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Solomon Herbert Hyam (1837–1901)

by G. F. J. Bergman

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Solomon Herbert Hyam (1837-1901), produce merchant and politician, was born on 16 May 1837 at Sarah's Valley, Jamberoo, New South Wales, the second son of Michael Hyam, a London bootmaker, and his wife Charlotte Rebecca (Catherine Mary), née Broughton. Michael had arrived at Sydney in the George Canning in December 1827 and became a shoemaker but had the 'ingenuity' to acquire a 'landed estate'. Although Governor (Sir) Ralph Darling called him a 'perfect Jew' and was reluctant to give him a promised grant, Hyam received 1280 acres (518 ha) near Kiama in 1829. He founded Jamberoo where he built an inn and store and cut cedar. In 1847 he sold the property, moved to the Shoalhaven district and died at Nowra on 3 September 1878.

Solomon was educated at home and went to Melbourne for commercial training at 19. In Sydney he became a commission agent but in 1860 was declared insolvent, attributing it to 'great losses' from the Shoalhaven floods. His discharge was certified in October 1861, the year he married Sarah, daughter of Samuel Priestley, produce merchant. Hyam joined his father-in-law's business and reopened as a commission agent in 1866.

Hyam established himself as a wholesale produce merchant with great success. He was elected an alderman of Balmain in 1874 and mayor in 1876-79. In 1875 he had become a magistrate and regularly attended the Water and Central Police Courts where he was known for his unofficious decisions. In 1879 he retired from the Balmain Council for business reasons but in 1885-87 he represented Balmain in the Legislative Assembly as a protectionist. However, he supported John Robertson's free-trade ministry, allegedly because opposition to Balmain's senior member, Jacob Garrard, would have destroyed his popularity. He rarely spoke in the assembly but carried a private Act. In 1886-1901 he served on the Commission of Fisheries and became expert in pisciculture and oyster-farming. In 1886-87 he sat on the royal commission on the excessive use of intoxicating drink. On 30 April 1892 he was appointed to the Legislative Council and from July 1900 was a member of the Public Works Committee.

Hyam's business expanded and in 1886-97 he was a director of the Citizens' Life Assurance Co. In the 1880s he bred pure Jersey cattle in partnership with his brothers near Shoalhaven and won many prizes in agricultural shows. Well known as a yachtsman Hyam's four boats won many races and he was active in arranging intercolonial contests. He built a house at Katoomba where he made a famous garden. He was president of the Balmain Rowing Club and the Katoomba Cricket Club and was a trustee of the Australian Museum and the Katoomba reserve. Uninterested in Jewish community affairs, Hyam was not a member of the Great Synagogue when he died on 7 November 1901 at Katoomba. He was buried in Rookwood cemetery with prayers read by his nephew Hyam Moss. He was survived by his wife, three sons and three daughters. In the 1880s his daughter Lottie was Sydney's 'most famous amateur pianist'.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vol 14
  • Ex-M.L.A., Our Present Parliament, What it is Worth (Syd, c1886)
  • E. Digby (ed), Australian Men of Mark, vol 1 (Syd, 1889)
  • Book of Shoalhaven (Nowra, 1926)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 9 Nov 1901
  • Hebrew Standard of Australasia, 15 Nov 1901
  • Town and Country Journal, 16 Nov 1901
  • Colonial Secretary's land letters, 2/7887 (State Records New South Wales)
  • insolvency file, 5219 (State Records New South Wales).

Citation details

G. F. J. Bergman, 'Hyam, Solomon Herbert (1837–1901)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 14 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


16 May, 1837
Jamberoo, New South Wales, Australia


7 November, 1901 (aged 64)
Katoomba, New South Wales, Australia

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