Fremantle Stuff > People > Lionel Samson

lionel samsonLionel Samson

Lionel Samson (1799-15 March 1878) was an early Swan River Colony settler and businessman whose firm, Lionel Samson & Son, is the oldest continuing family business in Australia.
It is likely his father was Michael Samson, "a member of one of the old established and wealthy families of English Jewry", according to the Australian Dictionary of Biography. After studying at Oxford University and being a member of the London Stock Exchange he emigrated to Western Australia.
Samson arrived at Fremantle in 1829 on the Calista and soon set up business as a wine and spirit merchant, importer and auctioneer. He purchased Fremantle town lots 27 and 28 in the first state land sale. He was postmaster-general from 1830 to 1832. In 1835 he obtained the state's first liquor license. In 1842 he returned to Britain and married Frances Levi. They had six children: three sons and three daughters. Samson was a member of the Fremantle Town Trust and a nominee in the Western Australian Legislative Council in 1849-56 and 1859-68.
Lionel Samson & Son's interests include wholesale liquor distribution, vineyards and wine making, woven bulk bags for industrial use and industrial packaging. It also owns Sadleirs Transport, a national transport and freight forwarding company. Lionel Samson Building, in Cliff Street, Fremantle, is on the Heritage Council of Western Australia's Places Database.
Samson's grandson Frederick Samson was mayor of Fremantle from 1951 to 1972. Wikipedia.

Lionel Samson (1799-1878), wine and spirit merchant, arrived in Fremantle with his younger brother, William, only two months after the arrival of the first white settlers. The Samson brothers unpacked their ample merchandise and Lionel set up a shop on the beach near Arthur Head and went into business as a wine and spirit merchant, importer and auctioneer. The following year the brothers bought a stone cottage in Cliff Street as a residence.
Lionel was appointed postmaster, but this was not a lucrative appointment. However, the Samson brothers had wealthy financial connections and were able to wait out the difficult early years. Meanwhile, they set up a second shop.
Lionel quickly earned a high standing in the fledgling community and was appointed to the board of the Bank of Western Australia in 1837. He was 42 when he sailed for England in 1842 and married his cousin Frances (Fanny) Levi, 19. She was connected to the Rothschilds, and for ten years was the only Jewish woman in the colony. They had six children.
William left the colony around this time [moving to Adelaide]. Lionel became the first Jewish person to sit in an Australian legislative chamber and served two terms in the WA Legislative Council. To the present day, Lionel Samson’s company has remained in the hands of direct descendants making Lionel Samson & Son the oldest continuing family business in Australia. The Samson family has produced three mayors of Fremantle, and has a suburb east of Fremantle (Samson), a town in the Pilbara (Point Samson) and a number of streets around the Perth metropolitan area named in their honour. Text and photo from MCB.

samson family Lionel Samson's family in what is said by John Dowson (2003: 11) to be the 'oldest known Fremantle photograph', in 1856: Lionel and Fanny (Frances Levy) Samson with their children: Caroline (b. 1845), Adelaide (b. 1847), Louis (b. 1849), and Elizabeth (b. 1850)—and one more girl. The eldest son Michael (b. 1844) was away at boarding school in Adelaide at that moment. The youngest child William Frederick was probably born in 1856, as he was 44 when he died 5 March 1900, and so is not in the photo as not yet born.

samson building

The Lionel Samson building, at 31 Cliff St. Part of the older Samson premises (now called 'Fanny Samson's cottage') is visible at the left of the photograph.

References and Links

Wendy & Ari Antonovsky, notes about Lionel Samson in their Heritage Walk.

Berry, Elaine 1994, 'The Samsons in Fremantle', Fremantle, the newsletter of the Fremantle Society: October 1994.

Brown, Patricia 2012, Entry in the ADB for Sir Frederick Samson

Mossenson, David 1967, Entry in the ADB for Lionel Samson

Wikipedia article on Lionel Samson

Wikipedia article on Sir Frederick Samson

National Trust pdf about the Samson family


Garry Gillard | New: 17 January, 2015 | Now: 23 September, 2016