McKay's first harvesters were made under contract in Melbourne and Sandhurst (Bendigo), and from 1888 in Ballarat. In 1893, trading as The Harvester Co., McKay built an improved harvester and marketed it as the 'Sunshine' after the theme of an address given by a visiting American evangelist, Dr Thomas de Witt Talmage. Business expanded dramatically from twelve machines built in 1895 to a production of 500 in 1901. The machine required three to five horses to pull it and the typical sizes were 5 ft, 6 ft, 8 ft and 10ft comb widths.

During the 1902 drought, and with hundreds of spare stripper-harvesters in his factory, McKay exported the machines to Africa and South America. His overseas trade earnings soon made him the largest manufacturing exporter in the Commonwealth by 1904. In that year he acquired the well-equipped works of Mellor's defunct Braybrook Implement Co. at Braybrook Junction, Victoria. In 1907 Braybrook Junction was renamed 'Sunshine', as a model community of worker freeholders opposed to militant unionism. McKay drew inspiration from English company towns and provided extensive amenities for his workers.



It is believed this stripper-harvester operated in New South Wales and may have worked in the Dubbo area as it was purchased at an auction of the contents of the Merrilea Farm Museum, Dubbo, in 1984.


Credit Line

Purchased 1984

Acquisition Date

16 August 1984

Cite this Object


'Sunshine' stripper-harvester made by H.V. McKay Pty Ltd, Sunshine, Victoria, c.1909 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 12 August 2020, <>


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