Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Bela Makutz (1857–1923)

by E. F. Kunz

This article was published:

Bela Makutz (1857-1923), safemaker and manufacturer, was born on 29 September 1857 at Felsöbánya, Hungary. At 12 he was apprenticed to a cousin as a cobbler. After five years Makutz had learned the trade and left for Galatz in Rumania, where he joined his uncle, an iron-founder. After seven years in this trade he was urged to move again; he went to Turkey and then to Alexandria where he worked in an iron-foundry. Ever on the go and carrying little more than his growing experience, Makutz arrived in Melbourne in 1882 where within a few months he launched a safemaking firm first with H. Ehret and later with T. Barke as partners. The partnership was dissolved when the banks failed in the eastern colonies and Makutz moved to the Murchison goldfields in Western Australia, where he started a blacksmith shop and followed the mining industry, but with little success. In 1895 he opened his safemaking workshop in Perth. It soon grew: by 1912 he was naturalized and was employing a staff of about fifty and had also bought a wheat-growing property of 7000 acres (2833 ha) at Nugadong.

An outstanding example of the self-made man, an expert at his trade, with little formal education but much courage and industry, Makutz prospered. In 1885 he had married Cecilia Albers of Melbourne; their two sons, Ernest and Rudolph, both took part in the management of the business. Makutz died in Perth on 10 August 1923 but his firm survived him. With over seventy years behind it the company is almost an institution in Western Australia. Its workshops are at Belmont, a suburb of Perth.

Select Bibliography

  • J. E. Battye (ed), Cyclopedia of Western Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1912)
  • E. F. Kunz, Blood and Gold: Hungarians in Australia (Melb, 1969).

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

E. F. Kunz, 'Makutz, Bela (1857–1923)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 18 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


29 September, 1857
Felsöbánya, Hungary


10 August, 1923 (aged 65)
Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.