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85/1284-70 Glass plate negative, full plate, 'Ploughing Match', Kerry and Co, Sydney, Australia, c. 1884-1917. Click to enlarge.

Glass plate negative, full plate, ‘Ploughing Match’, Kerry and Co, Sydney, Australia, c. 1884-1917

Made by Kerry, Charles H in Australia, Oceania, c. 1884-1917.
In the late 1800s governments realised the survival of the Australian colonies depended on the expertise of farmers. Ploughing matches were organised to encourage excellence, and to inform farmers about new practices and machinery. The matches were competitive, but also had an important social role.

Ploughing matches, and the exhibitions held with them, were forerunners to Sydney's Royal Easter Show. 'The Show' still plays the important roles of bringing farmers together and showcasing new technologies today.

Sandra McEwen, Curatorial, 2008

In the 1870s and 1880s one of the most popular ways Australian farmers got together was with ploughing matches or competitions between ploughmen. They were a great sporting, educational and social event. Ploughmen often travelled great distances to attend with their supporters, to compete in championships in various districts.

Good ploughing was a skill requiring considerable practice with straight lines, neat crowns and evenly-cut furrows. At first the ploughing matches were privately organised but later held in conjunction with local shows organised by agricultural and pastoral societies.

The first ploughing match was held in 1828 at Sutton Forest, in the Southern Highlands not far from Sydney. By the 1870s and 1880s ploughing matches were very popular in Tasmania and New South Wales but especially Victoria where up to 80 men competed in teams. Any suitable flat land was used including paddocks, the centres of racecourses and on plains etc. There were three classes, A, B & C and a special one for boys under 18 years of age.

Class A was the championship class and Class C for those who had not won any prizes. Matches were often followed by a horse parade where prizes were awarded to the best turned out teams, best kept set of harnesses and the best ground team. Ploughing matches were governed by time and points awarded by three to five judges.

Two Inter-Colonial ploughing matches were held in Victoria at Werribee in 1882 and Ballarat in 1883. At the latter some 5,000 spectators attended with 22 teams in the single-furrow event. Champion ploughmen achieved hero status and many were known throughout Eastern Australia.

Ploughing matches not only gave farmers the opportunity to hone their skills but were important in the development of ploughs suitable for Australian conditions. Manufacturers showed great interest in the competitions and were also used to introduce new methods of machinery to farmers.

Ploughing matches began to decline during the depression and drought of the 1890s then later from labour shortages during and after World War I and eventually the decline of the horse-drawn farm implements. Ploughing with tractors did not require the same skill as manoeuvring one horse or multiple horse teams.

Margaret Simpson, Curator
July 2017

This photographic negative was published by the Sydney firm Charles Kerry & Co. and is part of the Powerhouse Museum's Tyrrell collection which contains over 2,900 glass plate negatives by Kerry & Co. Although a few appear to be from the 1880s most were produced between 1892 and 1917. Over this period, and well into the early 1900s, prints from these negatives appeared in many Australian publications and albums of views. In 1903 the company began producing postcards from these negatives, further establishing the images as some of the most significant and best known early views of New South Wales.

Some of the more significant themes covered by the collection include; views of New South Wales, Queensland, country towns, Sydney, Indigenous Australians, the South Pacific, rural life, native flora and fauna, and sentimental views. In addition there are a number of significant events from the 1900s covered by the collection including; Embarkation of troops for the Boer War, Hordens fire and the Inauguration of the Commonwealth in 1901, the arrival of the Great White Fleet and the Burns verses Johnson boxing match at Rushcutters Bay in 1908.

Geoff Barker, Curatorial, January, 2009

References
Newton, Gael, Shades of Light; Photography and Australia 1839 - 1988, Australian National Gallery, Canberra, 1988
David, Millar, Charles Kerry's Federation Australia, Sydney, David Ell Press, 1981
Tyrell, James, Australian Aboriginal and South Sea Islands Implements, Weapons and Curios, James Tyrell, Sydney, 1929

Summary

Object No.

85/1284-70

Object Statement

Glass plate negative, full plate, 'Ploughing Match', Kerry and Co, Sydney, Australia, c. 1884-1917

Physical Description

Silver gelatin dry plate glass negative in landscape format. The image depicts a ploughing competition at what appears to be an agricultural show. The competition is between teams of two-horse single-furrow mouldboard ploughs. Five teams are depicted in the image and numerous strips of alterate furrowed and unfurrowed land can be seen. One of the plough teams is depicted in the foregound of the image. The team consists of two horses harnessed to a single-furrow mouldboard plough which is hand controlled by a man walking behind the plough. A man can be seen in the foreground on the left side of the image, he is holding an axe and looking towards the plough team. Crowds of people can be seen in the background of the image. The crowds appear to be attending an agricultural show. Horse drawn vehicles and horses can also be seen in the background. A hill is depicted in the far background of the image. The caption, studio number and studio mark are inscribed on the reverse of the negative.

55/61 Tyrrell Inventory Number, 132 Kerry Studio Number

Marks

Caption, studio number and studio mark on plate emulsion verso lower left corner, inscribed by hand in reverse print in ink 'PLOUGHING MATCH. / 132. Kerry, Sydney.'
Inscription in plate emulsion verso upper right corner, scratched by hand '132'.

Dimensions

Width

215 mm

Production

Made

Kerry and Co Australia, Oceania c. 1884-1917

Notes

Charles Kerry was born in 1858 and by 1885 was running a studio in partnership with C. D. Jones. This partnership lasted until 1892, when Charles became sole owner and changed the studio's name to Kerry and Co.

By 1890 the company was employing a number of photographers who would become famous in their own right. George Bell who covered rural New South Wales was employed in 1890 and Harold Bradley was doing outdoor work and covering events around Sydney by 1899.

Kerry continued to work in the field and in 1895 he took photographs of Royal National Park for New South Wales Government, photographed Queensland artesian bores and was employed by the New South Wales Government to travel the state and photograph Indigenous Australians. In 1897 Kerry led the first party to reach the summit of Mt Kosciuszko in winter conditions and photographed the Jenolan caves.

By 1900 Kerry had turned his studio into one of the largest and most respected photographic establishments in the colony. His new four story premises at 310 George St were designed by the architect H. C. Kent and the third floor studios alone could accommodate 70 people wanting their portraits taken.

In 1913 Kerry retired leaving the running of the studio to his nephew, unfortunately the business did not do well and Kerry and Co. closed its doors in 1917. Kerry himself died in 1928.

Geoff Barker, Curatorial, January, 2009

References
Newton, Gael, Shades of Light; Photography and Australia 1839 - 1988, Australian National Gallery, Canberra, 1988
David, Millar, Charles Kerry's Federation Australia, Sydney, David Ell Press, 1981
Tyrell, James, Australian Aboriginal and South Sea Islands Implements, Weapons and Curios, James Tyrell, Sydney, 1929

History

Notes

This photographic negative is one of 2900 Kerry & Co. photographs in the Powerhouse Museum's 'Tyrrell Collection' once owned by Sydney bookseller, James Tyrrell. Almost all of these negatives are 21.5 x 20.3 cm (10 x 8 inch) glass plates and many of those now held by the Powerhouse Museum collection would have been used to create postcards. In addition to the Kerry & Co. Studio images, the Tyrrell Collection at the Powerhouse Museum includes glass plate negatives published by Henry King and a number of other negatives by unattributed photographers

James Tyrrell used the images by Kerry & Co. and Henry King to produce his own booklets and views of New South Wales but although full of iconic Australian images, the collection does not appear to have been fully utilised by Tyrrell.

In 1980 the collection was purchased by Australian Consolidated Press who published a limited series of 2000 contact prints from the collection. Housed in boxes copies of these were given to the State Library of New South Wales and the Macleay Museum at the University of Sydney.

In 1985 Australian Consolidated Press donated the collection to the Powerhouse keeping a set of copy prints for themselves. The collection at this time consisted of 7,903 glass plate negatives and 7,916 contact positive prints. Of these 493 glass plates were damaged but usable and 13 plates totally broken.

A further 2,500 Kerry & Co. negatives are held in the Macleay Museum at the University of Sydney.

Geoff Barker, Curatorial, January, 2009

References
Newton, Gael, Shades of Light; Photography and Australia 1839 - 1988, Australian National Gallery, Canberra, 1988
David, Millar, Charles Kerry's Federation Australia, Sydney, David Ell Press, 1981
Tyrell, James, Australian Aboriginal and South Sea Islands Implements, Weapons and Curios, James Tyrell, Sydney, 1929

Cite this Object

Harvard

Glass plate negative, full plate, 'Ploughing Match', Kerry and Co, Sydney, Australia, c. 1884-1917 2019, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 6 July 2020, <https://ma.as/30123>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/30123 |title=Glass plate negative, full plate, 'Ploughing Match', Kerry and Co, Sydney, Australia, c. 1884-1917 |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=6 July 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

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