Solomon Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Solomon Surname Meaning

Solomon in the Bible was the name of King David’s successor, noted for his wisdom.  It is the vernacular form of the Hebrew name Shelomo, a derivative of shalom meaning “peace.” Solomon of Montpellier was a 13th century Jewish rabbi.  Solomon has for generations been a popular Jewish name.  It can be a Christian surname as well. 

The early spelling of the name was Salomon and this spelling continues to be found in France and Germany and also in Argentina.  Three Salomon brothers established the Wall Street trading house of Salomon Brothers (now defunct) in New York in 1910.  The Salomon spelling is said to be Sephardic, the Solomon spelling Ashkenazic.  The Arabic version of the name is Suleiman.

Solomon Surname Resources on The Internet

Solomon Surname Ancestry

  • from Jewish emigrants and from England (Cornwall) and New Zealand (a Maori name)
  • to America, Canada, South Africa and Australia

England.  Solomon in England is very much a Jewish surname; but there was an English outpost of the name in Cornwall.  The surname there probably derives from Salomon, a 5th century Cornish warrior prince of legend.  He was also baptized into the Christian faith and revered as such.

Cornwall  A Thomas Solomon can be found at St. Columb in Cornwall in the 1660’s and the name gets more numerous there in the 18th and 19th centuries. Other Solomons were to be found at Goran and Mevagissey nearby. Mary Pedlar’s 1955 booklet The Pedlar Solomon Family of Cornwall described the family that emigrated to Canada in the 19th century.  Perhaps the best-known Cornish Solomon was Bert Solomon, one of the greatest rugby players of his era.

Jewish Solomons.  Among the early Jewish Solomons was Samuel Moss Solomon, born in London in 1769, who was a pencilmaker in Spitalfields.  He and his family departed for Australia in 1833 and that was where the later Solomons were to make their mark.  Henry Solomon, born in London in 1794, moved in 1821 to Brighton where he became the town’s first Chief Constable.  

Michael Meyer Solomon was born in 1791, either in Holland or Germany (it is quite not clear which).  He arrived in London as a young man and prospered as a Leghorn hat manufacturer in Bishopsgate, prospered so much that he became the first Jew to be admitted to the freedom of the city of London. 

Of his eight children, three – Abraham, Rebecca, and Simeon – achieved some renown as painters.  Simeon Solomon was perhaps the most talented.  But he was the one whose life turned out the worst.

A Solomon stockbroking family in London, said to have been among “the upper echelons of English Jewish society,” produced Harold Solomon, a brigadier general in World War One.  His wife Flora Solomon (nee Benenson), perhaps more famous than him, outlived him and raised Peter Benenson, the founder of Amnesty International.

America.  The first Solomons in America were said to have come from Bodmin in Cornwall and arrived in Virginia in the early 1700’s.  These Solomons spread to North Carolina and Georgia. 

There was a later side-branch in Georgia, known as the Solomon Brothers, who undertook train robberies, shootings and thefts until they were finally gunned down by law enforcement officers in 1913.  Daniel Worth’s 55 page booklet My Solomon Ancestors, written in 2005, recounted the family history.  .

Baltimore  According to family tradition, Jacob Solomon was a Dutch Jew who had come to Lancaster, Pennsylvania sometime in the 1740’s.  Myer Solomon migrated from there to Baltimore in 1793 and started a dry goods business on Market Street.  His brothers Isaac and Levy joined him.  A later Isaac Solomon began a canning factory on Solomon’s Island off Maryland after the Civil War.

William S. Solomon married Eliza Myers in Zion German church in 1820.  Their son William was an early settler in Florida, arriving in the boom town of Key West around 1850.

South Carolina.  Another recipient of Dutch Jews was the port of Charleston in South Carolina.  Joseph Solomon, a merchant, had arrived there from Amsterdam before the Revolutionary War, Chapman Solomon by 1783. Chapman’s family later moved to New Orleans and then to Texas.

Canada.  Ezekiel Solomon was a German Jewish merchant who had arrived in Canada in the 1750’s and was a fur trader based on Mackinac island in Michigan. His son William grew up there and acted as an interpreter for the Indians of the Upper Lakes; his grandson Lewis SolomonL wrote a narrative of the family history.

South Africa.  The line in England went from Nathaniel to Saul Solomon.  In the early 1790’s Saul Solomon was on his way from London to India when he became ill and was put ashore on the island of St. Helena.  He became a merchant there and was friends with Napoleon during his time of exile.

His nephew, also named Saul Solomon, grew up in Cape Town and became an influential newspaper publisher there.  Saul’s son Gladstone wrote a biography of him and Allan Solomon’s 1988 book The Solomons covered the family from St. Helena times.  

Australia.  The Solomon family got off to a bad start in Australia.  In 1817 Emanuel was convicted in England of larceny and sentenced to seven years transportation there. 

Later, he prospered as a land developer in Adelaide, establishing Solomontown near Port Pirie. His nephew Judah was for a short time the mayor of Adelaide and Judah’s son Vaiben the Premier of South Australia in 1899.  Meanwhile Walter Samuel Solomon was the only person to have served in the Boer War and in World War One and Two, where he was a chaplain for the Salvation Army.

The Solomon successes had prompted his father Samuel Ross and the remainder of the family in England to embark for Australia.  They arrived in Sydney on the Enchantress in 1833.  In 2012 hundreds of Solomons came together in Melbourne for a great Solomon reunion.  It was estimated that there were 5,000 descendants of Samuel Ross Solomon were living at that time.

Another early Solomon in Australia was the London criminal Isaac (Ikey) Solomon, eventually tired and transported to Tasmania in 1831.  He was widely regarded as the model for the character Fagin in Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist.

New Zealand.  Solomon in New Zealand is a Maori name, first adopted by Tommy Solomon in the early 1900’s.  Sir Mark Solomon represents the fourth generation of these Maori Solomons.

Solomon Surname Miscellany

The Wisdom of Solomon.  Solomon succeeded David as the King of Israel.  The Hebrew Bible credits Solomon as the builder of the First Temple in Jerusalem and portrays him as great in wisdom, wealth, and power.

In one account, known as the Judgment of Solomon, two women came before Solomon to resolve a quarrel over which was the true mother of a baby.  When Solomon suggested they should divide the living child in two with a sword, one woman said she would rather give up the child than see it killed. Solomon then declared the woman who showed compassion to be the true mother, and gave the baby to her.

Bert Solomon the Rugby Player.  Bert Solomon was born at Treleigh in west Cornwall in 1885, one of several children born into a poor but close-knit mining family. He left school at 12 and found an unskilled job in a local bacon factory.  During his teenage years he was introduced into the world of racing pigeons by his father. Pigeon-fancying became his prime interest.  But he was somehow persuaded to join the local rugby club and try his hand.

Soon his exceptional rugby talent emerged for all to witness and by the time he had reached 21 he had become a seasoned county player.  His skills were extraordinary. He was said to have invented and perfected the dummy.  In the 1908 county championship final against Durham he almost single-handedly won the game for Cornwall.

He was capped by England against Wales in 1910 but declined further international caps.  He also declined a hefty fee to play Rugby League in the north of England.

He was a solitary character who liked nothing better than his pigeons.  Sometimes he refused to play for his team Redruth if his pigeons were still out; and he often had to be cajoled into playing.  Such was his skill that he apparently made a difference of a thousand in the crowd.

Henry Solomon’s Untimely Death in Brighton.  The rise of Henry Solomon from watchmaker to Brighton’s most prominent public official would have been notable in any circumstances.  But for a Jewish man to achieve so much at a time when British society was still firmly entrenched in anti-Semitism was even more remarkable.

Originally from London’s East End, he trained as a watchmaker with a Jewish jeweller in Lewes before moving to Brighton in 1821.   There he held a number of civic posts before being named as the town’s Chief Constable in 1836.

His end was extremely unfortunate.  On March 14, 1844 he was questioning a suspect John Lawrence at Brighton police station.  Lawrence became agitated and Solomon told him to sit by the fire.  But Lawrence then grabbed a poker and hit him with such force on the head that it fractured the skull.  Solomon lapsed into unconsciousness and died the next day.  His ghost was later said to have haunted the building.

He left a wife and nine children.  At his funeral two days later an estimated 10,000 people, shocked by what had happened, lined the route to the cemetery.  John Lawrence meanwhile was hanged on April 5 in what was the last public hanging in Sussex.

Simeon Solomon the Painter.  Simeon Solomon was the eighth and last child born to merchant Michael Solomon and his artist wife Catherine. As a student at the Royal Academy, Simeon was introduced to members of the Pre-Raphaelite painting school, as well as to the poet Swinburne.   His first exhibition was at the Royal Academy in 1858. He continued to hold exhibitions of his work at the Royal Academy between 1858 and 1872. His association with Swinburne led to his illustrating Swinburne’s Lesbia Brandon in 1865.

However, his budding career was cut short in 1873 when he was arrested in a public toilet in London and charged with an attempt to commit sodomy.  He was a marked man and further arrests followed. In 1884 he was committed to the workhouse where his life and talent was blighted by alcoholism.  Twenty years later, he died from complications brought on by this alcoholism.

Solomon’s Island.  Originally known as Bourne’s and Somervell’s Island, Solomon’s Island in Maryland took its name from a 19th century Baltimore oyster packer named Isaac Solomon who established a cannery there shortly after the  Civil War.

It was he who gave the island its new name, advertising his canning establishment as “Solomons Island.”  Solomon operated a fleet of schooners which plied between there and the mainland. In 1870 the community received official recognition when the United States Postal Service opened an office.

Solomon’s home still stands on the front of the island.

The Narrative of Lewis Solomon.  Lewis Solomon’s narrative began as follows:

“My name is Lewis Solomon – spelled L-e-w-i-s, though they call me Louie.  I was born on Drummond Island in 1821, moved to St. Joseph Island in 1825, back to Drummond Island again, and then to Penetanguishene in 1829.

My father’s name was William Solomon, Government interpreter.  His father, Ezekiel Solomon, was born in the city of Berlin in Germany, came to Montreal and went up to the “Sault.”  My father was appointed Indian interpreter by the British Government and was at Mackinaw during the War of 1812, then moved to Drummond Island with the British forces, and afterwards to Penetanguishene.” 

Nathaniel, Phoebe, and Saul Solomon.  In the early 1790’s a ship bound for India dropped anchor off the Port of Jamestown on the island. A young man was carried ashore to die. The ship sailed on and the young man, Saul Solomon, remained not to die but to become one of the most influential men on the island.  Within a few years Saul was joined in St Helena by his brothers, Benjamin, Edward, and Charles.

Saul had come from a respected Anglo-Jewish mercantile family who had lived in Kent for many generations. They had substantial interests, not only in England, but also on the Continent.

In 1760 or thereabouts his father Nathaniel visited Leyden in Holland where he met, fell in love with, and married a young Dutch girl named Phoebe de Mitz.  She was just fourteen years old at the time.  Yet Phoebe returned with him as a bride to England and, by the time she was forty, had produced eighteen children.

After Nathaniel’s death Phoebe moved to London where she lived on in some style until her death in 1834.

Saul and Georgiana Solomon.  In Cape Town in 1873, Georgiana Thomson, a recent arrival from Scotland, met Saul Solomon, the proprietor of the Cape Argus, a member of the legislative assembly for Cape Town, and a noted liberal and philanthropist.

They found themselves in close accord, both intellectually and emotionally, and, despite a considerable difference in age (she being twenty-nine and he fifty-six), they were married at his home at Clarensville on Sea Point the next year.   The marriage turned out to be a happy one, producing four sons and two daughters.

Through her marriage into the extended Solomon family, Georgiana became a member of a circle of educated, enlightened, and politically active women at the Cape. She would speak at temperance meetings and was elected president of the World’s Temperance Union at the Cape. Sharing her husband’s commitment to moral reform, she became first president of the Social Purity Alliance in Cape Town and campaigned successfully against an attempt to reintroduce the Contagious Diseases Acts.

In 1888, following a breakdown in Saul Solomon’s health (in which the drowning of their elder daughter in 1881 had been a contributory factor), the family left for England.  Four years later, Saul Solomon died, leaving her alone to bring up the children in England.   She continued to watch political developments in South Africa closely and lived onto 1933.

Solomon Names

  • Haym Salomon was a Jewish immigrant to New York at the time of the Revolutionary War who became the prime financier of the American side.
  • Saul Solomon was a newspaper publisher in the Cape colony in the late 1800’s and one of its early civic leaders.
  • Flora Solomon was an activist for women’s rights in England in the 1930’s.
  • Russ Solomon founded Tower records, a worldwide music store empire, which, however, collapsed in 2006.

Solomon Numbers Today

  • 4,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 16,000 in America (most numerous in Florida)
  • 7,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Solomon and Like Jewish Surnames

The Jews were banned from England in 1290 and did not return there until the 1650’s, sometimes in the form of Portuguese traders.  They were to make their mark as merchants and financers in London and many families prospered.  There was another larger Jewish influx in the late 1800’s.

In America the early settlement of Sephardic Jews was in Charleston, South Carolina.  In the 19th century Ashkenazi Jews started to arrive from Germany.  Later came a larger immigration from a wider Jewish diaspora.  Between 1880 and 1910 it is estimated that around two million Yiddish-speaking Jews, escaping discrimination and pogroms, arrived from the Russian empire and other parts of Eastern Europe.

Some Jewish surnames reflect ancient Biblical names, such as Cohen and Levy.  Some have come from early place-names where Jews resided, such as Dreyfus (from Trier), Halpern (from Heilbronn) and Shapiro (from Speyer).  Many more surnames came about when Ashkenazi Jews were compelled by Governments to adopt them in the early 1800’s.  The names chosen at that time were often ornamental ones – Bernstein or Goldberg or Rosenthal for example.  Then the name could change on arrival in America at Ellis Island.  And finally anti-Semitism perceived could cause further changes to conceal Jewishness.

Here are the stories of some of the Jewish surnames that you can check out here.


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Written by Colin Shelley

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