remembering the pianola

The inspiration for this post came from this pianola I saw in the Charters Towers Zara Clark Museum. I’m guessing the holes punched out in this pianola roll play a ballad of the slow variety given the visible lyrics …. through the long, dark hours. No knee slapping round the piano with this one! I’m sorry to say that my searching hasn’t uncovered the likely song on this roll. Perhaps someone can inform us.


The pianola or player piano was a popular home entertainment unit in the early and middle twentieth century if you could afford it, preferred perhaps if your piano playing skills were limited or non-existent.

From The Adelaide Chronicle of 30 March 1929 is a mouth operated mini-version. A few steps up from the kazoo don’t you think?

Pocket Pianola

Head over here to The Pianola Institute for a comprehensive summary of the history of the pianola. This catalogue was created 3 years after Edwin Scott Votey produced his pianola. Many player pianos had come before, but this one seemed to kick off their popularity.


Cover of the first Aeolian Company Pianola Catalogue – New York, 1898.

This theatre advertising slide is from 1929 and is in the collection of the John Oxley Library at the State Library of Queensland. (out of copyright). Coincidentally, given the Charters Towers connection above, this slide was likely projected in a theatre either in Charters Towers or nearby. Perhaps the player in the museum was bought through W F Greenhoulgh.

Player pianosAnyone old enough to remember a few sing-songs around the pianola, and the boxes of piano rolls stored neatly away in specially designed timber furniture?

The Art Gallery of New South Wales’ first home

The Art Gallery of New South Wales’ website gives a history of the buildings that have housed its collections.

“The first home for Sydney’s art collection was at Clark’s Assembly Hall in Elizabeth Street. This building, which had at one time been used for dancing classes, was rented between 1875 and 1879. It was open to the public on Friday and Saturday afternoons”.

The photo of the streetscape that includes ‘J Clark – Professor of Dancing’ is courtesy of the Flickr photostream of the Gallery.  The following article reports on the opening of the gallery in its first home.

Sydney Morning Herald – 3 June 1876


The great object which the promoter of the Fine Arts in Sydney have so long had in view was accomplished yesterday by the opening to the public of the Art Gallery of the colony. The proceedings were quite unostentatious. …….  It should also be mentioned that amongst the first visitors to the gallery were two gentlemen recently arrived from one of the neighbouring colonies. ..

…….. There are about sixty pictures exhibited ; though, of course, those actually national property are but few. Yet it is very gratifying to note the readiness with which the owners of the other paintings have come forward to lend them to the trustees. …………

Some arrangement should also be made, and no doubt the Council will take care that it is made, for a place in which persons visiting the gallery can leave their sticks or umbrellas before entering the picture-room.  For many reasons this provision is exceedingly necessary.

It will now be understood, that the Art Gallery of New South Wales is fairly established, and that it is open on Fridays and Saturdays to the public free of charge. On the other day the pupils of the Academy will be allowed the privilege of studying and copying the pictures in the gallery.