This clip chosen to be G
This silent actuality footage was taken by the official photographer of the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Frederick Charles Wills, and his assistant Henry William Mobsby in 1899. It shows a horse-drawn Buckeye brand reaper and binder harvesting a wheat crop while labourers stack the wheat sheaves.
A static Lumière Cinematographe has been used to capture the wheat harvest on a property in Queensland. Wills and Mobsby carried out what is believed to be the world’s first government-funded film project, commissioned in October 1898.
This clip shows a farmer on a horse-drawn Buckeye Mower and Reaper, harvesting wheat. Men walk alongside the machine, stacking the sheaves (bundles) of wheat in neat rows. A child and dog can also be seen playing among the sheaves. The footage, which is silent and black and white, was shot at Jimbour in Queensland’s Darling Downs in 1899.
Educational value points
- Wheat has been grown in Queensland since the 1890s. While New South Wales and Western Australia are the main wheat-growing states, Queensland is part of an Australian wheat belt that stretches in a narrow crescent from central Queensland through NSW and Victoria to southern South Australia and includes parts of WA. By 1900 wheat was Australia’s most important crop and, along with wool, dominated Australian agriculture. Australia began exporting wheat in 1845.
- In the clip, wheat is harvested by a horse-drawn Buckeye Mower and Reaper, a mechanised wheat harvester. The large reel on the left of the machine collected the wheat and held it against the blades of a cutting bar to cut the grain. The wheat was then deposited into the 'dropper’, a slotted frame at the rear of the cutting bar. A binding attachment on the right of the machine then packed the wheat into a bundle and wrapped it with twine, ready to be collected by farm labourers.
- Prior to mechanisation, wheat was cut and bundled by hand. By the end of the 1880s, however, the mechanisation of many Australian farms had enabled much larger areas to be cropped, and the clip illustrates the larger-scale farming in action.
- The Buckeye Mower and Reaper in the clip was manufactured in Ohio, USA. An Australian agriculture manufacturing industry had emerged in the 1860s, but the engineering industries in the USA and Britain were more advanced, and so complex machines such as reapers and binders tended to be imported.
- The clip is an excerpt from a film made for the Queensland Department of Agriculture. The Department’s photographer, Frederick Wills, and his assistant, Henry Mobsby, produced about thirty 1-minute films for the Department in 1899. The films were made to accompany lectures in Britain promoting immigration to Queensland and were never shown publicly in Australia. They depicted the colony as prosperous and agriculturally based, but with a thriving modern city at its centre.
- In the 1890s the Queensland Government sought to attract established farmers, business people and tradesmen to the colony. Land was made available at cheap rates and a special envoy, George Randall, promoted the colony as a land of opportunity at various rural exhibitions across England. Wills’s footage was intended to be used at the lectures, but Randall decided that it would attract the 'wrong’ sort of migrant, whom he referred to as the 'flotsam and jetsam of the cities’.
- The footage was shot on a Lumière Cinématographe, a portable three-in-one camera, projector and film developer invented by French film pioneers Auguste and Louis Lumière in 1895. Wills convinced the Queensland Department of Agriculture that film could be a useful tool for the Department and in 1898 he was sent to Sydney to purchase a Lumière Cinématographe and to learn how to use it.
- At the time the footage was taken, films were silent and black and white. The size and weight of the camera meant that filmmakers tended to use long, static takes, as in this clip where the camera remains fixed. Short actuality films recording daily life in Australian cities were made as early as 1896 and provided a staple income for early Australian filmmakers. Film was first projected onto a screen for a public audience in 1895, and Australians quickly embraced the new technology. The first Australian feature-length film was made in 1906.
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