Image Sheep run and wool dray, c1855

TLF ID R4659

This is an oil painting on canvas, measuring 12.2 cm x 19.0 cm, painted in about 1855. It is made in the form of a Christmas card, inscribed with 'The COMPLIMENTS OF THE SEASON'. The painting has two 'pictures within a picture', like wall hangings, surrounded by the leaves and bright red flowers of Sturt's desert pea. One picture, captioned 'A SHEEP RUN', shows a creek running through an area of countryside with some hills, and a large flat area. On one hill is the main homestead with some outbuildings. A small building on the other side of the creek is captioned 'SHEPHERD'S HUT'. In the foreground are sheep, and a man with a dog. The other smaller, circular picture is shown suspended on string. It is captioned 'BRINGING DOWN WOOL' and shows a two-wheeled bullock dray laden with wool bales, with the driver standing alongside it as it comes down a steep bush track.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset shows an 1850s sheep property - the 'run' has a good supply of water, few trees and a large relatively flat grassed area for grazing.
  • It portrays the buildings on an 1850s sheep property - typically, the largest building, with a veranda, is the homestead, high on a hill with a view over the entire run; the shepherd's hut, with a leaning brick chimney, is a far smaller and more modest dwelling.
  • It features one of Australia's best-known wildflowers, Sturt's desert pea ('Swainsona formosa') - Sturt's desert pea is commonly found across large parts of central and western Australia; it is named after the explorer Charles Sturt (1795-1869) and is the floral emblem of South Australia.
  • It depicts the use of a bullock dray in rural Australia - bullock drays were a major form of haulage in Australia throughout the 1800s and into the 1900s; bullocks were often preferred to horses because they were stronger and easier to handle; the two-wheeled dray depicted, being drawn by four or six bullocks yoked in pairs, was the most popular type before good roads were built because of the ease of manoeuvring it around obstacles.
  • It illustrates the first stage in transporting wool from an Australian farm to a British mill - in the 1850s, wool was usually sent in bales on bullock drays to the closest port for transportation by sea to Britain; by 1850, Australia was supplying well over half the British market for imported wool, and the industry led Australia's economic development until gold surpassed wool as the country's biggest export earner in the 1850s and 1860s.
  • It is an early example of an Australian Christmas card - because this card was hand-painted, it could not have been mass-produced; the first printed Christmas cards appeared in London in the 1840s and the idea soon became popular in Britain and its colonies.
  • It is an example of the work of the artist and author, Edward Roper (c1830-1904) - Roper was born in England where he later died, but spent much of his life travelling to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA; he was in Australia in 1855-57 and again in 1870-73.
Year level

2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: Edward Roper
  • Description: Author
  • Contributor
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Description: Content provider
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Edward Roper
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
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Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements