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Billy Hughes bottle stopper
, undated

by Mashman Bros. Ltd.

ceramic and cork

William Morris Hughes (1862-1952) was Labor and National Party Prime Minister of Australia from 1915 to 1923. An English immigrant, before becoming Prime Minister he helped to found several major trade unions, but he was expelled from the Labor party in 1916 for supporting conscription. He won the 1917 election for the new National Party. During his life-long parliamentary career, he was also expelled from the National and United Australia Parties; he ended his days in a Liberal seat. His small stature, large ears and pugnacious manner made him a favourite of caricaturists, notably David Low, whose manic heads of Hughes this bottle stop resembles.

William Mashman (1851-1912) and Henry Mashman (1856-1922), English-born potters and pipemakers, ended a partnership with James Sandison and formed the Sydney firm of Mashman Bros on their own in mid-1890. By the turn of the century they operated the Victoria Pottery, Willoughby and the Garrington Pottery, Auburn, turning out sewer pipes, sanitary fittings, terra cotta chimney pots, air bricks and louvres, garden edge and paving tiles, flower pots and agricultural pipes as well as vases, ginger beer bottles and miscellaneous household ornaments. In 1900 it was reported ‘Mashman Bros seem capable of doing almost anything in pottery work. The wheels are continually whirring merrily.’ The firm thrived through the wars and a new generation of Mashmans joined the business, which merged with Royal Doulton in 1957. Along with the bottle stopper, Mashman Bros manufactured a brown ceramic paperweight in the form of the head of Hughes.

The Hughes bottle stop was purchased from a private vendor.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2009
Accession number: 2009.88