The piano has long enjoyed a special relationship with the people of Australia, as a visible and audible object in the nations transition from a rough and fractious collection of colonies to a Commonwealth of Australia in 1901 a newly federated nation.
Pianos accompanied Australian people as they journeyed through diverse political, cultural, social and geographical landscapes, often turning up in the most surprising and far-flung places. The piano served the social bonds of family and community life before the invention of other technologies could do the same. It was at the centre of life in a rapidly urbanising Australia, before the benefits of electricity that led to the proliferation of the radio, the gramophone and the talking picture. Pianos and player pianos brought people together everywhere, people of different ages and backgrounds, to serve and interact with them. Pianos reached distant farmsteads, comforting and educating the lonely and isolated, which, in many cases, were women. The piano was there in times of peace at the movies, at weddings, dances and parties. And it was also there in times of war, even accompanying servicemen and women at the front in World War I and World War II, as well as the jungles of New Guinea and Vietnam. This invites a number of questions to be addressed in the thesis: How and why did the piano become Australias most popular musical instrument? How did local manufacturers contribute to nationalism and pride? How did this instrument, ostensibly a machine developed in the industrial revolution, influence and change the lives of those interacting with it, and evolve in response to local conditions and needs?