Astor

Radio Corporation Pty. Ltd. Melbourne

Radio Corporation Pty, Ltd. (Astor) was formed on the 10 December 1929 by Louis Henry Abrahams & Arthur George Warner of Louis Coen Wireless. In 1939 Abrahams & Warner formed Electronic Industries Limited as a holding company with Radio Corporation Pty, Ltd functioning as a active subsidary. In 1970 Philips Australia took over Electronic Industries Limited including its subsidaries.  The Astor brand, with the exception of the record division (1981) continued until 1974.

The genesis of Radio Corporation Pty, Ltd date back to 1923 when a partnership was formed by Louis Henry Abrahams & Arthur George Warner. This partnership going under the name of Louis Coen Wireless was selling radio parts in the basement of Abrahams tobacconist & barber shop at 63 Swanston St, Melbourne.

The success of selling radio parts quickly out grew the small basement & in early 1925 they moved their wholesale business to larger premises just around the corner at 260 Flinders Lane.  For a brief period around 1925/26 Louis Coen Wireless had a factory at 573 Flinders Lane where they manufactured their Pinnacle radio sets.

In 1927 the first Astor sets were manufactured for Louis Coen Wireless under contract by Radio Corporation of Australia.

In 1928 Abrahams & Warner acquired the Australian rights to the Hazeltine patents & formed a company Neutrodyne Pty, Ltd., enabling them to control and monitor the Hazeltine patents in Australia. Having the rights to the Hazeltine patents gave Abrahams & Warner a competitive edge in the early days of Australian radio manufacturing.

In late 1929 after a complex series of company takeovers, reconstructions & mergers dating back to 1926 Abrahams & Warner took over Radio Corporation of Australia. Abrahams & Warner became joint first directors. They changed the name to Radio Corporation Pty, Ltd so as not to confuse it with the American RCA.

The newly formed Radio Corporation Pty, Ltd acquired factory space at 12 Villiers St, North Melbourne, next door to the Radio Corporation of Australia factory at number 14 Villiers St. With this extra space Radio Corporation Pty, Ltd began to manufacture Astor radio sets in earnest.

They quickly became a major player in the Australian domestic radio industry with its Astor brand. The factory space at Villiers St, North Melbourne quickly became inadequate & in 1931 a massive new purpose built radio factory was built at Sturt St, South Melbourne.

During 1933, Astor produced the first of its “Mickey Mouse” series of radios, and in 1936 introduced its first Bakelite Mickey Mouse radio with a cartoon of the famous rodent on the dial. Early brochures featured a picture of Walt Disney and the mouse giving their “seal of approval”. However this was not done with permission from the Walt Disney Company and Astor became involved in a long-running court battle with Disney over the illegal use of the Mickey Mouse name. The result was that Astor was forbidden to use the name “Mickey Mouse” for its radios, but it continued to produce the “Astor Mickey” radio for the next 16 years!

In 1939 Abrahams & Warner formed Electronic Industries Limited as a holding company with Radio Corporation Pty, Ltd functioning as a active subsidary.

Just prior to the formation of E.I.L. Abrahams & Warner took over Eclipse Radio Pty Ltd, Essanay & A.Z. Radio.  Eclipse Radio along with National Corporation Radio of South Australia remained independent subsidaries of E.I.L.

By 1940 the Sturt St factory proved inadequate & a new factory was built just around the corner in Grant St. This new factory quickly became part of the war effort producing equipment for the armed forces.

Astor became a major manufacturer of early monochrome television sets in Australia, commencing production in 1956. Astor established their music recording division and distribution network, which was launched around 1960. In the early 1960’s Pye Electronics bought a minority non controlling interest in Electronic Industries Limited.

In 1970 Philips Australia took over Electronic Industries Limited including its subsidaries. Radio Corporation Pty, Ltd. remained a subsidary of Philip Holdings Limited and continued to market Astor branded consumer goods until 1975. By the 1970’s some Astor products were rebaged Philips . The Astor record label continued until 1981.