This week’s blog post looks at two volumes from the manuscript collections relating to Sir David Salomons, baronet, and his nephew and heir, Sir David Lionel Salomons, second baronet.
The Salomons’ family volumes, bound in red morocco and decorated with gilt on the leaves, contain a range of material compiled by Sir David Lionel Salomons, second baronet. An inscription at the front of each volume identifies them as “scrap books” and their content as “letters of interest from well-known men and others, together with interesting matters and scraps.”
The first volume (covering the period 1819-1911) initially consists of items relating to Philip Salomons and other members of the Salomons family. Philip Salomons was Sir David Lionel’s father, with the material pertaining to his application for citizenship to the United States (he became a naturalized citizen in 1826) and his appointment as Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Sussex in 1952. This is followed by a more substantial range of material relating to Philip’s brother Sir David Salomons, first baronet, primarily concerning his appointment as Lord Mayor of the City of London.
Sir David Salomons, first Baronet (1797-1873)
David Salomons was born in London on 22 November 1797. He was the second son of Levy Salomons, a stockbroker, and Matilda de Metz. Following in his father’s footsteps, he pursued a career in banking and in 1832 became one of the founders of the London and Westminster Bank.Alongside a successful banking career he had a distinguished public career. In 1835 he was elected as Sheriff of the City of London. However, as a Jew, he was unable to enter office due to the mandatory oath of office including Christian statements of faith. Parliament was obliged to legislate and following the passing Sheriffs’ Declaration Act later in the year, he was able to take up the post. 1835 also saw him elected as an Alderman of the City of London. Again, he was unable to take up the post due to the oath of office. On this occasion the law was not changed. It wasn’t until 1847 and the passing of the Religious Opinions Relief Act that he was finally admitted as a City alderman, and in 1885 became the first Jewish Lord Mayor of London. Salomons was elected a Member of Parliament for Greenwich in 1851. While the law had now changed to enable professing Jews to hold municipal office, they were still denied admission to parliament. This time, rather than refusing to take the oath (as he had done in 1835) Salomons merely omitted the Christian statements of faith and took his seat on the government benches. He eventually agreed to withdraw, but only after voting in three divisions of the House. He lost his seat the following year at the general election of 1852. It wasn’t until the passage of the Jews Relief Act in 1858 that he was permitted to take his seat without further demur in 1859, serving as the constituency’s M.P. until his death in 1873.
Salomons was created a baronet in 1869. While he was married twice, there were no children of either marriage and his estate and titles passed to his nephew, Sir David Lionel Salomons.
Sir David Lionel Goldsmid-Stern-Salomons, second Baronet (1851-1925)
The majority of material in the volumes relates to Sir David Lionel Salomons. Sir David Lionel was the son of Philip Salomons (noted above) and Emma Montefiore. Following the death of his mother in 1859, and father in 1867, he was brought up by his uncle.On the death of his uncle in 1873, he succeeded as second baronet (by special remainder) and inherited the estate of Broomhill, north of Tunbridge Wells. He studied at University College London and at Caius College, Cambridge, before being called to the bar at the Middle Temple. His inheritance from both his father and uncle meant that he was financially secure and was able to pursue scientific and other interests, becoming an inventor who pioneered developments in motoring and electricity. In addition to publishing a range of works on scientific subjects, he had workshops and laboratories added to the house at Broomhill (one of the first houses in the country to have electric lighting).
A significant amount of material in the volumes (the second volume covering the period 1889-1924) touches on his scientific research. These include notices of his public lectures on electricity which were “addressed to the working classes and others”. The lecture series for 1874 consisting of:
Lecture 1. Theories of Electricity and its general laws. Statical Electricity
Lecture 2. Statical Electricity continued.–Galvanic Electricity, and modes of producing the latter. –Comparisons between Statical and Galvanic Electricity. Induction.
Lecture 3. Resistance explained. Some applications of Electricity.
Lecture 4. Applications of Electricity continued, and the Telegraph.
Lecture 5. The Electric Telegraph.
Lecture 6. The Bridge and Differential. Modes of Testing. The application of these in practice. [MS 378 A4162/1/39]
Of Solomon’s inventions, the collection includes a pamphlet on ‘Improvements in the Construction of Fire-Proof Buildings’ in which he proposes placing pipes within the structure of the building which are in direct communication with hydrants or other water supply, “and so arranged that instant communication can be effected between the same an any one section of, or the whole of the internal perforated pipes in the building.” [MS 378 A4162/1/223]Other items include letters from renowned scientists of the age, including John Tyndall, Joseph Swan, David Edward Hughes, William Crookes and David Gill. One of Salomons more imaginative ideas can be found in a letter from John Joseph Fahie, dated 19 January 1885, in which Fahie requests an exposition of his suggestion that you could “dissolve a man in London and build him up again in New York through the Atlantic Cable.” [MS 378 A4162/1/78]
Along with letters from famous individual such as Sir Moses Montefiore, Wilkie Collins, and William Gladstone, among others, the collection includes a number of letters that have been marked as “curious”. One such letter, dated 12 July 1878, is from a gentleman of twenty-three years living in Massachusetts. He begs Salomons the favour of providing him with an idea or invention that he can take credit for, and which will, in turn, enabling him to win the hand of a young lady with whom he is in love. Salomons advice to the young man is that “he ought to use his energies and work properly if his affection is sincere” and notes that “no fortune made at a “coup” is valued by its owner, and rarely indeed can such good fortune arrive.” [MS 378 A4162/1/50]
Salomons also had a keen interest in motor vehicles and was an early pioneer for the car on British roads. He was a member of the Automobile Club of France, the Royal Automobile Club of Great Britain, as well as a range of other automobile clubs, and organised the first British Motor Show (named the Horseless Carriage Exhibition) at Tunbridge Wells in 1895.
Salomons married Laura de Stern in 1882 and the couple had one son and four daughters. Their only son, David Reginald Salomons, died at Gallipoli when HMS Hythe carrying his company was sunk in a collision. Following Sir David Lionel’s death on 19 April 1925 the baronetcy became extinct.
Further details on the Salomons family volumes can be found on the Special Collections website at: https://www.southampton.ac.uk/archives/cataloguedatabases/webguidemss378.page
The Salomons estate is currently home to the Salomons Museum which preserves and displays material relating to the family. Further details can be found at: https://www.salomons-estate.com/about-us/museum