Royal Reels: Gambling


The cover is addressed to Messrs E. Solomon & Co., Adelaide and has the pale red 2d South Australian stamp (S.G. 24a) cancelled with the diamond numeral ‘106′ of Woodchester, and there is a manuscript ‘Private’ at the lower left (Figure 1).

The reverse has a transit mark of MOUNT BARKER/ (   )/ 1859/ S-A and a manuscript on the right side, written vertically, of ‘P.O./ Woodchester/ 28.5.59 plus a red wax seal (Figure 2).

The firm of Messrs. E. Solomon & Co. Adelaide was an undertaking of 2 brothers, Emanuel and Vaiben Solomon and later their nephew Judah Moss Solomon, but the family did not have an auspicious entry into Australia. Emanuel was born in London, son of Samuel Moss Solomon, a pencil maker and his wife, Elizabeth Moses. He was convicted of house-breaking at the Durham Assizes and sentenced to 7 years transportation. He arrived in Sydney in May 1818 in the Lady Castlereagh, with his brother Vaiben who had been convicted of larceny, at the same time. Both were pencil makers, and in November 1826 Emanuel married Mary Ann Wilson who had also been accused of larceny and sentenced to life imprisonment at the Old Bailey.

The brothers went into business together at George Street, Sydney as general merchants and auctioneers, and they accumulated property and land in Sydney and Bathurst. Emanuel bought a share in a South Australian land grant in 1835 and in 1838-44 he was the resident partner in Adelaide for the Sydney enterprise, with most of the trade between the 2 cities carried by their brig, Dorset. In 1840 he opened the Queen’s Theatre, the first in Adelaide, and he built city residential blocks, as well he promoted the Burra copper mine in South Australia. In 1840 he established Solomontown near Port Pirie, providing an endowment for Jewish religious observance, and by 1870, he retired.

Emanuel was a Member for the House of Assembly for West Adelaide (1862-65) and Member for the Legislative Council (1867-71). He was one of the founders of the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation and was described as ‘the paterfamilias of the Jewish community’. At age 73, he died of senile decay in Adelaide on 3 October 1873, survived by his third wife, four daughters and three sons. His estate was probated at £4500. A drawing of Emanuel Solomon by T.S. Gill is shown in Figure 3.

Judah Moss Solomon (1818-80) was born in December 1818 in London, son of Moss Solomon and his wife Betsy Myers. He arrived in Sydney ca. 1831 and was educated at Sydney College. He was employed by his uncles on board their vessels and he visited Adelaide in 1839. In 1842-45 he was government auctioneer at Moreton Bay (future Queensland), but in 1846 he joined Emanuel and another uncle Isaac in Adelaide in an auctioneering firm. Judah also had a political career: alderman, Gawler ward 1852-54; M.H.A. City of Adelaide 1858-60; M.L.C. 1861-66; M.H.A. for West Adelaide 1871-75; mayor of Adelaide 1869-71. He acted as a coroner, and was the first President of the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation. He died of cancer in August 1880 in Adelaide and was survived by 7 of his 16 children from his 2 wives. One of his sons, Vaiben Louis Solomon was premier and treasurer of S.A. in 1899, and a member of the first Federal Parliament until 1903. Quite an upward progress for the Solomon family after a felonious start!

Information is available about additional members of the Solomon family. Elias Solomon arrived in South Australia with his parents at the age of two. He joined his uncle Emanuel’s well-established business in Adelaide when he finished his schooling. In 1868, at the age of 29, Elias went to Western Australia where he was joined by two of his nephews and they formed a company known as Solomon and Nephews, Auctioneers and Agents. The business was partly financed by Elias’s brother-in-law, Isaac and half-brother, Judah who were the fathers of the two nephews. This business closed in 1871 and Elias concentrated successfully on the Auctioneering and Commission business. Elias actively participated in many areas of public life: Board of Directors of the Fremantle Building Society 1875; Fremantle Town Councillor 1877-83, and Chairman 1881; Mayor of Fremantle 1889-91, 1896-98, 1900-01; MLA South Fremantle1892-1901; MHR Fremantle 1901-03; and, visiting justice to the Fremantle and Rottnest prisons.

The Solomon family contributed to the welfare of 4 Australian Colonies and States, particularly South Australia, New South Wales and Western Australia, and to a lesser and shorter extent to Queensland. A lot has been written about several members who were leaders in their Jewish communities, and no attempt has been made to cover this adequately in the present paper.

I wish to acknowledge that Tonia Eldridge , Research Librarian, State Library of South Australia, Adelaide provided even more information than has been used in preparation of this paper. Much of the information presented appeared on the website for the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Addendum June 2010:  I have been contacted by a family member who has informed me that there is new evidence in the UK that has been accepted by the ADB.  As a result a  new sentence has been entered as follows in the ADB:  “On 4 August 1817 he (Emanuel Solomon) was convicted, with his brother Vaiben, of larceny at the Durham Assizes and sentenced to seven years transportation.”  The original conviction of house breaking has been removed from the A.D.B.