Beale’s Piano Factory was the largest Piano Factory in the British Empire.

Image courtesy of National Library of Australia.

Beale’s Piano Factory was historically renowned as the Largest Piano Factory in the British Empire.

Beale and Company were the largest producer of pianos in Australia from the 1890’s through to the early 1960s. Being a Sydney based firm they are of particular significance to the museum’s musical instrument collection which has a strong emphasis on Australian made keyboards including the earliest surviving Australian made piano by John Benham of Sydney dating from about 1835 through to the state of the art Stuart and Sons concert grand piano made in 1998-1999. The Beale company was established by Octavius Charles Beale in 1879 and did not begin manufacturing pianos in Australia until 1893. They later opened a large factory in the Sydney suburb of Annandale in 1902 which was heralded in the Sydney Mail as “a notable step in the march of industrial progress” (18/1/1902 p.166) and was opened by the then Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton. OC Beale was a strong advocate of protection of Australian industry and this in part contributed to Beale being able to manufacture pianos successfully, unhindered by foreign competition especially from Germany and the USA. Beale was a vigorous member and President of the Federated Chamber of Manufactures of Australia, the NSW Chamber of Manufactures and the Chambers of Commerce of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Beale Company prided itself on making Australian made pianos for Australian conditions, and to this end took out a patent in 1902 for a tuning pin locking system with a metal wrest plank that aimed to prevent the strings from going out of tune given the humidity and temperature fluctuations of the Australian climate. The company existed until the early 1960s when they were taken over and their local production ceased.

Michael Lea Curator, music & musical instruments.

Piano Making (c.1924) – Film clip of Piano making from Australian Screen.

Radio Mueseum

Picture of the week

This artwork was donated to Leichhardt Council by Reg Richardson of Security Self Storage, Annandale. In the 1990s Security Self Storage worked out of Beale’s Trafalgar Street building, where the painting had formerly hung in the foyer.

Signed “Smith and Julius Studio” the painting would have been produced in the 1920s. In 1906 Ure Smith joined with fellow artist and friend Harry Julius to form Smith and Julius Studio in Bond Street, Sydney. Drawing on contacts in advertising and with printers, the Smith and Julius Studio set high standards in Australian advertising. Clients of the studio included David Jones, Anthony Hordern and ‘Home’ magazine. A hub for Sydney’s art community from the early 1900s, Smith and Julius employed such artists as Lloyd Rees, Margaret Preston, Roland Wakelin and Thea Proctor.

The largest piano factory in the Southern Hemisphere, Beale’s Pianos were known for their fine craftsmanship – in 1908 they won every award in the Franco – British Exhibition held in Paris. Operating for over 60 years in Trafalgar Street, today Beale’s Piano Factory building is an apartment block listed on the register of the National Estate.