Abraham Solomon (b. 1798 – d. 19 May 1884, Singapore) was a successful merchant and one of the earliest Jewish settlers in Singapore.1 He was a prominent leader in the Jewish community.2 Solomon Street, located in Boat Quay, was named after him.3
Abraham Solomon was born in Baghdad but fled to Calcutta to escape from the harsh Ottoman rule.4 After spending five years in Calcutta, he came to settle permanently in Singapore in 1836.5 His first place of residence was located in the middle of Boat Quay. Today, the street on which he lived continues to bear his name. His house was a two-storey brick building with a tiled roof and upper veranda and it served as both his trading office and home.6
According to historical accounts, Solomon was a man of large stature with fair noble features and a long beard.7 Dressed in flowing Eastern robes with a large turban on his head, he had a commanding presence. He did not speak English and conversed with the British in Malay.8 Solomon sent his children to English schools in Singapore.9 He later became a naturalised British citizen.10
Solomonn was also known for his hospitality. John Turnbull Thomson, surveyor of the East India Company in Singapore, was one such recipient of his generosity. In Thomson’s memoirs, he recorded that he was invited for dinner at Solomon's house.11
In 1858, Solomon filed architectural plans to build a large villa well outside the commercial area and sold his two-story brick house near Boat Quay to the government, for conversion into a police station, a Court Request and a lock up.12 His new home was relocated in Middle Road.13
Though Solomon was once a rich merchant, he had lost most his fortune to opium speculation by the time of his passing.14 He died on 19 May 1884 at the age of 86 and was buried in the Jewish Cemetery in Orchard Road under his Judeo-Arabic name Abraham Shalom Seliman.15
Joshua Chia Yeong Jia
1. Joan Bieder, The Jews of Singapore (Singapore: Suntree Media, 2007), 24. (Call no. RSING 959.57004924 BIE-[HIS])
2. “Singapore Minority Group,” Straits Times, 10 August 1986, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Bieder, Jews of Singapore, 25.
4. Bieder, Jews of Singapore, 26.
5. Charles Burton Buckley, An Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1984), 311. (Call no. RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
6. Bieder, Jews of Singapore, 26.
7. Buckley, Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore, 311.
8. Buckley, Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore, 311.
9. Buckley, Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore, 311.
10. Bieder, Jews of Singapore, 26.
11. Bieder, Jews of Singapore, 24.
12. Bieder, Jews of Singapore, 26.
13. The Straits Calendar and Directory for the Year 1863 (Singapore: Straits Times Press, 1863), 89. (From BookSG)
14. “Untitled,” Straits Times, 20 May 1884, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
15. Buckley, Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore, 311.
The information in this article is valid as of 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.