15. John Curtin’s Pocket Watch.

In 1924 John Curtin set sail on his first overseas journey, to attend the 6th International Labor Conference held in Geneva. Shortly before his departure on May 19th, Curtin was presented with this gold pocket watch by J Willcock, Minister for Railways, on behalf of the State Executive of the ALP, the Parliamentary Labor Party, and the Westralian Worker as a farewell gift.

Pocket watch inscription.

Inscribed to mark the occasion, the gold pocket watch was manufactured by Stewart Dawson & Company, a company based in Australia and New Zealand. John Curtin’s watch has three hinged covers, one to protect the face crystal, one to protect the back, and an engraved leaf that covers the movement. The front cover bears decorative initials for J & C. The watch was worn on a chain which was also held small badges signifying his affiliation with sporting clubs and the Australian Association of Journalists.

Pocket watch front cover.

The International Labor Organization was formed by the League of Nations in 1919, ‘based on the premise that universal, lasting peace can be established only if it is based on social justice’. In 1946 it became the first specialized agency of the UN. Curtin attended the 6th conference, known as the Geneva Conference, as the representative for the workers of Australia, together with participants from a total of forty countries.

JCPML376/1 Commission du Travail de Nuit Dans Les Boulangeries, International Labour Organization Conference, Geneva 1924.

In those days of slow travel by ship, the journey could take three to four weeks each way. Curtin would spend a total of three months away while attending the conference together with time spent after in London.

Curtin proudly wore this beautiful timepiece for the rest of his life. Following his death in 1945 his family kept it with great care for the next fifty years. Now part of the John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library, JCPML00287/4 Gold pocket watch it is one of the most valued personal items that have come to the library built to recognise the contribution of Australia’s wartime prime minister and international statesman, John Curtin.

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