What was New Zealand’s first industrially manufactured* product? Please help us dig deeper to answer this question.

(*Made in volume using methods developed during the industrial revolution rather than hand crafted.)

Maybe it was the Shacklock Orion coal range – see NZBD pp.54-55 – which was made from 1873. The book states:

It wasn’t until 1873 that a domestic appliance specifically designed for New Zealand conditions was manufactured in a foundry at volumes beyond the ‘jobbing’ level. It was the Shacklock coal range. … Nine years of incremental innovation occurred before a patent for the Orion Portable Coal Range was filed in 1882.

Maybe it was the Price timber jack – see NZBD pp.61-62 – which may have been manufactured in volume from the early 1870s. The book states:

The earliest story … is of one Thomas Davison seeing two jacks being used for loading spars on an English ship in the Hokianga in 1844–45. He … had a … jack made to his design by a pioneer blacksmith named Vickery. It is not clear if the company formed later, Vickery and Mansfield, produced these jacks in volume. Davison reported that their version was superseded by an
improved design made by the Price Brothers in Thames, so that would have been in the 1870s.

Anthony Flude’s history of Henderson’s Mill in West Auckland claims that Will Robinson … ‘was reputedly the first man in New Zealand to have built a timber jack. … That would have been between 1846 when the mill opened and 1866 when Robinson moved on.

John Diamond and Bruce Hayward in, Kauri Timber Days, write:

In the 1850s, Ebenezer Gibbons redesigned the popular Gilchrist timber jack of the pine forests of North America and had six prototypes made in the blacksmith’s shop of his sawmill at Huia, near the entrance to the Manukau Harbour. These jacks were efficient and lightweight, and proved so versatile and popular with bushmen that it was mass produced (after some minor modifications) until the 1950s. Price’s Timber Jack, as it came to be called …

But Price’s own history, Men of Metal, recounts the story told by Will Price (son of Alfred) when he was interviewed by A.H. Reed:

As far as I can remember, the first jack we made was for a Mr Kilgour, the then manager of the Kauri Timber Company in Thames. This was about the year 1870. The design and information handed to my dad was very crude … It was not until a lot of alterations and improvements were made that a saleable article was produced.

It seems that most paths led to Price’s and they made the product marketable.

Maybe it was the A&G Price flax dressing machine – see NZBD p.60 – which followed a number of attempts to win a reward offered by the government. The book states:

There is no record of the reward being claimed. A few patents were filed from 1860. The breakthrough came in 1867 … Alfred and George Price arrived in Auckland that year and began testing ideas in an old flour mill. Once they had established their engineering business in Onehunga in 1868 the Price brothers set about commercialising the technology. … In 1870 the Price dresser was tested against competitors …

So if there were competitors one of them may have gone into production sooner.

Price flax dresser

Maybe it was the Peace stove – not included in NZBD – for which a patent was applied in 1866. It is in the Auckland Museum collection where the Curator of History, Rose Young, is undertaking further research – watch this space for updated information. The patent application may have preceded actual production or, as with the Orion stove, it may have come later. (Patents did not have to prove originality back then so being in the public domain already was not an issue). In the meantime, Rose has supplied the following notice which was published on page one of the Daily Southern Cross, Volume XXII, Issue 2658, on 24 January 1866.

Peace Stove adIs anyone in a position to challenge the accuracy of any of these stories? Was it one of these products New Zealand’s first industrially manufactured product or is there something else we don’t know about?

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