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Judah Moss Solomon (1818–1880)

It is with regret that we have to chronicle the passing away of another old and respected colonist, Mr. Judah Moss Solomon, Chairman of the Destitute Board. Mr. Solomon has been for so many years identified with the public affairs of the colony, in political and municipal matters and more recently in an important official capacity that there are very few people in South Australia to whom his name will not be familiar, and very many who will deplore his loss. Twenty years ago there was no more popular man than he in the city, either in business or politics, and the same high and honourable principles which then characterized him, and the same energy and ability for administration which he then displayed, attended his career to the last. Although on leave of absence, and confined to what he knew was his deathbed by one of the most terrible and painful diseases to which flesh is heir, be yet, up to within the last fortnight, insisted on being consulted on all important matters connected with the Destitute Department, and even dictated two or three reports of consequence to his officers. Mr. Solomon, who was of the Jewish Faith, was born in London in 1818, and came out to Sydney when only thirteen years of age. He was educated at the Sydney College, which was afterwards constituted the University and when he had completed his studies was employed by his uncles as supercargo on board their vessels, in which capacity he arrived in this colony on October 20, 1839, in the barque Strath Isla from Timor with a cargo of ponies. After travelling about for some time he settled in Sydney, where he joined his uncle (Mr. Isaac Solomon) in business, and went to Moreton Bay (now called Brisbane) in 1843, at the time that the Governor of New South Wales, to which colony it then pertained, proceeded thither to declare it a free settlement. He was appointed Government Auctioneer, and held the first sale of township allotments. After remaining there three years he came to settle in Adelaide in 1846, where he started an auctioneering firm in connection with Messrs. B. and L. Solomon. It may be stated that his liberality in his commercial dealings was only equalled by the breadth of his social and religions views. For many years Mr. Solomon was held in great estimation as knight of the hammer, his reputation as such being second to none in the city, and he carried on a very successful business till 1854, when his health somewhat failing, he went to London with his family, remaining there till 1857, in which year he returned to the colony. He had not been long out when the firm of K. Solomon & Co., which had undergone various changes, was dissolved, and he engaged in commercial pursuit on his own account, and with the exception of an interval of two or three years passed in Melbourne after the death of his first wife, continued them till a few years back, when he retired from their active prosecution. Mr. Solomon's first public position was that of Alderman in the City Council, to which he was elected in 1852 when Mr (afterwards Sir James Hurtle) Fisher was Mayor. He remained in the Council till near the close of 1854. In September 1858, he was returned to the House of Assembly for the City of Adelaide, which he represented till the end of 1859. After an interval of rather more than a year Mr. Solomon re-entered political life — this time in the Legislative Council, of which he was a member from March, 1861, till July, 1866. He was elected one of the representatives for West Adelaide at the beginning of 1873, Mr. W. K Simms being his colleague, and sat till the end of 1874. Mr. Solomon held strong views on political matters — notably free trade, of which he was a most ardent supporter — and when he had once formed an opinion, no consideration of party or interest could induce him to change it; indeed, he might have been more successful in his Parliamentary career had he been less independent and not held so consistently to those sentiments which he believed to be correct.

Not long after his return from Melbourne Mr. Solomon was elected, in December, 1869, Major of the City, to which office he was returned unopposed the following year. No occupant of the civic chair ever bestowed more time or took more trouble in the discharge of his important duties. If there was one quality which pre-eminently distinguished the deceased gentleman it was a thoroughness. No matter what position he undertook, he devoted himself heart and mind to the mastering of its requirements, and he was never satisfied till he had investigated even to the minutest details every thing which might be brought before him. This quality, united to singular clear-headedness, a close insight into figures, fluency of speech, remarkable tact in administration, and consideration for his subordinates, caused him as Mayor to be essentially the right man in the right place. During his term of office he originated the conference composed of the Mayors of various Municipalities and Chairmen of District Councils, who sat to consider the best mode of dealing with nuisances over which the municipalities had no control. This led to the Government taking the matter up, and the outcome was the Public Health Act now in force. Mr. Solomon also caused the appointment of a Committee of the Council to enquire into the question of diseased meat, which was then said to be sold in the city. He took a great interest in the question of deep drainage, and originated another committee which sat and educed a large amount of evidence with reference to the matter. The scheme now being carried out, so far as the direction of the chief portion of the main track sewer and the proposed system of sewerage are concerned, is mainly the same as that indicated in the report which was brought up. When the consolidation of the Waterworks Acts was before Parliament, Mr. Solomon was examined before the Select Committee who sat on the subject, and showed that there was a claim which he considered could honestly be made by the Corporation to the extent of some £30,000 on account of excessive rates paid by citizens for water in previous years. He afterwards agitated the question, and called a public meeting with regard to it, but his efforts in the direction were productive of no result. The Victoria Bridge was opened during Mr. Solomon's term of office, and on the occasion of the opening of the Melbourne Town Hall he was deputed by the Council to represent them at the festivities. So indefatigable a worker was he, that there were but few days in which he was not at his office at the Town Hall at 9 o'clock in the morning, remaining there generally all day. On the retirement of Mr. Rupert Ingleby from the position of Coroner, Mr. Solomon, who was one of the oldest J.P.'s in the colony, frequently acted in that capacity, in which he gave general satisfaction. He also occasionally fulfilled the functions of auditor to public companies, and in earlier days was frequently engaged in the conduct of arbitration cases. He was the first President of the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation, and subsequently often filled the same post. He occupied a seat at the Destitute Board for some years, and on the former Chairman, Mr. Reed, proceeding to England on leave of absence on account of ill-health, Mr. Solomon was appointed Acting-Chairman. When Mr. Reed resigned, Mr. Solomon was appointed, on March 12, 1877, to his office, and those attributes to which we have before referred as well qualifying him for the Mayoralty, added to a surprising memory, stood him in equally good stead in this position. Mr. Solomon took the deepest interest in his work. He was a great advocate of the boarding out system, and no part of his duties gave him more pleasure— although sometimes attended with inconveniences — than travelling about the country to see that the foster-parents and guardians of the destitute children had proper regard for their welfare. He was much liked by the aged and infirm occupants of the Destitute Asylum, for whom he always had a kind word, and one of the last acts which he performed shortly before his demise was to write a report on Mr. Darling's motion for the establishment of a Foundling Hospital. It was a constant thing for him to labour at home night after night at his official work. For some years Mr. Solomon complained of internal pains, which, ascribing to indigestion, he paid no special heed to, but within the last two months it turned out that he was suffering from cancer in the stomach. He went to Melbourne only to obtain sad confirmation of the existence of this complaint, and after his return the disease made such rapid strides that he expired on Sunday afternoon in the sixty second year of his age. Mr. Solomon, who was twice married and twice widowed, had sixteen children, seven of whom only survive him— six sons and one daughter — the eldest of the family being Mr. M. J. Solomon, auctioneer, Hindley-street. The funeral took place at the West-terrace Cemetery on Monday afternoon, and was attended by a large number of citizens. An address was delivered by the Rev. A. T. Boas, the Jewish minister, at the graveside. The shops in the principal streets were half closed out of respect to the deceased. When the House of Assembly met on Tuesday the Treasurer, as leader of the House, paid a warm tribute of respect to the memory of Mr. J. M. Solomon, and said that in the various public positions he had held — whether as a member of Parliament or as Chairman of the Destitute Board — he had always performed his duties efficiently, conscientiously, and with great credit to himself. Mr. Mann closed by expressing hearty condolence with the bereaved family, and Messrs. Darling, Simms, and Krichauff also in fitting language alluded to Mr. Solomon's usefulness as a public officer, and his remarkable zeal and carefulness in seeing the funds for the relief of the destitute properly administered.

Original publication

Citation details

'Solomon, Judah Moss (1818–1880)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 27 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


21 December, 1818
London, Middlesex, England


29 August, 1880 (aged 61)
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Cause of Death

kidney disease

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Key Organisations
Political Activism