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Joshua Frey Josephson (1815–1892)

by H. T. E. Holt

This article was published:

Joshua Frey Josephson (1815-1892), businessman and judge, was born at Hamburg, son of Jacob Josephson and his wife Emma Wilson, a widow née Moss. His father, a jeweller and a Jewish Christian, had reached Sydney in May 1818 in the Neptune, sentenced to fourteen years for having forged £1 notes in his possession; in 1820 Joshua arrived with his mother in the Morley. He became an accomplished pianist, flautist and vocalist and by 1834 was teaching music. He was the first honorary organist at St Peter's Church, Cook's River. On 1 December 1838 he married Louisa (d.1862), née Davies, a sixteen-year-old pupil whose sister married John Robertson. They lived at Enmore House, inherited from his father in 1845. Articled to James Norton Josephson was admitted a solicitor on 17 February 1844.

Elected to the Sydney City Council in 1844 for Cook ward, he became mayor in 1848 and a justice of the peace. He was a member of the founding committee of St Paul's College, University of Sydney. A friend and business associate of Thomas Mort, he helped to establish the Sydney Dry Dock Co., the Hunter River Railway Co. and the Sydney Insurance Co. On 9 June 1855 he was admitted to the New South Wales Bar. Next year he went to England, entered Lincoln's Inn in November and was called to the Bar on 30 April 1859. Roger Terry wrote that Josephson bought £2000 to £3000 worth of pictures and sculptures in Italy for his house. He returned to Sydney, practiced as a barrister and in 1862 became a land titles commissioner under the new Real Property Act. In the 1860s he was a director of the Australian Joint Stock Bank, the Sydney Insurance Co. and the Australian Mutual Provident Society. He was a commissioner for the 1867 Paris Exhibition. After an early association with Mort in pastoral properties he acquired extensive interests, some, in partnership with George Oakes in pastoral runs in the 1860s, chiefly in the Bligh, Wellington and Warrego districts. He also invested in city real estate.

In 1864 Josephson survived a petition against his return to the Legislative Assembly for Braidwood. In November 1865 he was defeated for the Speakership. In 1868 he became Robertson's solicitor-general, but resigned from parliament and his directorates in September 1869 when appointed a District Court judge and chairman of Quarter Sessions for the western district. Judge Henry Cary disturbed the government by complaints that Josephson had wrongfully induced him to retire by promises and a monetary payment. The question of whether a judge could be removed for misconduct before appointment was unresolved because Josephson was cleared of any intentional moral wrong but was reprimanded for great imprudence and indiscretion in negotiating with Cary while solicitor-general. In 1873 the barrister, Simon Belinfante, alleged misdemeanours by Josephson in his judicial functions at Mudgee. He again escaped dismissal although the Court found that some of his decisions had been 'exceedingly wrong'.

Josephson resigned in 1884 to devote more time to his private affairs and later became a partner in F. L. Barker & Co., wool-brokers. Enmore House was sold and demolished in 1883 when he built St Killians, Bellevue Hill, which later became Aspinall House, Scots College. He died there aged 76 on 26 January 1892 and was buried in the Anglican section of Rookwood cemetery. He was survived by four sons and eight daughters of his first wife, a daughter of his second wife Katerina Frederica (d.1884), née Schiller, whom he had married in April 1868, and by his third wife Elizabeth Geraldine, née Brenan. His estate was valued at almost £170,000 and he left many of his statues to the National Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Select Bibliography

  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1865, 1, 105, 501, 1865-66, 1, 33, 1869, 1, 36, 1870, 1, 273, 609, 1873-74, 1, 187, 193
  • G. H. Abbott, ‘Reminiscences of Newtown and neighbourhood’, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, 24 (1938)
  • Bulletin, 11 Nov 1882
  • Appeal book, W. C. Wentworth v. J. C. Lloyd & Others, 2, 1 (State Library of New South Wales)
  • A. B. Spark diary (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Attorney-General papers (State Records New South Wales)
  • manuscript catalogue and newspaper indexes under J. Josephson (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

H. T. E. Holt, 'Josephson, Joshua Frey (1815–1892)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 12 July 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]


Hamburg, Germany


26 January, 1892 (aged ~ 77)
Bellevue Hill, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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