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Elias Solomon (2 September 1839 - 23 May 1909) was an Australian politician based in Fremantle. He was Mayor of Fremantle, MLA of South Fremantle, and the first Member for Fremantle in the Australian House of Representatives.
Solomon was born in London, England to Leah and Moss Solomon and migrated to Australia as a child, living at first in Sydney and then Adelaide. His uncle Emanuel Solomon owned the Queen's Theatre in Adelaide, and Solomon's father Moss was for a short while made manager. The family returned to Sydney until Moss's death in 1849 when Leah again moved to Adelaide and Solomon completed his schooling there.
After finishing school, Solomon joined another of his uncle's business concerns and in 1857 was sent to Mauritius to purchase goods. On his return, he worked for the firm of Solomon & Salom in Adelaide, and also Falk & Co. of Melbourne.
At the age of 29 Solomon headed west to Fremantle in Western Australia, arriving on 20 January 1868 aboard Eliza Blanche and initially living in Henry Street. Soon the same year he was joined by two of his nephews and together they formed Solomon & Nephews, Auctioneers and Agents of which Solomon was clerk and auctioneer. This venture was part-financed by his half-brother Judah Moss Solomon (of Melbourne) and brother-in-law Isaac Solomon (of Adelaide).
The weight of conducting business in a depressed economic environment bore on Solomon, and this was not helped by his nephews being active members of Fremantle's Amateur Dramatics Company, performing at the Oddfellows in William Street. He wrote to them in July 1869: '... that you may not be under any misunderstanding with regard to my present dissatisfaction, I will be more explicit. You have taken up time belonging to the firm in Amateur Theatrical matters which, I believe, is acting prejudiciously to the business ..."
In 1881 he was elected to the Fremantle City Council. In 1892, he was elected to the Western Australian Legislative Assembly as the member for South Fremantle, where he remained until 1901. In that year, he transferred to federal politics, winning the Australian House of Representatives seat of Fremantle for the Free Trade Party. He was defeated by Labor's William Carpenter in 1903. Solomon died in 1909. He was at one time head of the board of Fremantle Cemetery, where he is buried.
Solomon was married twice, firstly to Agnes Elizabeth Bickley (c. 1846 - 22 April 1886) and, after her death, to Elizabeth Stokes (16 September 1868 - 3 December 1898) on 1 May 1887.
His second wife, with whom he had five children, died on 3 December 1898 aged 30. Wikipedia
Elias Solomon lived in a house called Ocean View, in ... Solomon St. One of the roads in the Fremantle Cemetery is also named after him. Ironically, it starts out with that name but by the time it gets to his grave it has changed name twice.
Ari and Wendy Antonovsky occasionally conduct a tour of the Jewish section of Fremantle Cemetery. They have kindly provided the text of the talk. Here is the section on Elias Solomon.
We’ll next look at the life of Elias Solomon, the first MP for Fremantle, in the new Australian parliament.
Elias Solomon was a Londoner, born there in 1839. However, Elias was not only from a different generation to Lionel, he was also from a different class.
His family originally went to South Australia, but then moved shortly afterwards to New South Wales (a busy place even then). His father died when he was ten years old. His family then returned to Adelaide. I happened to spend time in Port Adelaide and one of the streets there (Timpson St) was known as ‘Jew Street’ at the time Solomon was there. Solomon worked for his uncle, an auctioneer, and eventually became chief clerk of the firm.
At the age of 29 he moved to Western Australia (obviously a man of vision) and established a business here as an auctioneer and grocery, wine & spirit merchant in association with two of his nephews. After the business dissolved, he became a business partner with Lionel Samson.
Fortunately, Solomon was a much more successful politician than businessman. Dating from 1877, he served a six year term on the Fremantle Town Council and was subsequently Mayor of Fremantle on three occasions between 1889 and 1901. In his time as mayor he initiated many of the well-known features around Fremantle - the Town Hall, the Markets, this cemetery and the Fremantle Hospital.
In 1892, by a margin of only 7 votes, he was elected to the Western Australian Legislative Assembly at a by-election for South Fremantle. However, he was subsequently returned unopposed in 1894 and 1897 running effectively as an Independent during those years.
In March 1901, Solomon contested the first federal election for the seat of Fremantle as one of three Free Trade candidates in a four cornered contest. He became a member of the first Commonwealth Parliament with a majority of the votes cast (1000 more than his Labor opponent). Interestingly, there were four Jewish members in the first Australian Parliament, including Isaac Isaacs, who later became the first Australian-born Governor-General. Solomon lost the next election in 1903 to the Labor Party. As it turns out, his opponent was named Carpenter and I would be interested to know if he is any relation to the WA state premier.
All along, Solomon was involved with the affairs of the Jewish community here. In many of his letters to his mother in Adelaide, he mentioned that he wished there was a Synagogue to attend. He was even the first person to bring Passover matzo into W.A. In 1902 he finally had his wish. As president of the WA Hebrew Congregations and a trustee for the lot granted to the Congregation by the State Government, he and Lawrence Alexander laid the foundation stone for the Fremantle Synagogue.
His home, constructed for him in 1887, was a magnificent house on Solomon Street (where else) named Ocean View. Twice married and widowed with a total of eleven children he died in Beaconsfield in 1909 and is one of the notables buried in the Fremantle Cemetery.
Antonovsky, Ari & Wendy 2010, 'Here from the beginning: Jewish community life in early Fremantle, Fremantle Studies, 6: 1-11.
Silbert, Eric 1999, 'Jewish personalities of Fremantle', Fremantle Studies, 1: 77-91.
Solomon, Coralie 2004, 'Elias Solomon: first Federal Member of Parliament for Fremantle: life and letters 1839-1909', Fremantle Studies, 3: 1-13.
Wendy & Ari Antonovsky, notes about Elias Solomon in their Heritage Walk around the West End of Fremantle.
See also: Solomon Street.
Diane Oldman's page about John Stokes, father of Elizabeth, Solomon's second wife.
Top photo: by Nixon, from Hitchcock.
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