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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Staley, Andrew Gray (1890–1981)

by Cecile Trioli

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Andrew Gray Staley (1890-1981), textile manufacturer, was born on 25 April 1890 at Wilby, Victoria, second of four children of Victorian-born parents David John Staley, storekeeper, and his wife Harriett Alice, née Lee.  Gray was educated at Scotch College, Melbourne, and became a commercial traveller.  On 30 April 1914 at Malvern he married Louisa Maude Amy Levy.  Commissioned in the Australian Imperial Force on 6 March 1916, he served on the Western Front with the 57th Battalion in 1917-18, and was demobilised in Australia in August 1919 as a lieutenant.

In 1921 Staley was involved with his friend George Foletta in establishing the Atlas Knitting & Spinning Mill Pty Ltd at Brunswick, Victoria, renaming it Prestige Ltd.  After three years Staley resigned.  With his uncle Daniel Staley, he then established a hosiery company, Staley & Staley Ltd, at Dods Street, Brunswick.  When business links with the Holeproof hosiery company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States of America, were established in 1929, Staley & Staley became a public company, and began to manufacture Holeproof products under licence in Australia.  Prime Minister James Scullin laid the foundation stone for the company’s Brunswick mill in 1930.  The company was renamed Holeproof Ltd in 1935.

Staley was inspired by the ideas of Dale Carnegie.  He gave copies of the American author’s How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936) to company executives and plant managers.  At Holeproof a welfare capitalist model of factory management was adopted.  A nurse was employed, and workers enjoyed a varied cultural and social experience with debating, drama, music and theatre nights.  Throughout the 1930s the company conducted fund-raising activities to help unemployed families in Brunswick.  Staley was also influenced by American ideas of scientific management; time and motion studies were used to speed production and efficiency.  He developed new packaging trends, and Holeproof products sold throughout Australia.  As the company’s operations grew, the Brunswick mill was expanded and new facilities were opened, including for the manufacture of men’s socks, at Deepdene.  In 1953-54 Staley was president of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures.  By the 1960s the highly competitive textile industry saw various firms vying for market control.  Holeproof became a subsidiary of Prestige Ltd in 1964.  Four years later, the company was incorporated into Dunlop Australia Ltd; Staley continued for a brief time as deputy chairman.

Five ft 11 ins (180 cm) tall, and physically strong and active, Staley enjoyed swimming and motoring.  His wife died in 1971.  On 5 January 1978, at the age of 87, he married Irene Coghlan at Toorak.  Survived by his wife and the two daughters of his first marriage, he died on 25 June 1981 at Toorak and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • C. M. Trioli, Brunswick During the Inter-War Years (PhD thesis, University of Melbourne, 1994)
  • B2455, item Staley Andrew Gray (National Archives of Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Cecile Trioli, 'Staley, Andrew Gray (1890–1981)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 1 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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