The National Agricultural Society of Victoria (now known as Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria) was formed in 1870 from the Port Phillip Farmers' Society.
The first farmers' societies were formed with the intention of matching farming methods with the needs of a steadily increasing Australian population. In 1840, the Pastoral and Agricultural Society of Australia Felix was formed, but was disbanded after the failure of its first show in 1842. However, sufficient support and enthusiasm remained to launch the Moonee Ponds Farmers' Society in early 1848, which focused on ploughing trials around the Flemington area. A few months later this Society gave way to the larger, more broadly based Port Phillip Farmers' Society. One of its founders was Peter McCracken, founder of McCracken & Robertson Brewing, a company that later became part of Carlton and United Breweries.
The Port Phillip Farmers' Society conducted ploughing matches in the area around Flemington. In 1855 it established showgrounds in Parkville, opposite the present site of The University of Melbourne. The Society established a model farm on 59 ha at nearby Royal Park. Later, in 1870, it invested its assets in a new organization, the National Agricultural Society of Victoria, which set up a new show site at Emerald Hill in South Melbourne. The current showgrounds in Ascot Vale were established in 1882, and have been the base for the Royal Melbourne Show ever since.
In May 1890, Queen Victoria assented to the use of the 'Royal' prefix by the Society in recognition of its ongoing contribution to the improvement of agriculture. The Society then became the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria and the Show, the Royal Melbourne Show. The Society adopted the motto 'Speed the Plough', which still exists today. In 1884 a half day holiday (later a full day holiday) was proclaimed for Show Day. The Show Day Public Holiday continued until 1994 when it was revoked by the Victorian Government.
Until 1913 the Show was held during the last week in August. Shortly after, the last week in September was adopted for staging the Show. In 2002 the Royal Melbourne Show attracted about 600,000 people a year and was the most popular event held in Victoria.
Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria website http://www.rasv.com.au/
Essendon Network for Employment, Education and Training website http://www.enet.org.au/historyonline/mccracken/peter.htm
Glyn Rimmington, University of Melbourne, website http://rimmo.mur.csu.edu.au/rimmo/hyperbook/5/5.4.html