Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Samuel Joshua Jacobs (1853–1937)

by S. J. Jacobs

This article was published:

Samuel Joshua Jacobs (1853-1937), lawyer, merchant and brewer, was born on 28 March 1853 in Adelaide, third son of Charles Jacobs, storekeeper, and his wife Elizabeth, née Joshua, whose marriage in 1846 was the first celebrated in the Jewish faith in South Australia. He was educated at John L. Young's Adelaide Educational Institution and Geelong College, Victoria, where he was dux in 1870. He studied law at the University of Melbourne, and on 4 April 1876 was admitted to the Bar in Victoria on the motion of George Higinbotham and later in the year to the South Australian Bar. With W. F. Stock he formed the partnership Stock & Jacobs. On 3 December 1878 in Melbourne he married Caroline Ellis, sister of Dr Constance Ellis.

His legal career was short. In 1884 he joined his father's firm of sugar importers, Charles Jacobs & Sons. In 1888 he was an original subscriber to the South Australian Brewing, Malting & Wine & Spirit Co. Ltd, of which he was chairman and managing director in 1903-37. He was also the founding chairman of Castle Salt Co. Ltd, which refined lake salt from Edithburgh, Yorke Peninsula, and chairman of the Timor Development Co. These activities led him to sever his association with his father's firm whose Australian activities ceased in 1914.

The S.A. Brewing Co. prospered under his guidance and absorbed several smaller breweries, although not its principal rivals for Jacobs valued competition as a cornerstone of free enterprise. He became a well-known and respected public figure. He was president of the Adelaide Chamber of Commerce in 1901-03 and of the General Council of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia in 1903-04. In 1904 and 1905 he stood unsuccessfully for the Torrens seat in the House of Assembly. For a time he was on the University of Adelaide's council as chairman of the finance committee. For thirty-four years he was a committee-member of the South Australian Jockey Club Ltd and he served long terms as chairman of Tattersalls Club and of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Although well read and educated in the classics, he had little interest in art, music or drama.

Jacobs was a tall, upright figure of commanding personality and appearance, but gentle, even tempered and free of ostentation. These qualities, with his integrity and ability, made him the confidant and adviser of many younger men who sought his guidance in the early days of their business careers. He died on 4 January 1937 at his Glenelg home, survived by his wife, four daughters and a son; his elder son had died young in South Africa in 1914. His younger son, (Sir) Roland Jacobs, inherited many of his father's talents and interests. The daughters achieved some note by marrying four brothers of the wife of (Sir) Isaac Isaacs, the first Australian-born governor-general.

Jacobs was buried in the old Jewish cemetery at West Terrace, Adelaide. His portrait was painted posthumously by William Dargie and hangs in the board room of the S.A. Brewing Co.

Select Bibliography

  • H. T. Burgess (ed), Cyclopedia of South Australia, vol 1 (1907)
  • H. Munz, Jews in South Australia, 1836-1936 (Adel, 1936)
  • Quiz (Adelaide), 29 Jan, 21 Oct 1904, 19 May 1905
  • Observer (Adelaide), 8 Dec 1928
  • family papers (privately held).

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

S. J. Jacobs, 'Jacobs, Samuel Joshua (1853–1937)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 30 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


28 March, 1853
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


4 January, 1937 (aged 83)
Glenelg, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

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.