Benjamin Benjamin

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The Honourable
Sir Benjamin Benjamin
42nd Mayor of Melbourne
In office
Preceded by William Cain
Succeeded by Matthew Lang
Member of the Victorian Parliament
for Melbourne Province
In office
Preceded by Sir James Lorimer
Succeeded by Robert Reid
Personal details
Born (1834-09-02)2 September 1834
London, United Kingdom
Died 7 March 1905(1905-03-07) (aged 70)
Melbourne, Australia
Nationality Australian
Spouse(s) Fanny

Sir Benjamin Benjamin JP, (2 September 1834 – 7 March 1905) was an Australian businessman and politician, member of the Victorian Legislative Council from 1889 to 1892.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Benjamin was born in London on 2 September 1834 to Moses Benjamin and Catherine Benjamin, née Moses. His family left for Australia in 1843 on a boat named London. He was educated in a school run by the Reverend William Jarrett, a Congregational Church minister.[2]

Working life[edit]

After leaving school he joined M. Benjamin & Sons, his father's import and export business. In 1864 he and his brother-in-law Edward Cohen went into business together.[3] He retired from active involvement in business in 1878.[2]

Public life[edit]

Benjamin was heavily involved in the Melbourne Jewish community acting in various committee positions for the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation.[2][4]

In 1870 he was elected to the Melbourne City Council[5] in the Albert ward, becoming an Alderman in 1881 and Mayor between 1887 and 1889. He was the second Jewish Mayor of Melbourne, with his brother-in-law Edward Cohen preceding him by over twenty years. He became the first Melbourne Mayor and first Jewish Australian to receive a knighthood when he was made a Knight Bachelor in 1889.[2][3]

In 1888 as Mayor of Melbourne Benjamin welcomed the Russian ship Rynda and Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich of Russia who was visiting the Australian colonies in a goodwill mission in light of tensions between Britain and Russia.[6]

Benjamin was elected as a member for the Melbourne Province of the Victorian Legislative Council in 1889 and served until 1892.[1]

Imperial Banking Co.[edit]

His tenure as a Member of the Legislative Council was brought to a close after he was declared bankrupt when the Imperial Banking Co. collapsed. He had offered personal guarantees on the bank's finances.[7] A subsequent court investigation cleared him but his reputation was reduced and he left public life.[2][8]

Death and legacy[edit]

Benjamin died at his home "Canally" at the corner of George and Powlett Streets in East Melbourne[9] on 7 March 1905. He was survived by his wife Fanny, née Cohen, (c. 1839 – 18 February 1912) and 13 of his 16 children.[2] Lady Benjamin was a sister of Justice Cohen of Sydney.[10]

In 2009 a masonic apron believed to have been originally owned by Robert Burns and subsequently purchased by Benjamin was auctioned by Michael Bennett-Levy, a descendent of Benjamin.[11]


  1. ^ a b "Benjamin, Sir Benjamin". re-member. Parliament of Victoria. Retrieved 5 February 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Solomon, Geulah. "Benjamin, Sir Benjamin (1834–1905)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Solomon, Geulah. "Cohen, Edward (1822–1877)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  4. ^ "A growing congregation". Melbourne Hebrew Congregation. Archived from the original on 18 October 2009. Retrieved 4 February 2010. 
  5. ^ Mennell, Philip (1892). "Wikisource link to Benjamin, Hon. Sir Benjamin". The Dictionary of Australasian Biography. London: Hutchinson & Co. Wikisource 
  6. ^ Govor, Elena; Massov, Alexander (1988). ""Rynda" v gostiakh u avstraliitsev (k 110-letiyu vizita v Avstraliyu)". Avstraliada. Archived from the original on 20 November 2008. Retrieved 9 April 2009. 
  7. ^ Cannon, Michael (1995). "Sir Benjamin Benjamin and the Imperial Bank". The Land Boomers: The Complete Illustrated History. Melbourne Univ. Publishing. pp. 203–210. ISBN 0-522-84663-7. 
  8. ^ Nolan, Melanie (Autumn 2010). "Life sentences". ANU News. Australian National University. Retrieved 4 February 2010. 
  9. ^ "7. Elegant Enclave". That's Melbourne. City of Melbourne. Archived from the original on 18 April 2010. Retrieved 4 February 2010. 
  10. ^ "Obituary, Lady Benjamin". Jewish Herald (Vic. : 1879 - 1920). Vic.: National Library of Australia. 1 March 1912. p. 11. Retrieved 26 December 2015. 
  11. ^ McInnes, Yonnie (25 September 2009). "Robert Burns' Masonic apron for sale". Ayrshire Post. Retrieved 5 February 2010. 

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainJoseph Jacobs and Goodman Lipkind (1901–1906). "Benjamin, Sir Benjamin". In Singer, Isidore; et al. Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.