WHICH CAME FIRST: The Furphy or the Buffalo Pitts?

| November/December 1985

  • Fowler traction engine
    Fowler traction engine s/c no. 8841 hauling Furphy water cart just restored by John Wolverson, May 5, 1981.
  • Furphy water cart
    End casting, Furphy water cart.
  • Buffalo Pitts water cart
    End castings, Buffalo Pitts water cart.
  • A Model T Ford
    This was sent to us by Eisner Machacek, 714 Union St., Northfield, Minnesota 55057.
    Eisner Machacek

  • Fowler traction engine
  • Furphy water cart
  • Buffalo Pitts water cart
  • A Model T Ford

RMB 364 Beaufort 3373 Victoria, Australia

The firm of J. Furphy and Sons Ltd. operate an engineering works at Sheppart on in Victoria, Australia. Over the past 100 plus years they have produced a wide range of agricultural products grain strippers, ploughs, scarifies, land graders, feed troughs, just to mention a few.

Their most famous piece of equipment, synonymous with Australian country life, is the 'Furphy' water cart. The first of these was made between 1878 and 1880 (the exact year is not known), and is claimed to be a complete invention of John Furphy. They are of simple construction with cast ends surrounded by a galvanized 'skin' of sheet iron which is held by steel bands heated and shrunk on, giving a water-tight fit. The ends are three feet in diameter and the cart has a capacity of 180 gallons approximately one ton. Either shafts for horses or hitch for tractor or traction engine were avail-able and wrought iron or cast iron wheels were an option.

The end plates are of great interest as, among other things, they advertised the firm's products. In 1895 a short rhyme was added to the pattern which read 'Good, better, bestnever let it rest till your good is better and your better best.' In 1910 a Pitmans' shorthand inscription made its first appearance and when translated told the reader that 'Water is the gift of God, but beer and whisky are concoctions of the devil. Come and have a drink of water.' Later, another inscription was added (also in shorthand): 'Produce and populate or perish.'

Pictured is a tractor conversion of a Model T Ford (c. 1915).Who is 82 years old and says he remembers these well. Photo courtesy of the Northfield News.

Recently, two oval-shaped cast ends were located by Mr. Tom Lynch of Colas in Victoria. They appear to be of much similar construction with iron rings sweated n the ends to hold the sheet. The inscription 'Buffalo Pitts Company, Buffalo, N.Y.' has been cast into the construction. Now, this firm exported quite a few traction engines to Australia, the earliest recorded engine number being 4988, the last 13300. The question is, did the Buffalo Pitts water cart precede the Australian Furphy?


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