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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Samson, Lionel (1799–1878)

by David Mossenson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

Lionel Samson (1799-1878), pioneer and merchant, was probably the son of Michael Samson, a member of one of the old established and wealthy families of English Jewry. He read at Magdalen College, Oxford, and later became a member of the London Stock Exchange. With his friend George Leake he became interested in migration to the colonies. Legend has the two friends meeting Captain (Sir) James Stirling who persuaded them to turn their eyes from Canada towards Western Australia.

Samson arrived at Fremantle in the Calista in August 1829 with personal effects and much merchandise. He took up several land allotments in Perth and Fremantle. Within a year of his arrival he had set up his business as a wine and spirit merchant, importer and auctioneer. His brother William, who had accompanied him, was associated with the venture but after some years moved to Adelaide. Samson maintained his original business interests throughout the rest of his life, adding whaling and other projects to his activities; from 1830 to 1832 he was postmaster-general. In 1842 he returned briefly to England, where he married Frances Levi; they had three sons and three daughters.

Samson was a prominent figure in the public and business life of Perth and Fremantle. With his wit and charm and his commercial integrity he achieved a respected and prominent position in society. He was a member of the Fremantle Town Trust. He died on 15 March 1878. He was a nominee in the Western Australian Legislative Council in 1849-56 and 1859-68.

The business which Samson started in Fremantle passed to his sons. It has remained in the family's hands ever since, Western Australia's oldest family business. His descendants have also remained closely identified with the commercial and civic life of the city of Fremantle.

Select Bibliography

  • J. G. Wilson (ed), Western Australia's Centenary, 1829-1929 (Perth, 1929).

Citation details

David Mossenson, 'Samson, Lionel (1799–1878)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 31 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

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