Topnotch Palings

W H Paling & Co was founded by William Henry Paling, who was born in Rotterdam Holland in 1828. When he turned thirty, he headed to the ‘Great Southland’ disembarking in the Port of Sydney. His first enterprise (pictured right) consisted of not more than a tin shed in York Street, Wynyard. In 1883 he formed the business into a limited company. It later flourished into the George Street store and branches (and agencies) in New South Wales and Queensland. The store was predominantly known for its high quality pianos, but they would also have success with the retail of other instruments including brass, string, accordions and even mouth organs. William, a son of a pianoforte maker and musician, had inherited his father’s musical abilities excelling on both the piano and violin. He was passionate about Australia and his civic duty – at one time being the mayor of Petersham and a Justice of the Peace. It wasn’t all smooth sailing for William. After investing heavily in copper mines in Queensland (at one time he was affectionately known as the Copper King), things took a turn for the worse when the bottom fell out of the industry. He dusted himself off and re-established his wealth, which he would share generously with his beloved community.

William frequently traversed overseas to keep up to date with all the latest in the music industry. On one such visit in 1884, he teamed up with Austrian musician and entrepreneur Pietro Fillipo Marich (Pater to his close friends), who returned with William and would later become the managing director of the firm in 1885. William’s return from Europe in 1894 saw him in ill health and he passed away the following year.

I would suggest Pietro Marich was vital in Palings advance into the selling of the harmonicon. Palings marketed two brands of mouth organ. The first, manufactured by F A Rauner (they also made the Crackajack brand in Melbourne for Allan & Co) was The Bushman, which was in stores at the turn of the twentieth century. By 1906 The Topnotcher sold alongside The Bushman and would eventually become their top line harp. I believe they were manufactured by C H Meinel (Schlossmeinel), as a model appeared on an online auction in 2019 which had their distinctive balloon brand. Pietro was a good friend of Dame Nellie Melba, who funnily enough had a mouth organ brand named after her.

1920’s advertisements it really was their Top Notcher mouth organ.

Inside Palings George Street store in the late 19th Century.


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