South Australian Inventors

Some early

South Australian Inventors

One of South Australia's first inventions was a machine known as The Stripper, the world's first mechanical grain harvester. This invention speeded up the reaping process on the farm and reduced the number of labourers needed to harvest the crop. The shortage of labour in 1842 was so severe that Governor Grey appealed to England for more emigrants. The machine, which has been modified and improved many times, was produced in South Australia and exported to many of the other colonies and even overseas.

Unfortunately, an argument has continued ever since about the name of the inventor. Some assume that it was J.B. Bull whereas others are convinced that it was John Ridley. Early in 1843 models and drawings of reaping machines were submitted by Ridley, Cotter, J.W.Bull and several others. Ridley produced his machine at his Hindmarsh workshop in 1843 just in time for the coming harvest. Within seven days it reaped and threshed more than seventy acres. It stripped the grain from the stalks and threshed them to separate the grain from the ears. In February 1844, the South Australian Agricultural and Horticultural Society awarded John Ridley its prize, of ten Pounds and ten shillings, which was presented to him by the Governor.

Another very useful invention was made by Charles Mullen in the early 1870s. On his farm near Wasleys he developed a method to clear his land. He used an old steam boiler, filled with rocks, which was pulled by a horse or bullock team. This contraption would knock down most of the mallee which would later be burned. After this he dragged a spiked log over the rubble and sowed his wheat crop. After harvesting the stubble would be set on fire which also killed new mallee shoots. This was repeated a few seasons in a row and provided excellent farming land free of its original vegetation. The whole process became known as Mullenising.

One of the most important inventions, in 1876, was that by the brothers Richard and Clarence Smith of Kalkabury. As most of the newly opened farming land in South Australia was in the Mallee, ploughs were of little use, even after Mullenising, as the blades would often hit old stumps or rocks. Their plough had a blade which would rise on striking an obstacle and fall down back into the soil with the help of a hinged beam or draft chain. It became known as the Stump-Jump Plough.

One of the thousands of stump-jump ploughs produced at Ardrossan by the Smith Brothers between 1880 and 1935. During that same period other factories in Australia also produced this type, and other ploughs. Some had as many as twelve blades.

A seven metre Threshing Roller, made by Germans from red gum and weighing about seven tons. It needed two bullocks to drag it.


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