Stanford X-Ray a potted history

The following history of Stanford X-Ray, written for the fortieth anniversary of the company by Stanislaus Arthur Parer. It is a business-like account, stating facts that rolls into self-promotion, yet somehow retains a genuineness, about the precariousness and adventurous nature of their business that is compelling.

It’s a pity their isn’t more insight into some of more important deals done, who and how the Stanford equipment was manufactured. That is to say, who were the business geniuses and who the scientific and what made them so.

Several versions, including handwritten and typed have been supplied by his son Michael S Parer. There are enough handwritten corrections to suspect that the history, while enormously useful for trying to understand the history of things, was probably used as part of submissions for extra capital for the expansion of the factory premises in Collingwood.

What follows is unedited, apart from the insertion of photos and subheadings to aid digestion and make it a bit more intersting

Stanford X-Ray Co Pty Ltd.jpg

A Short History of Stanford X-Ray Co Pty Ltd

by Stanislaus Arthur Parer  |  19 March, 1959

X-ray invention

X-rays were discovered on November 8, 1895, by Professor Roentgen, and in his first paper read on December 26, 1895, he stressed “They are of far reaching importance for the purpose of medical diagnosis, especially in conjunction with photography”. Roentgen stated, “one is able to record many phenomena, thus making it easier to exclude deceptions”.

Not until the discovery of the hot cathode Coolidge X-ray Tube in the USA, during the First World War, were x-ray engineers able to give to the medical profession, quality radiographs. In 1919 this improved apparatus was imported into Australia and together with other progressive improvements and refinements, has been able to transform the taking of radiographs from an art to a science.

Founding Stanford Works

The founder of our firm, Joseph Henry Ford, gained his early experience with the Nightingale Laboratories, who, during the First World War, made many of the x-ray plants for the military and other hospitals in Victoria. After this firm was taken over in 1919 by Amalgamated Wireless Co Ltd, JH Ford, electrical engineer, in partnership with A Stanley, turner and fitter, formed the firm of “Stanford Works” and operated in a basement off 316 Flinders Lane, Melbourne. Their work was chiefly the maintenance, repair and construction of special electro-medical and x-ray apparatus for doctors and hospitals.

The Parer’s and a name change to Standford X-ray and Radium Company

Their slender funds soon became exhausted and for the sum of £200 paid into the firm’s account, Anthony J Parer was accepted as a third partner and attended to the commercial side of the business. Not long afterwards his brother, Leandro AJ  Parer, took over A Stanley’s share and position.

Within 12 months the firm moved to a more suitable location, comprising a two-storey shop at 214 Russell Street and changed its name to “Standford X-ray and Radium Company”.

In June, 1921, Stanislaus A Parer took over Anthony J Parer’s share and position and the latter continued his medical studies.

Michael Parer.jpg
Michael Joaquin Ramon Parer, born Alella, Catalonia Spain 1859.

It was through the fatherly interest and gratuitous financial guarantees of Mr Michael Parer, Senior, of Parer’s Crystal Cafe, that made it possible for the firm to expand and progress.

In that year Leandro Parer went to Germany seeking agencies and knowledge. The firm especially benefited by the agencies for Agfa X-ray Film and Mueller Hot Cathode Fine Focus X-ray Tubes, which relieved us of our utter dependence on local competitive companies.

Through JH Ford’s very close association with our leading radiologist we secured the agency of Waits and Bartlett Manufacturing Co, who were exclusive suppliers of the US Army X-ray Field Apparatus. Through this agency and association we were able, during the next few years, to sell many of these imported machines to hospitals and doctors in Victoria and Western Australia where we had an Agent.

Australia-wide expansion

The Standford X-Ray showroom, Chalmers Street, Sydney

As a result of fortuitous circumstances we sold, within a few months, the property at 214 Russell Street. The capital profit made enabling us, in November, 1927, to move to an even better location at 71 Collins Street, Melbourne and for Leo Parer to proceed to Sydney and open a branch office at Phillip Street.

In 1936 we extended to Brisbane and in 1927 to Adelaide, but in Perth, S Van Dal & Company still remain our agents. On 8th November, 1927, the partnership was converted to a proprietary limited company and in November, 1936, the name was abbreviated to “Stanford X-Ray Co. Pty. Ltd.”.

OfficeWorksMSP2014_img-831105647-0001_S Van Dal & Co showroom showing stanford x-ray equipment Perth c1950s.jpg
Agents for Standford X-ray in Western Australia S Van Dal & Company. Showroom display.

For personal reasons, in 1929, JH Ford sold out his shares to the other two shareholders. In due course he was sent by Kodak Pty Ltd to New Zealand to open up and manage an x-ray department, selling english made souls apparatus. About 1932 he returned to Melbourne and happy to relate, rejoined the SXR staff.

In 1929, the workshop was moved from 71 Collins Street to a two-storey building in Little Lonsdale Street and our factory started with B Crooks as Manager and Designer. It was an immediate success and enabled us to secure many government and hospital orders, but it strained our finances. Mr B Crooks, in conjunction with his cousin, L Forster, offered to take over the factory at book value and to manufacture exclusively for SXR. Eventually this arrangement worked out unsatisfactorily so the latter condition was cancelled and thus was born the firm of Ultrays Pty Ltd, North Melbourne, who are the smallest of three Australian x-ray manufacturers – the largest being Watson Victor Ltd.

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Stanford X-ray flier detailing offices and their manufacturing representation.

Siemen’s shenanigans

During the early part of the 1930s a number of our radiologists made educational visits to the continent and were impressed with German apparatus. The company took the opportunity to secure the agency of Siemens-Reiniger-Works, who would not permit us to continue local manufacture. However, their apparatus was good, prices made competitive and therefore, we were content to comply with their wishes. The agency expired in 1938 and for its renewal they requested the shareholders to sell them 51% of their holdings. The counter, either of 49 or 100 percent was refused.

Mr GB Drude, Siemen’s representative, immediately flew to Germany and returned about July, 1938, when we were advised that the agency was give to New Systems Telephones, Sydney and that Mr Drude had been appointed Manager of their X-ray department.

USA manufacturers

In December, 1938, the company sent SA Parer abroad to secure an alternative agency. Every X-ray factory in USA was inspected and offers received from there of the major companies, which had to be refused because the landed cost made all three non-competitive against the locally made product of Watson Victor Ltd. Westinghouse X-ray Company, New York, were prepared and most anxious, to sell us their blueprints and engineering data for a cash down payment, plus royalty. Eventually, it was decided to design our own apparatus, using the best features of the German and American apparatus to suit Australian requirements. rather than continue the trip to England and the European continent, the extra time was spent revisiting the factories to gain knowledge and purchase samples. Every consideration and help was given to us by these American people.

Dunlee Xray Tate Faslong Chicago Dec 19th 1953.jpg
Dunlee X-Ray Tubes, USA

It was in July, 1939, that the first storey of 71 Argyle Street, Fitzroy was occupied and the factory started by our late factory Manager, Mr JH Ford.

1940-The Telegraph (Brisbane) Tue 23 Jul 1940 Page 6 Mobile X-Ray Plant

War was declared and we were in it

The Australian Forces wanted x-ray apparatus, and we were immediately called on to design and manufacture, within 30 days, a special 35mm miniature radiographic apparatus for mass chest survey of the first AIF troops to leave Australia. We not only constructed the plant on time, but also organised a team of x-ray technicians and for the Defence Department, x-rayed these 10,000 troops within 10 days. The troops were able to sail on time in January, 1940, except those found suspected of having tuberculosis or other chest complaints. The authorities soon realised the value of this examination and many more such apparatus were made and supplied by us to the army, RAAF and navy.

The invaluable experience gained has made it possible for us to design and manufacture much more efficient apparatus which we have since supplied to the governments of Tasmania, Queensland and Victoria. It compares more than favourably and at a lower price, than the imported apparatus. With the exception of the x-ray tube, camera lensed fluorescent screen, which come from Europe, it is all Australian made. The nation-wide attack now planned by the Commonwealth Government, in co-operation with the States, to stamp out completely tuberculosis within a reasonable time, is now gaining some action. Many more apparatus will be needed to fully cover the population of Australia. To date we have supplied twelve units to the Public Health Department of Victoria, four in Queensland, one in Tasmania and several in Victoria. SXR are recognised pioneers in this special x-ray engineering field and the company has worked in very close collaboration with the radiologists and x-ray physicist.


The factory at 71 Argyle Street soon became quite inadequate so a move was made in July, 1941, to wellington Street, Collingwood, giving a floor area of 4,500 square feet. A further 4,000 square foot is required and the plan is to put a 2-story building on the vacant land adjoining.

The company started with £600 capital and had to expand and build by its own efforts. No new money has been subscribed other than what has come from the business. The impetus given to the inflationary spiral since 1947 and the continuous demand for the company’s products necessitated increased bank accommodation. Devaluation is increasing sing internal wages and materials. The health mindedness of the people and the influx of new Australians, make the future demand for the company’s goods assured. For forty years we have specialised in importing, manufacturing and repairing of x-ray and electro-medical apparatus for doctors and hospitals. Our staff is trained to give competent services throughout Australia.

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Stanford X-Ray Sales & Service van

3 thoughts on “Stanford X-Ray a potted history

  1. What a pleasure to read the history of the company. I have always wondered what the connections were with the Parers. My father worked for this company for many years, would love to find out more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Gwendoline,
      I’m glad you enjoyed it. There are a few remaining people left that worked and remember the place and Im gradually getting around to collecting the information before it’s gone forever. Stan was my grandfather and along with his cousin Leo in Sydney were the main partners of the business though they had many notable and skilled operators involved. Do you know what your father’s role was within the company?


      1. I have aphoto of my father with the van of stanford xray
        I wuold love to know about the conections my father had with the mr ford and the parers

        Liked by 1 person

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