Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Goldberg, Frank (1889–1958)

by Valerie Lawson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Frank Goldberg (1889-1958), businessman and advertising pioneer, was born on 7 July 1889 in London, seventh son of thirteen children of Woolf Goldberg, tailor, and his wife Fanny, née Klein. Frank was educated at the Bayswater Jewish Schools. In his autobiography, My Life in Advertising (privately printed, Sydney, 1957), he wrote: 'by tradition, the seventh son is a lucky child. But fortune was a little tardy in showing its favour to me. In my youth, I had to labour unrelentingly'. He quarrelled with his father over the sterner tenets of Jewish law and in 1903 left home to became an apprentice compositor at the Jewish Chronicle in the East End. Advised to live abroad for the sake of his health, he reached Wellington, New Zealand, on 27 November 1910.

Next day Goldberg went to work in Veitch & Allan's department store. He sold a large assortment of mechanical toys to Mrs Abraham Levy, and received both a 10 per cent commission and an invitation to dine with the Levys. In 1912 he worked for the Hutt & Petone Chronicle before peddling a device called the Oxypathor which promised to relieve gout, arthritis, rheumatism and colic. That year the Levys helped him to establish an advertising agency in Wellington with a £5000 contract to place the advertising for their clothing business. At the time most people 'regarded an advertising agent as a mixture of charlatan and medicine man'. The Levys had no such qualms. Delighted by Goldberg's chutzpah, Mrs Levy responded, 'What a salesman!', when he asked if he could marry her daughter Agolda. Their wedding took place on 16 June 1915 at the Synagogue, The Terrace.

Goldberg handled the launch of G. R. R. Nicholas's aspirin in New Zealand in 1916. After visiting his own siblings in the United States of America in 1921, he picked up the New Zealand account for Goodrich tyres. About 1925 he established a small office in Sydney. Having crossed the Tasman more than fifty times by 1927, in that year he moved the headquarters of the Goldberg Advertising Agency Ltd to Sydney and opened a branch in Melbourne. His major accounts over the next thirty years included the Gramophone Co. (His Master's Voice), Tooth & Co. Ltd (beer), Godfrey Phillips' (Australia) Pty Ltd (cigarettes), John Walker & Sons Ltd (whisky) and General Motors Corporation (Chevrolet and Pontiac).

Following a visit to Max Factor in California, U.S.A., Goldberg introduced his cosmetics to Australia in the 1930s. Factor had offered to fit Goldberg (who was balding by middle age) with a toupee. The agency launched the Australian Women's Weekly for Consolidated Press Ltd in 1933, won the advertising account for the United Australia Party and, from the 1940s, handled Liberal Party business. Goldberg played down value and price in his advertisements, preferring to emphasize the promise: 'Bring Romance into Spending' was one of his catchphrases. In the 1930s he opened a radio department which produced plays, Bible stories and the popular series, 'Shocking Shakespeare'. By 1940 the agency had offices in Sydney and Melbourne, and in Wellington and Auckland, New Zealand.

A member of the Federal government's War Effort Publicity Board, Goldberg was deputy-chairman (1946-53) of the Australian Advertising Council. He had no sons, but liked male company, playing golf, tennis and bowls. At his cottage at Blackheath in the Blue Mountains he spent many hours talking to his son-in-law Harry Woolf who eventually became managing director of the agency. Goldberg belonged to the Royal Automobile Club of Australia, Tattersall's, the New South Wales Masonic, Millions and the American National clubs.

On a trip to New Zealand in 1953 Goldberg suffered a minor stroke (he drank Scotch and smoked heavily) which led to his partial retirement. Survived by his wife and two daughters, he died of cardiac and cerebrovascular disease on 10 January 1958 at Rose Bay and was buried in Rookwood cemetery. Ten years later the firm was sold to the British company, Masius, Wynne-Williams Ltd.

Select Bibliography

  • Newspaper News (Sydney), 24 Jan, 7 Feb 1958
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 31 Jan 1936, 11 Jan 1958
  • Goldberg personal file (John Fairfax Group Pty Ltd Archives, Sydney)
  • private information.

Citation details

Valerie Lawson, 'Goldberg, Frank (1889–1958)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/goldberg-frank-10318/text18261, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 15 December 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

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