From Australia’s Jewish Past: Phillip Blashki – a great business and community leader

July 27, 2021 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Phillip was born Favel Wagczewski in Blaszki, Poland on 21 February 1837.

Hannah and Philip Blashki

He was yet another Polish immigrant to our shores who rose to be a most respected and successful businessman.  He married in Manchester UK a young Polish widow, Hannah Potash, and arrived in Melbourne on 1 April 1858.

At that time Melbourne was experiencing huge population growth due to the gold rush and Philip started his Australian life in Geelong as a hawker and retailer of goods.

In 1868, following a bankrupting theft, he moved to Melbourne. He was primarily a silversmith and around 1875 he opened his city store in Bourke Street grew into a thriving business making jewellery, repairing watches, Masonic regalia and significant ceremonial medals and chains.  In 1883, his sons took over the business, ‘P. Blashki and Sons’, and this business still continues today. Other sons went into the tobacco industry and the family made the first cigarettes as a way to make smoking affordable for the masses.

He produced several notable items of public importance, including Australian cricket’s Sheffield Shield – the cost of which was donated by Lord Sheffield in 1893, following his tour (led by W G Grace) of Australia of 1891-2.  Blashki’s tender was the one accepted. He also produced the NSW Cricketers Association’s ‘Hordern Shield’.

Phillip’s life was summarised on the centre front page of The Herald, which read in part, “For 39 years, he was a justice of the peace, including Victoria-wide and, for a lengthy period, was chairman of the City Court Bench, which later became the Melbourne Magistrates Court.. He founded the Melbourne Jewish Aid Society, was a trustee of the Brighton Cemetery, and a prominent Freemason. He was also one of the founders of the Charity Organisation Society.”

As recognition for his work as a J.P, philanthropist and community leader, Philip was one of the invited guests at the opening of the first Federal Parliament at the Exhibition Buildings.

He was not one to rest, serving as a council member of the Victorian Chamber of Manufacturers and was instrumental in founding the early development of a number of communal and charitable organisations  – including the provision of seed funding in some instances. Whilst still working in Geelong in the 1860s he was active on the new Stephen St. Melbourne branch of the Jewish Philanthropic Society. In 1909 he co-founded the Jewish Burial Society (Chevra Kadisha and esteemed president of the Melbourne Freemason’s Homes and co-founded the Jewish Herald Association.

Phillip and Hannah had 14 children and it is understood there are now over 500 descendants –  mostly in Australia.  What a legacy he left to his family and community.

It is now 163 years since Phillip Blashki arrived in Victoria.  He never wavered in whatever he did.  What a legacy he has left to his family and community.

The Australian Jewish Historical Society is the keeper of archives from the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 right up to today. Whether you are searching for an academic resource, an event, a picture or an article, AJHS can help you find that piece of historical material. The AJHS welcomes your contributions to the archives. If you are a descendent of someone of interest with a story to tell, or you have memorabilia which might be of significance for the archives, please make contact via or its Facebook page.

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