Samuel Solomon (1745—1819): quack or entrepreneur?

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Dr Samuel Solomon's name is unlikely to have any particular significance for most people today. Even in Liverpool, where he gained fame and fortune, very few would be capable of identifying him.1 Some Liverpool Jews, having heard their parents or grandparents refer admiringly to 'Dr Cowan' or 'Dr Lowenthal', might imagine him to have been a devoted physician who treated the sick, perhaps without charge, in the early decades of the twentieth century. Yet Samuel Solomon was neither a general practi? tioner nor a communal worthy. He made his name over 200 years ago on the strength of patent medicines that he devised and marketed with brilliant advertising and vast commercial success.2

Although it is generally assumed that the facts regarding Solomon's life and career are too well known to require further investigation, references to him in many books show gaps and inconsistencies even about when and where he was born, who his parents were, how he began his career and when he died. The Jewish Encyclopedia claims that Solomon was born (no place mentioned) in 1780 and died in London in 1818. A more recent work gives 'ca. 1853' as the year of his death.3 The new DNB entry by T. A. B. Corley repeats the common mistake regarding his year of birth ('1768 or 1769') and maintains that 'neither the identity of his parents nor the place of

1 This revised version of a lecture first presented to the Liverpool branch of the Society on 10 June 2007 was delivered to the Israel branch in Jerusalem on 7 December 2008. It marked the designation of Liverpool as Europe's 'Capital of Culture' 2008.

2 For biographical data, see Recollections of Old Liverpool by a Nonagenarian (Liverpool 1863; reprinted 2007) 136-8; B. L. Benas, Records of the Jews in Liverpool (Liverpool 1900) 13-16; Jewish Encyclopedia XI (1906) 457; Louis Hyman, The Jews of Ireland from Earliest Times to the Year 1910 (London/Jerusalem 1972) index; Bill Williams, The Making of Manchester Jewry (Manchester 1976) 14-16; Richard Whittington-Egan, 'Solomon in All His Glory', The Liverpolitan (Oct. 1951) 21-3, republished in his Liverpool Characters and Eccentrics (Liverpool 1985) 15-20; Roy Porter, Health for Sale: Quackery in England 1660-1850 (Manchester 1989), reprinted as Quacks, Fakers and Charlatans in English Medicine (Stroud 2004) 179, 253; T. A. B. Corley, 'Solomon, Samuel (1768/9-1819), manufacturer of patent medicines', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online edition, 2004).

3 William Donaldson, Brewer's Rogues, Villains and Eccentrics: An A-Z of Roguish Britons through the Ages (London 2002). His 'Solomon' entry has many errors and inconsistencies.


Plate i Portrait of Samuel Solomon, MD, his hand resting on A Guide to Health and with his spurious coat of arms displayed below, after a painting by I. Steel Bath. (Photograph by Arnold Lewis, courtesy of Liverpool Central Records Office

his birth is known'.4 In researching this paper I consulted virtually every? thing written about Samuel Solomon, as well as his own publication, A Guide to Health, which had a wide

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