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National Museum of Australia

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Shearing handpiece screwdriver which belonged to Jack Howe


Shearing handpiece screwdriver which belonged to Jack Howe

Object information

Physical description

A metal screwdriver, which has a central circular section with two protruding flat-bladed screwdriver bits attached to the outer edge. Stamped text at the centre on both sides reads 'MOFFAT VIRTUE [LTD?].

Statement of significance

The Jack Howe collection comprises a mechanical shearing handpiece manufactured by the Wolseley Sheep Shearing Machine Company and presented to champion shearer, Jack Howe, in 1893.

Jack Howe is renowned for several extraordinary shearing feats performed in central Queensland in 1892. In early October at Alice Downs station, he shore 1437 sheep over five days, a record that remains unbroken. The following week he broke another record, shearing 321 sheep in 7 hours and 40 minutes. Howe performed both feats using blade shears. Despite the introduction of machine shearing technology, his record tally of 321 sheep remained intact until 1950. Later in 1892, Howe also broke the record for machine shearing at Barcaldine Downs, where he shore 237 sheep in one day using the new technology. Developed by Frederick Wolseley and Robert Savage, mechanical shears revolutionised the sheep shearing industry in Australia. The handpiece in this collection signifies not only the achievements of a remarkable individual, but also represents a key Australian industry.

Object information

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