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Desk Set that belonged to Arthur Calwell #2010-0284

Desk set with black stone base, two adjustable metal pen holders and metal plate engraved with Arthur Calwell’s signature; accompanied by one black pen.


This desk set is part of a collection of objects that belonged to Arthur Calwell, Australia’s first Minister for Immigration (1945-49) that were donated to the museum by his daughter, Dr Mary Elizabeth Calwell.

Dr Calwell commented on the provenance of this desk set:

‘The pen set must have been presented to my father by the Sheaffer company as they were involved with an Australian friend and businessman, Glen Stott who introduced them and I met the son, John Sheaffer around 1950, a charming young man who was killed in a plane crash on his way home. It was shocking. My parents were very upset…my father was enthusiastic about developing friendly American associations as he had an American grandfather.’

It is worthy of note that the Sheaffer company pioneered an employee profit-sharing and consultative management scheme from the 1930s on, which may have also contributed to Calwell’s interest in the firm.

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Statement of values

This desk set is significant as part of the Arthur Calwell collection, which is comprised of a selection of objects that belonged to Australia’s first Minister for Immigration (1945-49), Arthur Calwell. The collection is significant as a whole because it tells a story about a leading Commonwealth parliamentarian of the middle decades of the twentieth century and includes highly personal material which tells of Calwell’s family life, his life-long involvement in Labor politics, and his personal religious convictions. The Arthur Calwell collection at the museum uniquely links the personal with the political, thus affording an opportunity to conduct research which tells a rounded story of this important parliamentarian.

This desk set is significant as evidence of the highly clerical nature of executive life in the pre-digital era, and of the nature of formal presentations to retiring ministers.


Calwell, Arthur, Be just and fear not, Victoria: Hawthorn, 1972.

Kiernan, Colm, Calwell: a personal and political biography, Melbourne: Thomas Nelson, 1978.

Richards, Michael Interview with Dr Mary Elizabeth Calwell, 2009.

  • Desk Set that belonged to Arthur CalwellDesk Set that belonged to Arthur Calwell —


Width 355mm
Height 203mm
Depth 30mm
Medium Stone; metal; plastic; textile
Creator’s name W. A. Sheaffer Pen Co.
Date created Circa 1950