Friday, August 27, 2010

The Introduction of Milk Testing

Unexpected interest from the blogosphere has transpired overnight for milk testing machinery collected in local museums. It all started with a post written yesterday on this humble blog, regarding a pioneer of the Bega area, Mr. George Guthrey. Impressive detective work by our friends at Maffra and District Historical Society and Old Gippstown Heritage Park took inspiration from a set of three babcock milk testers depicted in an image from the original post.

Three Babcock milk testers in the collection of the Bega Cheese Heritage Centre.

So what exactly were the machines testing, and why is it that they came to be taken up as industry standard so soon after the first experiments?

The problem of milk testing is, interestingly enough, a story tied to the unscrupulous behaviour of dairy farmers supplying factories and cooperatives with a tampered milk supply. The guilty farmers had been adding water to the milk to bulk out their daily amount. The action was profitable for farmers as at the time dairy factories were in the practice of paying farmers for the quantity of the milk and not its quality. Those with the expected butter fat content were paid equally to their dishonest peers, per litre. The introduction of the Babcock milk testers, a machine that tested the butter-fat content of milk, helped to standardise the quality of milk accepted at factories. It provided the scientific rigour of testing necessary to impose a floor standard on the acceptable percentage of butter-fat in supplied milk. Unfortunately for some farmers during tough periods, the standards were also a prohibitive rule which caught them off guard when the daily supply was not able to make the grade.

Milk Tester manufactured by the Vermont Farm Machinery Corporation, Bellows Falls, Vermont

The process of testing milk begin with the introduction of a small quantity of amyl alcohol into a glass test bottle. To this liquid was added a small sample of milk through a pipette, delivered into the glass bottle. Strong sulphuric acid was then added, with a wooden cork placed over the neck of the bottle to achieve a firm seal. The contents would then be shaken vigorously until it became a hot solution of a light brown colour. Before placing the glass bottle in the centrifugal machine, a small quantity of diluted sulphuric acid was added. The machine was then worked (in the early days with a hand crank) for about half a minute or until all the contents appeared as a clear yellow oil. The quantity of remaining contents were then read from a scale on the bottle's side.

The test worked on the Babcock principle- that is, that all components of milk other than fat dissolves in sulphuric acid. The centrifugal process allowed for complete separation without having bubbles present in the fat that would likely skew the final result.

"Official Babcock Tester", in the collection of the Bega Pioneers Museum

History of Milk Testing in Australia

Two individuals are believed key drivers in the effort to introduce machines in Australia for testing milk. They are Henry Pateson (associated with the FF&I Co.) and N. Herbert Throsby of the Berrima District Co-operative Company. These two collaborators are connected to the most likely candidate for the title of the first tester having been used in Australia, the Fresh Food and Ice Company, then located in Mittagong.

Other accounts contest the account, acknowledging the role of Mr. Hugh Sinclair, the manager of the Bengelalla factory (located in Shoalhaven) at the time, and crediting him for bringing the Babcock method into use in New South Wales. [Source: A Brief History of Co-operation As Applied to the Dairy Industry, T.C.K, North Coast Daily News Printers, Magellan St., Lismore, circa 1910, p. 16].

From as early as 1879, concern was raised in the NSW government for the declining standards of milk received at factories. In this year the Adulteration of Food Prevention Act was introduced. From this time until the introduction of the Milk Board in 1931, dairy factories oversaw the testing of milk quality. In 1931, the Milk Board was formed, charged with the responsibility to supervise the quality of milk offered for sale in New South Wales.

The Reaction of Farmers
When milk testing was first introduced, a large majority of farmers were hesitant towards the new standards. Transcripts of interviews conducted for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into food prices and quality revealed the reasons for their distrust. Mr. Harry Lewis Gobble, then manager of the Berrima District Dairy Company, suggested that often the milk of innocent farmers who had not adultered their milk failed the butter-fat standard. He expressed his greivances that farmers who failed the test were being prosecuted, suggesting that only when failed milk was sold should there be any prosecution persued. He says,
I do not think that the public, taking them generally, would pay any more for high quality milk than for low quality milk. It might also lead to endless "fake" on the part of the companies. The public are not educated sufficiently to know whether the milk is 3.2 or 3.8, and they are just as willing to pay for one as for the other as long as it is milk.
This quote was taken from a transcript of an interview conducted on the 13th of March, 1913 at the School of Arts, Robertson. The interviewer was the commissioner, T. R. Bavin, Esq.

For the transcript of the full interview, follow this link.

For the other interview transcripts, visit the main page.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mr. George Guthrey

Nestled in the collections of two museums in Bega are items of machinery and equipment used at a historical farm in Elmgrove. Their original owner, Mr. George Guthrey, was a pioneer of the region.
In 1901 Mr. Guthrey is recorded in government records as being a registered dairy farmer living at Brian Dairy, Bega. So who exactly was Mr. George Guthrey and how did he make his way into Bega?
Born on the 26th May 1855, Guthrey spent his childhood at hold diggings at Araluen and Braidwood. As a youth he worked on the construction of the railway linking Goulburn and Yass, as opportunities for education were slim. Later, Guthrey purchased a horse team and carted produce. Taking residence at Bega, he commenced dairy farming as early as 1901.

Parts from a Gane Milking Machine, used at Elmgrove in 1912, and now in collection of the Bega Pioneers Museum
Mr. Guthrey had 3 sons with his wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Sproats (born in 1865 in Eden NSW). The two married on 25 May 1886 (a day short of his 31st birthday) in Bega, where they would raise their children.

Cheese Curder, used at Elmgrove, Angledale, and on loan to the Bega Cheese Heritage Centre
The children's names, as discovered by the Monaro Pioneers Project (Pioneers and Settlers Database), were:
1. Bessie GUTHREY b: 1887 in Bega, NSW
2. Oswald GUTHREY b: 1888 in Bega, NSW
3. Charles GUTHREY b: 7 Oct 1890 in Bega, NSW
4. Albert GUTHREY b: 1893 in Bega, NSW
5. Annie GUTHREY b: 1895 in Bega, NSW
6. Christopher John GUTHREY b: 1896 in Bega, NSW
7. Alice Mary GUTHREY b: 1901 in Bega, NSW
8. George H. GUTHREY b: 1904 in Bega, NSW
9. Ruby M. GUTHREY b: 1906 in Bega, NSW

Milk Can Stand, donated to Bega Cheese Heritage Centre
Mr. Charles Guthrey would go on to be a successful fodder farmer, having won a Bega competition in 1937 for product grown at Rockleigh (a property bestowed upon Charles by his father).
Although a poor swimmer, he had at times to put his team across flooded rivers. On one occasion the horses swam across the Bega River with the waggon floating behind them.
Source: Pioneer of Bega, The Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday 10 June 1937, page 9.
Elizabeth would pass away on the 9th of May 1929, then living at their property at Elmgrove. Mr. Guthrey would pass away in 1946, some 17 years later.

Want to know more?

A number of historical newspapers that reference Mr. George Guthrey are available electronically here.

Bega Cheese Heritage Centre
Collection Items

Bega Pioneers Museum
Collection Items

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Dynamic Map of the Early Dairy Industry

The underlying data of the project exists as a relational object based database hosted on the server of the Digital Humanities Department at the University of Sydney. The database is managed through Heurist.

The database is embedded with an internal logic which involves the creation of a complex web (with standardised patterns) that ties together all of the records (or objects) in order to reveal hidden connections. The record or object varies in its type (e.g. Machinery Manufacturer, Dairy Cooperative, Dairy Farmer, Museum Collection Item, Report, Trade Manual Page, Location and Time Instance for Manufacturer, Advertisement, Illustration etc. etc.). Each record that exists in the database is linked to other resources by additional (encoded) relationship records which describe the type of relationship occurring in a specific direction between records. The combined result of these highly integrated records is that one may navigate the collection via various entry points. For instance, if a researcher is chiefly concerned with a specific manufacturer, they may seek out all available descriptive elements for that record, but they will also, if there are resources available, find identified other records that might be of interest to them. For instance, the catalogue records for museum objects related to the company, scanned illustrations or advertisements of specific machines, additional records identifying all known locations of the manufacturers, as well as links to newspaper articles hosted by the National Library of Australia, accessible online through Trove.

The first map relates to the manufacturers of machinery used in the dairy industry in Australia. The content is available in the wiki associated with the project, located here.

There is also a record of the names, addresses and known dates of operation for dairy factories operating in the study region during the investigated period. The resource (located here) includes factories which were responsible for producing cheese, cream and milk. In the individual records for the factories, the type of produce retailed is identified.

Lastly, there is a dynamic map of the dairy farmers identified operating by a study undertaken in 1901. The farmers which are included in the display include those within the study area, however a large corpus of the dataset are yet to have their locations identified with x,y coordinates and thus are not yet rendered by the map. Follow the following link.

The dynamic maps are rendered from data compiled in Heurist Scholar, referenced in a past post through a sister Tumblr blog documenting the project.

New Collection Entries for Bega Pioneers Museum

In the past two weeks I have created a number of collection entries for the Bega Pioneers Museum through eHive. These may be accessed by the following link;

Bega Pioneers Museum- eHive collection entries

These entries will be expanded over time, though in the meantime it is my hope that navigators viewing the records may post any additional information they may be able to offer by adding comments [this may be done by scrolling to the end of the entries and completing the form provided].