How old is my Australian Made Beale Piano?
Enter your serial number below to find out. Your Beale Piano was made sometime between 1893 and 1976. We inherrited a Beale piano and wanted to know its age. So after some digging I found a table of serial numbers and year of manufacture. Turns out our Beale is over 100 years old.
If you have the serial number, you can use the tool below to find out the age of your Beale.
Beale Serial Number:
The serial number is located inside the top section of the piano, either on the left or right side. Sometimes on the side wall, other times on the top of the side wall. Lift the front half of the lid to find the serial number. It is typically a 5 digit number from 16448 to 94983, stamped into the timber. Here is an example of where to find it on a 100 year old Beale (inside red oval):
For serial numbers 1? (unsure what the first number was) to 16448 the exact year is unknown. 1884 to 1893 are Habsburg Beales (sometimes spelled as Hapsberg) imported from Germany. 1893 to approx 1902 are non iron tuning system. Approx 1902 the Bader-Vader iron tuning system was introduced. The last Australian made Beale was made in 1976.
Enter your serial number above to find out when it was made.
Sometimes there is a year written in pencil on the side of one of the piano keys, which may also give you the year of manufacture, or at least the age of the keys.
Tuning Your Beale Piano
There’s an art to tuning a Beale. The first piano tuner we tried broke 2 strings and basically gave up. Other piano tuners just refuse to tune them. The steel plank and age of most Beales requires special techniques, and those not familiar with them hate Beales. Given they are the most popular make of pianos in Australia, it’s surprising more piano tuners don’t know to tune a Beale piano. Then we found a guy who did a great job. Thanks Jack! After 8 years of neglect, he had our 100 year old Beale in concert pitch in a couple of hours, without breaking anything. If you are in the Brisbane area, I highly recommend Jack the piano tuner: https://www.facebook.com/Jackpianotuner
What Does a 100 Year Old Beale Sound Like?
A bit like this:
Our piano hasn’t been tuned in nearly a year, so while it was at concert pitch, it has eased off a bit. Also please excuse the background noises and static – I recorded this on my phone when my wife was playing one day.
Caring for Your Beale Piano
As well as regularly tuning your Beale, you can keep it looking amazing too.
We were privileged to have Robert Menhenick comment on this post about his 8 years working at Beale in the 1950’s as a French Polisher. I emailed Bob to ask for any tips or advice he could pass on to Beale owners about maintaining the finish on a Beale piano, and he said this:
I find any of the modern day furniture polishes do a good job, I would suggest Sheraton as the best. All of the pianos produced when I was there were finished in lacquer. Regards, Bob Menhenick
Thanks so much Bob!
A Brief History of Australian Made Beale Pianos
1884: Octavius Beale set up a buisness in Sydney to import pianos and sewing machines into Australia. The sewing machines didn’t last long, but he found success importing German upright pianos (of which some still survive) now known as Habsburg Beales.
1893: Beale opened Australia’s first piano factory in Sydney. He made pianos using Australian timbers, built for Australian conditions. The mill department of the factory burned down in a fire in 1901, though thanks to the modular layout of the factory, no other departments were lost.
1893 – 1902: Beale introduced an innovative all-iron tuning system. The patent was granted in 1902, though the exact date it was invented and introduced into manufacturing is unknown, but predates the patenting by some years. Beale was dissatisfied with the timber tuning systems used in European pianos which didn’t hold their tune long enough in Australia’s heat and humidity, so along with Johann Carl Vader – the manager of the Beale factory – he came up with a solution. The all-iron tuning system is effectively a massive iron plate to which the strings are attached. It’s a bit more refined than that though, and is entirely encased inside the piano. Thanks to this iron plate, Beales stay in tune for a long time, but weigh a lot more than other pianos, and require an experienced piano tuner to adjust. It seems that some of the very early iron-tuning system pianos (prior to being patented) simply had “Beale and Co”. Then from about 1902, the early 20th Century Beale pianos had “Beale-Vader Tuning System” embossed in large lettering on it.
1902: Sir Edmund Barton (Australian Prime Minister) opened the new Beale factory at Annandale in Sydney, which became the largest piano factory in the southern hemisphere and the British Empire in the early 1900s. This was a remarkable factory, which manufactured every single component of the entire piano. It had iron and brass foundries, electroplating, machining, as well as all the timber workshops and kilns (for drying timber) and experimental labs. Basically raw materials in, Beale pianos out. The factory could produce up to 3,000 pianos a year (1922 was the record year with 3,000 made).
1943-1945: Beale manufactured parts for the de Havilland Mosquito aircraft during World War 2. The Mosquito was an innovative UK aircraft constructed primarily from timber (unlike the aluminium Spitfires and such), which allowed timber manufacturers (including piano makers) in the UK, USA. Canada and Australia to use their factories for the WW2 war effort. A few Beale pianos were also made in this time.
1976: Last Australian made Beale completed. Serial number 94983. Nearly 100,000 Beale pianos. Not a bad run!
Beale was born in Ireland on 23 February 1850 at Mountmellick, Queen’s County. Beale first arrived in Australia in 1854. He was schooled partly in Hobart, then in Ireland. He spent some years in Melbourne, then New Zealand, and returned to Australia and married Elizabeth Baily in Sydney in 1875 and had thirteen children. He established his piano manufacturing business in Sydney, though travelled often. He spent time in London with his family during WW1 while his three sons served in active duty. Outside his business pursuits, Beale had his quirks – pursuing medical conspiracies and population theories (he even paid for a Royal Commission into secret drugs). While his theories and report were sidelined, Beale was however well respected and made a Fellow of the London Royal Historical Society and the Royal Society of Arts. Beale also served as President of the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures and Chambers of Commerce of the Commonwealth of Australia. He was also appointed as a Trustee of the Australian Museum and and the Bank of New South Wales (which later became Westpac). He also grew orchids and rare plants, and studied Australian timbers extensively. He died in 1930 at eighty years of age in a car accident in New South Wales.
Beale Serial Numbers
The serial numbers below are the first piano made in the year shown. The tool at the top of the page is quicker, but this table will give you an idea for some of the vague years (like during WWI and before 1905):
1914-1916: Exact year unknown.
1958: Exact year unknown.
1971 – 1974: Exact year unknown.
Last serial number: 94983 in 1976