Tinonee was once home to no less than four broom factories. Joseph Edward Chapman established the industry when he distributed free seeds to farmers to encourage them to grow millet crops. The experiment was so successful that he opened a broom factory in 1894 which employed 5 people and provided work to local sawmills making broom handles. Each week 600 brooms were turned out at 6 pence each. The industry reportedly wiped the imported American brooms off the local market.1
In 1901, the second broom factory called ‘Commonwealth Broom Factory’ was opened by Mr W Kenniff. There was plenty of millet to support both factories as half of the millet was being sent to Sydney. Kenniff employed two men, W and R Beattie who had completed their apprenticeships in Chapman’s factory.2 This venture lasted only a couple of months after Chapman bought Kenniff’s broom factory.3 When Chapman died suddenly in 1929 his broom factory continued with his wife carrying on the business into the 1950s.4
The third broom factory called ‘Nonpareil’ (meaning ‘without rival’) was opened in 1912 by Mr George Beattie and quietly made brooms for 19 years before Beattie died in 1931.5 His wife Catherine and their son continued broom manufacturing until 1937. 6
The last operating broom factory was Mr Monty Williams’s which opened in 1942 in the building that is now the Tinonee Museum. It closed in the 1950s when the factory moved to Taree.7 The entrance to the Museum now displays brooms from this period of industry.
Author: Janine Roberts
Further information: Visit the Tinonee Historical Museum, 32 Manchester Street, Tinonee.
1 Macleay Argus, 28 March 1894; Macleay Argus, 6 February 1895, Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 18 June 1898; Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, 9 August 1899.
2 Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, 23 February 1901; Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 24 April 1901.
3 Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, 17 July 1901.
4 Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 14 March 1936.
5 Northern Champion, 19 April 1930; Ibid., 5 September 1931.
6 Ibid., 24 November 1937.
7 Ibid., 6 December 1947; Tinonee Historical Society Inc. http://www.tinoneemuseum.org.au/about-us.html.
8 Tinonee Historical Society, Tinonee Memories Revised (2016), 34.