Photographs (25) and postcard, Sydney Harbour Bridge during maintenance and hospital boilers, paper, photographed by Frank Beale, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1950-1963
These photographs were taken by amateur photographer and Sydney Harbour Bridge maintenance worker Frank Beale during the 1960s.
The Harbour Bridge like the Sydney Opera House is a Australian icon. It has been the focus of many tourism campaigns and has been photographed by many people, from Australian professional photographers Max Dupain and David Moore to international and local tourists.
This photographic collection is an extraordinary record of a working man's life on this Sydney landmark, adding a new perspective to the stories of the Harbour Bridge and serving as an invaluable reminder of safety and working conditions endured as recently as the early 1960s. These photographs were taken with a Box Brownie camera, a simple and inexpensive box camera that was available from 1910 onwards. The Brownie was extremely popular and remained in use until the 1960s, making photography available not only to the wealthy or professional photographer.
The photos show men in ordinary clothes suspended on bosuns' chairs or painting cradles working on the arch of the Bridge. No protective clothing was supplied, no safety features offered at all, and red lead paint was used until 1989. The views from the Bridge of other now notable Sydney landmarks either not yet built, or being built, (Sydney Opera House, Cahill Expressway, AMP Building, Blues Point Tower) are also significant.
The earlier photos of Frank Beale's work on boilers in hospitals are a vivid reminder that coal fired boilers have long been a routine feature of power generation.
This collection helps document the working life of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and adds to the Museum's collections that commemorate the Harbour Bridge construction and 75th anniversary celebrations.
Vanessa Mack, volunteer and Anni Turnbull, curator, 2011
The photographs were taken by Frank Beale and his colleagues with a Kodak box brownie camera, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1950-1963. The postcard was produced by the National Library of Australia in 1985.
The photographs were sent to the Powerhouse Museum by the Merridown Family Surgery in Queensland with a letter explaining that they were taken by a dying patient, who was 'made ... very happy' that they were going to the museum. They were taken over several years between the mid 1950s and mid 1960s, and are not all from his time working on the Bridge. They are all annotated by the photographer, Frank Beale, at different times.
From the evidence available, Frank Beale worked on the Sydney Harbour Bridge as a rigger, and painter from around 1959 to 1963, starting by taking up the tramlines on the Bridge around 1958/9. Before that he had worked as a rigger at Redfern on the gas tanks (annotation states photo taken 1952), and as a fireman/ boiler attendant/ cleaner first at the Masonic Boiler House Ashfield, and then at Canterbury Hospital. He also worked as a dance floor polisher and deckhand on the Sydney Showboat, Kalang, which finally ceased operation in July 1961. He later lived in the Blue Mountains for 8 years.
He died 21 March 2009 with a death notice published in Toowoomba Chronicle and the Queensland Times, Ipswich on 29 March 2009.
The dates of some Sydney landmarks shown in the photographs are given below:
Tram services across the Bridge were discontinued 1958.
Sydney Opera House, under construction, construction began 1959. Opened 1973. (3, 9,)
Blues Point Tower, completed 1962 (2, and 15 before it was built,)
Cahill Expressway, built between 1958-62 (10, 16, 18,)
AMP Building. Officially opened 1962. (photograph /18, not built in /16)
Pyrmont Power Station ceased operation 1963 (8)
Sail Training ship of the Indonesian Navy, KRI Dewaruci, launched 1953. Possibly made a voyage to Sydney soon
First heart transplant, St Vincent's Hospital, by Dr Harry Windsor, 1968. Patient died after 60 days. Annotation presumably made years after the photograph taken(10)