Vaiben Solomon – dubbed ’Mr Everything’ in the Australian Dictionary of Biography – was a most remarkable Old Scotch Collegian.
Of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives, two are named after Scotch Collegians. One is Reid, named after Scotch’s Prime Minister. The other is Solomon, centred around Darwin in the Northern Territory, named after Vaiben Louis Solomon (1867).
A businessman, Solomon first went to the Northern Territory in the gold rush of 1873. Soon he opened his own store and agency (auctioneers, shipping, mining estate and general commission agents). Dubbed ‘Mr Everything’, says Peter Donovan in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, because there were few pursuits to which he would not turn his hand, Solomon invested in mining and in 1884 promoted the North Australian Pearl Fishing Co of which he was manager and secretary.
Vaiben Louis Solomon
by unknown photographer,
1900s, courtesy of
National Library of Australia.
‘He lost heavily on both ventures … From mid-1885 until mid-1890 Solomon owned and edited the Northern Territory Times and Gazette. A foundation member of the local council, when the Northern Territory was granted parliamentary representation in South Australia’s House of Assembly, Solomon was returned at the head of the poll in April 1890.
‘Powerfully built, with a heavy, dark beard, Solomon was a dynamic, prominent and popular citizen of Palmerston [the original name of Darwin]. His nickname, “Black Solomon”, derived from the occasion when – for a dare – he blackened himself to resemble an Aborigine and walked naked through the town.’
He was Premier of South Australia in 1899, but only for one week.
He sat in the Australasian Federal Convention in 1897 and helped draft the Federal Constitution. In 1901, he was elected to the first Commonwealth Parliament. GS