Biography of John (Jack) Bult who worked at Sunshine Harvester Works.
John Bult was born in 1873 at Miners Rest, Victoria. Together with his brother George, John joined the Sunshine Harvester Works in the mid-1890s when the firm was based in a disused boiler yard in Yuille Street, Ballarat. The brothers were instrumental in the early development of the company.
In 1895, John and George (together with Bill Hopkins) were contracted by the Sunshine Harvester Works to build the company's first 12 harvesters. By 1896, they had built 50 machines. According to his son Vernon, John's early work also involved repairing farm machinery with company founder H.V McKay.
While George became the company's factory superintendent, John went on to build the company's South American market. When a severe drought in Australia reached its peak in 1902, the company was left with 200 new but unsellable harvesters. At the suggestion of Sam McKay (H.V McKay's brother), the company looked into trading their products overseas, beginning with Argentina.
Together with Sam McKay and two other men, John travelled to Argentina in 1902 with 50 fully assembled harvesters. Between 1903 and 1915, John made eight trips to Argentina, becoming a foreman in the company's Buenos Aires factory. John's wife and children visited John during his stint in Argentina. Two of his sons Ray and Reg were born in Argentina. World War I halted the trade with Argentina and John returned to Sunshine. He assisted his brother George in managing the Sunshine Harvester Works. However John's visits to the factory were limited due to his poor health which played a part in his retirement in 1927. In 1939, he passed away at the age of 66.
John's sons continued their father's legacy of employment at Sunshine Harvester Works. Vernon entered the company's workforce in 1938 as an electrical fitter and remained there until 1950 when he left to start his own business. Vernon worked alongside his brother Ray who was a sub-foreman of the factory's electrical works. They were also joined by their younger brother Richard who worked as a tinsmith for five years.
John and his sons were just a few of the many family members who worked for the Sunshine Harvester Works. The Bults had the longest association with the company, beginning in the 1890s until the 1960s. Four generations of the family accumulated over 500 years of service to the firm. D.B Ferguson, an executive at Sunshine Harvester Works, jokingly likened the family to cockroaches, 'every time you turn something over you find one!' (Sunshine Review, September 1952, p.10).
- 'Obituary: Mr John Bult', 1939, Sunshine Advocate, 18 February, p.1.
- Memorandum of Agreement - H.V McKay and John Bult, 26 May 1903. Museum Victoria, H.V McKay Sunshine Collection, Reg. No. HT 31835.
- Memorandum of Agreement - H.V McKay and John Bult, 23 August 1905. Museum Victoria, H.V McKay Sunshine Collection, Reg. No. HT 31845.
- Notes - George Bult Speech, 1929. Museum Victoria, H.V McKay Sunshine Collection, Reg. No. HT 31999.
- Notes - Memories of George Bult, 16 June 1948. Museum Victoria, H.V McKay Sunshine Collection, Reg. No. HT 31998.
- Sunshine Review 1946, '447 Not Out!', vol. 3, no. 6, p.4.
- Sunshine Review 1952, 'It's a Family Affair', no. 17, p.10-11.
- Transcript of interview with Vernon Bult. Held at Living History Museum of West, registration no. VLMW 87.15.
- H.V McKay and Massey-Ferguson Employment Records held at the University of Melbourne Archives.