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Lowe Kong Meng, c.1887

Ludwig Lang (lithographer) after Johnstone O'Shannessy & Co

tinted lithograph (sheet: 27.5 cm x 21.0 cm, image: 18.5 cm x 14.0 cm)

Lowe Kong Meng (1831–1888), merchant, was born and grew up in the British colony of Penang and came to Melbourne in 1853. By 1854 he had established Kong Meng and Co in Little Bourke street, and was trading in tea and other goods between Australia, India and China, Soon, his interests extended to mining, banking, insurance and sugar refining. In 1860 he married Mary Ann Prussia, a Tasmanian woman; they had twelve children. He was a liberal supporter of churches and public charities; and although a loyal subject of Empire, he consistently opposed initiatives to restrict Chinese immigration, and anti-Chinese legislation in general. For his efforts on behalf of Melbourne’s Chinese community he was made a Mandarin of the Blue Button in 1863. In late 1914, one of his sons, Herbert, embarked for the Western Front with the 7th Infantry Battalion. In 1916, another son, George, attempted unsuccessfully to enlist, writing to the Argus describing his rejection on the grounds that he was ‘not substantially of European origin’.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2015

Accession number: 2015.85

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Johnstone O'Shannessy & Co

Ludwig Lang (age 53 in 1887)

Lowe Kong Meng (age 56 in 1887)

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