Australian Federation Mug, manufactured by Doulton & Co, Burslem, England, 1900, Powerhouse Museum, Peter Russell‘s brass-foundry. Parkes commenced business as ‘Henry Parkes, Ivory and Bone Turner’ in Kent Street between 1844 and 1845. He later moved to Hunter street where he displayed the collection of useful and fancy articles, most of which he had made himself. These included billiard and bagatelle balls, chess and backgammon men, card-counters and whist-markers, ivory and bone whistles, paper knives, ladies’ needle cases, eggcups, knitting pins, children’s rattles, humming tops, cups and balls, studs, buttons. In fact all kinds of little things which as turner in ivory and bone he manufactured day after day.
He was 33 years old when he gave his first political speech in 1848 but quickly became involved in literary and political activities and honed his talents as a writer. By 1849 he was advocating universal suffrage and the transformation of the Australian colonies into a Great Federal Republic. He was also pivotal in organizing the Constitution Committee to oppose Wentworth’s constitution bill and won Wentworth’s old Sydney seat in 1854. The liberal leader, Charles Cowper, invited him into the council and Parkes’ election to the Chamber of Commerce was a mark of his acceptance into the liberal group.
In 1883 he was representing Tenterfield District but the loss of his ministerial office also meant the loss of his salary and he returned to business. After importing ivory goods from overseas he undertook to become the Australasian representative of the engineering firm of Latimer, Clark, Muirhead & Co. But he went back to politics when Jennings resigned in January 1887 and Parkes formed his fourth ministry. His slogan for the election was ‘good government and commercial freedom’.
For Parkes, the principal activity of these years was a campaign which resulted in the Federation Conference and the Australasian Federal Convention of 1890-1891. In January 1889 he announced his readiness to join ‘heart in hand’ to promote true Federation.