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2007/174/1 Archive, relating to the Victa lawn mower, Airtourer and Mervyn Victor Richardson (1893-1972), various makers, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1927-1966. Click to enlarge.

Archive (Mervyn Victor Richardson)

Made in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1927-1966.

The archive is significant in that it demonstrates how Mervyn Victor Richardson used the popular media in the 1950s and 1960s, to self-promote his achievements and wealth. The archive has a genealogical significance in that the documents were originally collected by Violet May Richardson (Mervyn's eldest sister), whose son, Neville, maintained and extended the archive and bequethed them to his daughters, who are the donors of the material to the Museum. The Museum has an extensive collection o...


Object No.


Object Statement

Archive, relating to the Victa lawn mower, Airtourer and Mervyn Victor Richardson (1893-1972), various makers, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1927-1966

Physical Description

Archive, relating to the Victa lawn mower, Airtourer and Mervyn Victor Richardson (1893-1972), various makers, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1927-1966

The archive consists of the following documents:

(1) The October 1927 edition of the journal 'The Australian Motor Owner' (p.44), showing a black and white photograph of M.V. Richardson. There is only one page of the journal available.

(2) A 12 page brochure published and issued by L.J. Hooker (Australia's leader in Real Estate) for the auction on Tuesday, 13 September, 1966 of 'Kumale', the family home of M.V. Richardson. The brochure also contains details of the auction, on the same day, of 'Wharfdale' the house next door.

(3) An undated single typed page by Archibald Newton Wesley Richardson (1892-1942), Mervyn's brother, setting out his (Archibald's) ideas on the development of an aeroplane.

(4) An undated booklet describing the Victa Aviation story, with an introduction by D.G. Anderson, Director General, Department of Civil Aviation.

(5) Newspaper article entitled 'Men of Genius', Sunday Mirror, September 17, 1961, p. 51., on M.V. Richardson.

(6) Newspaper supplement, The Sydney Morning Herald Annual Review of Aviation and Astronautics, 1964. Photograph of M.V. Richardson and D.G. Anderson (Director-General of Civil Aviation), who accepts the delivery of a Victa Airtourer from Richardson.

(7) Newspaper article entitled 'The House a Lottery Couldn't Buy' (The Sun, Tuesday, August 2, 1966, p.2). Article with pictures of 'Kumale'.

(8) Newspaper clipping (details unknown) entitled 'Tour By Director' stating that M.V. Richardson was to tour the U.S.A and South America to explore the potential market for his lawn mowers.

(9) Newspaper clipping (details unknown), entitled 'Company's Great Hopes', on the Victa home-building division.

(10) Newspaper clipping (details unknown), showing a picture of M.V. Richardson and his wife Vera (nee Bertram), on the wharf prior to sailing to the USA and South America.

(11) Newspaper clipping (details unknown, but on 13 September, 1966) on the auction of 'Kumale', entitled '$110,000 offer on Dream Home'. The house was passed in at auction, not having reached the reserve of $140,000.

(12) Newspaper clipping (Daily Telegraph, August 4, 1965, p.22), entitled '12 Years' Hard Work, now He will Rest', on the 'retirement' of M.V. Richardson. A second copy is also included in the archive.

(13) Newspaper clipping (The Sun, date and page unknown), entitled 'A Man's Success Story', on M.V. Richardson's proposal to establish Victa Development Corporation Ltd., for large-scale home building.

(14) Newspaper clipping (details unknown), entitled 'There's Money in not Letting Grass Grow', on M.V. Richardson and his firm.

(15) Newspaper clipping (The Sun Herald, August 22, 1965, p.17) entitled 'At 60 you can be a millionaire'. General article on the life and work of M. V. Richardson.

(16) Newspaper clipping (Daily Mirror, Thursday, October 20, 1960, p.46), entitled 'Women at the Top: Backstop to a Millionaire' on the domestic role played by Mrs Mervyn Richardson (Vera Bertram).

(17) Newspaper clippings (details unknown), entitled 'From Concord Cottage to This: Millionaire Wife Keeps Friends' and 'Cut Lunch for Millionaire', on the domestic role played by Mrs Richardson.

(18) Newspaper clipping (The Sun-Herald, March 25, 1962, p.7), entitled 'Sydney Co., in new Field', on the Victa AirTourer 100 aircraft.

(19) Newspaper clipping (details unknown, but dated 8/10/64), entitled 'The Man Who Began it All', on the development of the Victa lawn mower.

(20) Newsletter, Royal Aero Club of New South Wales (Vol. 2, No. 8, December, 1961), with photographs of Gary Richardson.

(21) Publication, 'Victa Aviation Division News Bulletin' (no date), on the history of, and with technical specifications for, the Victa Airtourer 100.

(22) A page from 'Air Progress' (January, 1967, p. 32), entitled 'Australia's "Aircruiser" Enters Four-Seater Field', with photographs and a brief technical description of the Victa Airtourer.

(23) Journal article, Pix (June 10, 1961), three-page article with photographs on M.V. Richardson, his businesses, and 'Kumale'.

(24) Journal article, Pix (April, 22, 1962, pp.22-24), on the Richardson's (Archibald and Mervyn's) 1914 monoplane, the Victa Airtourer 100, and the 6 cylinder, 2 cycle rotary engine (1914).

(25) Journal article, Pix (August 27, 1966, pp.12-15), on the interior and exterior of 'Kumale'.

(26) Journal article, Woman's Day (March 30, 1964, pp.54-55), article and photographs of the Richardson's at 'Kumale'.

(27) Journal article, Woman's Day, (August 29, 1966, pp.2-3), article about 'Kumale'.

(28) Genealogy of Mervyn Victor Richardson, showing his parents, his brother and three sisters, their marriages and children, and the children's marriages down to the donors of the archive (Elizabeth and Joanne Williams).

(29) Great grandfather's Richardson's bible (Mervyn Richardson's father). The bible was given to Mervyn's father, by his mother, as stated on the frontispiece. One of the donor's (Elizabeth Williams) advised that the bible was found in her parent's possessions in February 2007. Her father's mother was Violet Richardson, Mervyn's eldest sister (see the back pages of the bible for details of their family).

(30) Mervyn's son, Gary (1931-2005), who helped his father considerably in the development of Victa Mowers Pty Ltd., graduated from Sydney University in 1956 with first-class honours in psychology. He wrote three books included in this archive: Education for Freedom: Blueprint for a Human-Centred School (1985); Philosophy of Conscoius Action (1987), this work includes an 8 page fax (24 January, 1995) from Gary to one of the donors (Elizabeth Williams), which sets out an early draft of the book's Introduction and text for what was going to be Chapter 19 (The Way of Development), neither of which appeared in the published version, and Love as Conscious Action:Self Development for the New Society (1992). It was the philosophy of the first book that he used to establish (1978), with a group of parents, Korowal School at Leura in the Blue Mountains.



Various makers and publishers



The donor has advised as follows: "I've enclosed the papers I've recently found relating to Mervyn in my Dad's material. My Dad [Neville Cropton Williams (1922-1999)], was one of Mervyn's nephews. The papers were collected by Dad's parents (his mother was the eldest [Violet] of Mervyn's sisters, and/or Dad, their only child" (letter from Elizabeth Williams, donor, to curator, 6 June, 2007).

Mervyn Victor Richardson (1893-1972)

M.V. Richardson was born on 11 November at Yarramalong, a town on the central coast of New South Wales. His father, Archibald George Heron (1864-1924), an Irish schoolteacher and his mother, Sydney born Charlotte Martha Griffiths (1868-1958), conceived five children, with Mervyn being the second born. All five children were born in Australia (Yarramalong, Newtown, and Paddington). The other children were: Archibald Newton Wesley (1892-1942 ); Violet May (1895-1976); Doris Dilma (1903-1972); Ivy Letitia (1904-1936). Mervyn married Vera Marie Bertram in the Methodist Church, Concord, New South Wales, on 26 June, 1926. They had one child, Garry Bertram Richardson, who was born on 1 August, 1931.

Mervyn attended primary school, but it is not certain to what level of formal education he attained thereafter. His early career was apprentice jeweller and signwriter. Between 1914 and 1916 Mervyn, with the assistance of brother Archibald, designed and build a monoplane, for which they designed a radial engine with contra-rotating propellers. The plane did not progress, as Archibald crashed it at Mascot airport. Archibald survived the crash.

In the 1920s, Mervyn found work as a motor vehicle salesman. He designed the Austin 'Wasp', a sporty, duck-tailed, coupe body for the locally assembled Austin 7 car. He established New South Wales Motors Ltd and opened a showroom in William Street, Sydney. However, the Great Depression of the 1930s found Richardson in financial difficulties, and unable to continue, he closed the business. During the Depression years, Mervyn, his wife and young son, lived in a single room at North Strathfield, from where Mervyn walked to the city in search of work. He eventually found employment as a salesman for Gold Star Coupon Co., and he also sold slide rules. Throughout the 1930s, Richardson provided as best he could for his family, and by the early 1940s, after finding employment as an engineering salesman, his financial circumstance began to improve, whereby in 1941 the family purchased a house in Bray Street, Concord.

Richardson's son, Gary, started a lawn-mowing business in 1948, to supplement the expenses associated with his university study. At this time, Mervyn made two reel-type lawn mowers for Gary in the home workshop. He continued to build mowers in this workshop and in mid-1950, he registered the name Victa (a play on his middle name). Between 1948 and 1952, Mervyn built and sold sixty reel-type mowers, powered by imported Villier's two-stroke engines.

In August 1952, Richardson used a Villier's engine to drive a set of rotating blades. He gathered billy-cart wheels, a jam tin and other parts to make his first prototype lawn mower. The mower worked on fine and long grasses. Within a few months, his mowers had sold rapidly. The post-war development of the suburbs, with homes, lawns, and gardens, made it an opportune time for the development of the workable, affordable, and serviceable rotary lawn mower. From early 1953, Richardson was fully occupied in developing the new business, which by 1953 was employing 3000 at a new factory at Milperra, Sydney. It is estimated that by this time, 143,000 mowers were produced annually and exported to 28 countries.

In the 1960s, Victa Pty Ltd diversified to the aviation, public telephone, and home building industries. The firm manufactured the red phone (a private payphone system installed in shops and clubs), the Victa Airtourer 100 (a light aircraft) and Victa project homes.

Gary succeeded his father as Chairman of the company in 1965. The company was sold to Sunbeam Corporation Ltd in 1970. In 1994, the factory moved to Campsie, Sydney, where the seven millionth Victa lawn mower was built in 1997.

The Victa prototype lawnmower (1952), other Victa lawnmowers, a model of the Victa Airtourer, and company archives are held by the Museum.


Credit Line

Gift of Elizabeth and Joanne Williams, 2007

Acquisition Date

9 November 2007

Cite this Object


Archive (Mervyn Victor Richardson) 2019, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 31 March 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Archive (Mervyn Victor Richardson) |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=31 March 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

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