Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Samuel Aaron Joseph (1824–1898)

by Harold F. Bell

This article was published:

Samuel Aaron Joseph (1824-1898), merchant, was born on 14 October 1824 in London, son of Aaron Joseph of Streatham and his second wife Frances, née Cohen. In January 1843 he arrived in the Prince of Wales at Wellington, New Zealand, and began in business. He became skilled in the Maori language and interpreted for Governor (Sir) George Grey when he pacified the Maoris. Joseph moved to Sydney in 1856 and with Jacob Montefiore founded the well-known firm of Montefiore, Joseph & Co. Influential in commercial circles, he became chairman of the City Bank of Sydney and director of various companies, including the Australian Mutual Provident Society in 1862-66 and 1880-84 and chairman of the Sydney Exchange Co. in 1888. In 1886 he was foundation president of the Commercial, Pastoral and Agricultural Society of New South Wales. Prominent in the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, he was president in 1887-89 and in 1888 attended the first Congress of Australasian Chambers of Commerce held in Melbourne.

A convinced free trader, Joseph had won West Sydney in the Legislative Assembly in 1864. He resigned in 1868 and visited England. In 1881 he was appointed to the Legislative Council but his seat lapsed in 1885 because he was again absent in England. Reappointed in 1887, he resigned in August 1893. He was a New South Wales commissioner for the Sydney, Melbourne, Calcutta and Adelaide Exhibitions. An eloquent speaker, Joseph was active in Jewish affairs, a member of the board of management of the York Street Synagogue and a joint treasurer of the Great Synagogue Building Fund. He was also interested in the Hebrew School and with others negotiated for the York Street Synagogue in a dispute with the Macquarie Street Synagogue. Later he was a trustee of the Hebrew section of the new Haslem's Creek (Rookwood) cemetery.

With his wide banking and commercial links, Joseph was hit by the financial crisis in 1893. He died on 25 September 1898 at his home in Nelson Street, Woollahra, and was buried in the Jewish section of Rookwood cemetery. He was survived by his wife Matilda Philippa, née Levien, whom he had married in 1856, and by a son and two daughters. His estate was valued at £12,000.

Select Bibliography

  • Sydney Mail, 13 Feb 1864
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 26 Sept 1898
  • Australian Jewish Historical Society Archives
  • AMP Society Archives.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Harold F. Bell, 'Joseph, Samuel Aaron (1824–1898)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 24 May 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]


14 October, 1824
London, Middlesex, England


25 September, 1898 (aged 73)
Woollahra, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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