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Albert, Michel François (Frank) (1874–1962)

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Michel François (Frank) Albert (1874-1962), music publisher, was born on 26 March 1874 at Kharkov, Russia, son of JACQUES ALBERT, horologist, and his first wife Sophia (d.1890), née Greenberg. Jacques had been born on 1 January 1850 at Fribourg, Switzerland, son of Otto Albert, optician, and his wife Rose, née Lachôme. After serving his apprenticeship to a clockmaker in Switzerland, he moved round Europe as a journeyman horologist. In Kharkov from the early 1870s, he later went to Moscow. He arrived in Sydney via Rockhampton, Queensland, with his wife and two children on 10 December 1884.

Jacques Albert set up business as a watch- and clock-mender at Newtown, where the sound of his violin attracted music-lovers to his shop. In 1890 he decided to import violins, moved to premises in King Street, and adopted the boomerang as the firm's trade mark. He also published handbooks on health, diet, cookery and conundrums. On 26 June 1901 at the Baptist Tabernacle he married a widow Annie Maria Hare (d.1903), née Hay, and that year was naturalized. Albert died of a perforated gastric ulcer on 9 July 1914 in the Bellita off Mackay, Queensland and was buried in Waverley cemetery, Sydney. He was survived by a son and daughter of his first marriage and by his third wife Mary Eliza Blanche (d.1950), née Allan, whom he had married on 10 February 1904, and by their son (Professor) Adrien Albert.

Frank, as he was widely known, was educated at Newtown Public, Fort Street and Sydney boys' high schools. In 1894 he joined his father in partnership under the style of J. Albert & Son and in 1896 became sole proprietor of what had become a music selling and publishing business. On 25 March at St Andrew's Cathedral he married Minnie Eliza Buttel. He expanded the firm and concluded licensing arrangements with overseas publishers for Australia and New Zealand. In the late 1890s he had taught music and about 1917 set up the Albert College of Music in Boomerang House, King Street. In 1919 he visited Europe and the United States of America. He was naturalized in 1920.

In 1929 Albert became a director of the Australian Broadcasting Co. Ltd, formed by J. Albert & Son with Union Theatres Ltd and Fullers' Theatres Ltd, which successfully tendered to the Commonwealth government to provide radio programmes and ran the National Broadcasting Service. When their contract expired in 1932, the government set up its own authority, the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In 1933 Albert's Australian Broadcasting Co. acquired the licence for the commercial station 2UW in Sydney and, later, stations in Queensland at Brisbane, Toowoomba, Maryborough and Rockhampton. Albert was a founding director of the Australasian Performing Rights Association and of Waddington's Theatres Ltd, which ran a chain of Sydney suburban cinemas. When J. Albert & Son gave up retailing in 1933 to concentrate solely on music publishing, he formed Albert Investments Pty Ltd which acquired many urban and rural properties.

Albert was a motoring and yachting enthusiast. He was an early member of the Royal Automobile Club of Australia and in 1905 a founder and rear commodore of the Motor Boat Club (Royal Motor Yacht Club) of which he was commodore in 1912-20. In 1909 he bought the New Zealand yacht Rawhiti and that season won the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club championship. He was elected to the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron in 1920 and won many races in the next decade with Rawhiti; he was also a life-member of the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria. Founding secretary in 1927-35 and president in 1936-37 of the Geographical Society of New South Wales, he became a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of London.

Albert was an active Freemason, a director of the Rachel Forster Hospital for Women and Children and a councillor of the Civic Reform Association of Sydney Ltd. In 1940-62 he was a member of the executive committee of the Australian Red Cross Society and from 1943 sat on its divisional finance committee. He gave generously to St Paul's College (University of Sydney), the Royal Australian Naval College and other causes, and endowed St Edmund's Church, Pagewood, in memory of his elder son. Over the years he had donated many small sums to the university and in 1944 gave £10,000 towards establishing a chair of music, which was not filled until 1948.

Survived by his second son (Sir) Alexis, Albert died on 19 January 1962 at his home, Boomerang, Elizabeth Bay, where he had lived since 1902; he was cremated with Anglican rites and his ashes were buried in the family vault at Waverley cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • P. R. Stephensen (ed), Sydney Sails (Syd, 1962)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 27 Jan 1927
  • private information.

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Albert, Michel François (Frank) (1874–1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/albert-michel-francois-frank-4987/text8285, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 22 May 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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