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Ephraim Laman Zox (1837–1899)

by L. E. Fredman

This article was published:

Ephraim Laman Zox (1837-1899), by Beaumont

Ephraim Laman Zox (1837-1899), by Beaumont

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H41456

Ephraim Laman Zox (1837-1899), financier and politician, was born on 22 October 1837 at Liverpool (some sources say London), England, son of Eliazer Laman Zox (d.1882), proprietor of a large cap-making business. He was educated at home by his mother who had reputedly been a governess for one of the Rothschilds. He arrived in Melbourne in December 1852 and worked as an assistant to his cousin Lewis Myer Myers in a softgoods firm. By 1857 he was listed as a clothier at 235 Elizabeth Street. In 1858 he visited England, returning to Melbourne in the Yorkshire on 8 April 1860. From 1863 he partnered Myers in a warehouse business and for about five years from 1866 his brother Joseph joined him in Melbourne. On 15 May 1879 his partnership with Myers was dissolved and next year he set up on his own as 'financial agent and arbitrator', Collins Street West.

After the death of E. Cohen in 1877 Zox represented the Legislative Assembly seat of East Melbourne until 1899. A conservative, he opposed payment of members and protection amid the bitter party strife which accompanied (Sir) Graham Berry's second government, and such measures as income tax and female suffrage in the 1890s. A supporter of the coalitions of the 1880s and of Sir James Patterson's ministry, he was more consistent and predictable than many of his contemporaries. Good natured, genial and popular, he spoke in parliament in a typically bantering style, and his puns were a byword, but he was less at ease on serious subjects. He was a 'useful and painstaking' chairman of the royal commissions on asylums for the insane and inebriate (reported 1884-86), on banking laws (1887) and on charitable institutions (1890, 1891, 1895); he was also a member of the commissions on the working of the Friendly Societies Statute (1875-77) and the tariff (1881-83).

Zox was president of the Melbourne Hebrew congregation in 1883-85, treasurer of the Melbourne Hebrew School in 1883 and president of the Melbourne Jewish Club in 1885. In 1890 he chaired a meeting of the Melbourne branch of the Anglo-Jewish Association of London which protested against Jewish persecution in Russia. He was vice-president of the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society from 1885 and chairman in 1898-99, a director of the Royal Humane Society of Australasia and a board member of several hospitals. Prominent in the Manchester Unity Order of Oddfellows, he was a justice of the peace from May 1874.

Zox suffered financial reverses in the early 1890s, but was still known for his earnest devotion to charitable movements and for his ready assistance to 'forlorn wayfarers'. He was a keen student of Shakespeare and stories were told of his remarkable aptitude for arithmetic. With bell-topper, white waistcoat and mutton-chop whiskers, he was one of the best-known figures along 'The Block'. A bachelor, he was frequently seen with D. Gillies and R. Speight at the Athenaeum Club.

Aged 62, he died on 23 October 1899 in a private hospital at St Kilda of pneumonia brought on by influenza. He was buried in the Melbourne general cemetery. His estate, valued for probate at £4400, was left to his two brothers and two sisters in London and a sister in Cape Town, South Africa.

Select Bibliography

  • J. B. Cooper, The History of St Kilda, vol 2 (Melb, 1931)
  • L. M. Goldman, The Jews in Victoria in the Nineteenth Century (Melb, 1954)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Victoria), 24 Oct 1899
  • L. E. Fredman, ‘Some Victorian Jewish politicians’, Australian Jewish Historical Society, Journal, 4 (1954-58)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 16 Aug 1890, 24 Oct 1899, R. W. E. Wilmot, ‘The Block revisited’, 3 May 1930, camera supplement
  • Australasian, 28 Oct, 2 Dec 1899
  • Age (Melbourne), 24 Oct 1899
  • Table Talk, 1 Jan 1892
  • Melbourne Hebrew Congregation, Annual reports (Synagogue Archives).

Citation details

L. E. Fredman, 'Zox, Ephraim Laman (1837–1899)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 25 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Ephraim Laman Zox (1837-1899), by Beaumont

Ephraim Laman Zox (1837-1899), by Beaumont

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H41456

Life Summary [details]


22 October, 1837
Liverpool, Merseyside, England


23 October, 1899 (aged 62)
St Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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