Sir Edward John Lees Hallstrom (1886-1970), manufacturer, zoological supporter and philanthropist was born at High Park Station, near Coonamble, being the eighth of nine children of William Hallstrom, from England who was of Swedish descent.
His mother Mary Ann, nee Colless, was a descendant of John Lees of the New South Wales Corps, and a daughter of Charles Colless, who lived at Fairy Dale, Mudgee.
William, a saddler, and Mary Ann, were married in 1873.
William had a rough trot as a farmer on the land at Coonamble. His neignhbour’s farming practices was said as the reason for flooding on William’s property killing his fruit trees and loosing valuable crops.
At the same time William was accused as being responsible for a barn burning down, for which he was arrested and later found to be innocent.
In addition he had nine children needing further schooling.
He and his wife then decided to move into Coonamble town until suitable housing could be obtained in Sydney,
Keith Smith, a well-known past ABC broadcaster, said in his 1993 book, “The Times of their Lives,” that Sir Edward always loved birds and animals.
He kept birds in cages on the verandah of his home, sometimes even in his bedroom.
When his family left Coonamble to start a new home in Sydney, Edward was perched up on the top of a Cobb and Co.’s coach, clutching his most precious possessions a tabby cat and a parrot in a cage.
Along the way the coach hit a pothole and turned over.
Nobody was hurt but the cage burst open, the parrot escaped, and the cat ran off into the bush. Neither were found.
When the family moved back to the City, Sir Edward’s childhood was spent in Redfern and Summer Hill.
He was educated only to primary school level.
Leaving school he was apprenticed to a cabinet maker and ultimately went into is own bedstead manufacturing business.
A later business failed and he moved to the seaside suburb of Dee Why where he began experimenting with refrigerators and eventually got one to satisfactorily
operate. He now needed a place closer to the City and a factory to produce his refrigerators, so in a 1929, he moved to Willoughby.
Here the famous Silent Knight Refrigerator Factory opened and flourished.
At this stage he became interested in the Taronga Park Zoo.
He was elected President of the Trust and sent his son to Africa, New Guinea, South America and many other places to gather animals for the Zoo.
He did this at his own expense.
As his business prospered he gave money freely to hospitals donating the Hallstrom Cardiac Clinic to the Prince Alfred hospital. Sir Edward was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1952.
His philanthropic activities were wide and varied. He began the foundation of coffee growing in New Guinea.
There he introduced bees, began a bird sanctuary and eventually handed over his farm to the Administrator of New Guinea.
The Hallstrom Park Bird of Paradise Sanctuary at Mount Hagan, was opened in 1968. By this time Sir Edward was 82 years of age and almost blind.
Few people know that Sir Edward Halstrom and kite enthusiastic George Taylor were the first persons in Australia to fly in a machine heavier than air for a short distance.
This feat was achieved at Narrabeen Beach on December 5, 1909, four years after the flight of the Wright Brothers in the U.S.A.
Sir Edward was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1952. He died at Northbridge, Sydney, in 1970 at the age of 83 years.