One of the earliest surviving tractors manufactured in Australia has been acquired for $250,000 by the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. The McDonald ‘Imperial’ oil ‘EB’ tractor, built in 1912, substantially adds to the museum’s National Historical Collection and represents the significant transformation of Australia’s agricultural industry. It will be on display in the museum’s Gandel Atrium until July 23, 2023. The tractor was acquired by the National Museum with the support of the Australian Government through the National Cultural Heritage Account, a grant program that assists Australian cultural organisations to acquire significant cultural heritage objects. The Vintage McDonald ‘EB’ oil tractor is one of three complete examples manufactured in Australia by AH McDonald & Co of Richmond, Melbourne. In 1908, innovative Melbourne engineers Alfred and Ernest McDonald produced the first Australian-made, oil-powered tractor, known as the ‘EA’. The improved design of the ‘EB’ followed in 1912. It provides a revealing insight into the global transformation in automotive and agricultural practices triggered by the invention of the oil-driven, internal combustion engine in the 1870s. National Museum director Dr Mathew Trinca thanked the Government for its financial assistance with the purchase of the tractor, which he said was an unrivalled example of Australian ingenuity and design. “The McDonald ‘EB’ oil tractor represents a theme of Australian innovation in a revolutionary era for engineering,” Dr Trinca said. “This acquisition represents our agricultural history, and we are thrilled to share it with Australia.” The tractor was originally purchased new in 1912 by Frank William Chilcott for use at ‘Lillesdon Park’, his 403-acre farm located on French Island in Victoria’s Western Port Bay. It was likely used for land clearing as part of the local chicory cultivation industry, which was a prolific industry on French Island until the mid-1960s. Museum curator Dr Ian Coates, who coordinated the acquisition of the tractor, said it had historic significance because of its association with Australia’s first tractor manufacturer. “Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the early tractors produced by AH McDonald & Co was the relative sophistication of their engineering, which included coil ignition, a three-speed gearbox and automotive rack-and-pinion steering,” Dr Coates said. “This reflects Alf McDonald’s capacity to improve the contemporary design of imported American tractors.” It was acquired with the support of an anonymous benefactor.