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A Furphy WaterCart
A Furphy Water Cart

John Furphy
blacksmith, inventor, businessman
17 June 1842 23 September 1920

John Furphy set up a blacksmith's forge in Shepparton in 1873. At this establishment he produced a range of agricultural equipment, much of it of his own design or invention.

The best known of his products was the 'Furphy Water Cart' (see picture on right) which came into its own during the First World War. In the battlefields of Europe. Often the only source of water for the Australian troops was the Furphy Water Cart. Diggers would gather around the carts, much the same way that modern day office workers might gather around the water cooler or coffee machine, and yarns would be exchanged and 'news' of dubious veracity provided by the cart drivers who had come in from a different area of the front. Over time, an unfounded rumour became known in Australian vernacular as "a Furphy" and the expression is still commonly used today. (See our Melbourne Quiz for other Victorians whose names have entered the language.) Nowadays those interested in unsubstantiated rumours usually subscribe to high profile email newsletters. We should also mention that, although there seems no dispute that the colloquial word "Furphy" is related to Furphy's liquid cartage equipment, it may have a less savoury origin. Furphy's carts were also used to remove liquid sewerage from the front lines in WWI and it may be this function (and content) was the original source of the slang "Furphy"For a detailed discussion, see Australian Style, Vol.14 No.1, June 2006.

Furphy's water carts always had a phrase or homily cast into their back panels. A typical one reads:


You can find Furphy equipment on display at many history & heritage festivals around Victoria and particularly at the Echuca Steam & Horse Festival.

John's brother Joseph wrote under the name of Tom Collins and his novel Such is Life is so important that we have listed Joseph Furphy among our 200 Significant Australians.

Furphy Foundry Muesum

In 1873 the blacksmith John Furphy set up a forge in Shepparton. It was here he produced a range of farm machinery, much of it of his own design or invention. Over time, the most famous became the the Furphy Water Cart which became particularly familiar during World War I. The forge expanded and shifetd several times and this museum is situated inside the still operating Furphy Foundry.
9am-4pm, Monday to Friday


Drummond Road, - Shepparton
Enquiries: (03) 5831 2681
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References and resources

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Some useful resources on inventions and inventors:

3D Printers
Aboriginal Inventions
Alfred Nicholas
Australian Inventors
Commercial Refrigeration
Developing Inventions
Henry Sutton
James Harrison
John Furphy
Lord Howard Florey
Pro Hart
The Deakin T2 Car
Who is the Inventor?
William Ramsay

Some useful books on inventions and inventors

Edison in the Boardroom Revisited: How Leading Companies Realize Value from Their Intellectual Property (Intellectual Property - General, Law, Accounting & Finance, Management, Licensing, Special Topics)
Edison in the Boardroom Revisited:
How Leading Companies Realize Value from Their Intellectual Property