Joseph Boscowitz, Early Jewish Pioneer of the Seal Fur and Mining Industries of Victoria, BC

Joseph Boscowitz

Values Codes I – E – L – P

Joseph Boscowitz of Victoia 1914 (JMABC)

Joseph Boscowitz of Victoria 1914 (JMABC)


Joseph Boscowitz was born in Germany in 1834.

He came to Victoria from San Francisco where he was well known.

In 1858, Boscowitz owned a fur store on Wharf and Bastion Streets, in Victoria.

J Boscowitz store on Yates Street, Victoria, 1860's, #WS0357

J Boscowitz store, Victoria, 1860’s,  #WS0357

For a short time, he owned a tobacco store at 7 Yates Street.

In 1868, the stock of the firm L. & J. Boscowitz was sold, and he entered Victoria’s tiny sealing industry.



In 1871, Boscowitz had stores in Clayoqout Sound and Washington state.

By 1886, Joseph Boscowitz’s new firm had become a leader in the sealing industry.

He also operated several stores in northern and central Vancouver Island, where it traded seal skins with Indians still hunting from their own canoes.

Sealing developed into one of the colony’s most important industries — operating ships and schooners in the North Pacific.

Toothpick Holder from the SS Barbara Boscowitz with Victoria Flag.

Porcelain Toothpick Holder from the  Boscowitz S.S. Co. with Victoria pennant.

Boscowitz partnered in The British Columbia Merchants Line.

One ship had a semi-monthly schedule between Victoria, Nanaimo, New Westminster, and San Francisco.

The Merchants Line Fleet included their new steamer, Barbara Boscowitznamed for his daughter.

Boscowitz, with partners and various sea captains, founded the Boscowitz Steamship Co., with a fleet of “steam schooners” catching pelagic seals in the North Pacific and Behring Sea, selling these seal skins in Victoria, San Francisco, New York, and London.

Throughout the years, Boscowitz continued in businesses variously as Boscowitz & Son, J. Boscowitz, and then J. & A. Boscowitz (1895) on Wharf and Fort Streets.

By 1896, Joseph Boscowitz and his sons, David and Leopold, became involved in the early financing and development of the Britannia Mine“a mountain of copper” on Howe Sound. It eventually became the largest copper mine in British Columbia.

Deep inside the Britainnica Copper Mine.

Deep inside the Britannia Copper Mine.


Mrs. Boscowitz was prominent in the Victoria Jewish Ladies’ Benevolent Society.



Joseph Boscowitz married Leah Phillips about 1846.

Their four children were: David Aaron, born 1866; Leopold, born 1868; Barbara, born 1869; and Leah, born 1871.


Joseph Boscowitz died in 1923

David Aaron Boscowitz, Victoria

David Aaron Boscowitz, Victoria


Leopold Boscowitz, Victoria

Leopold Boscowitz, Victoria


  • Cyril Leonoff, “Pioneer Jews of British Columbia,” Western States Jewish History 37/3&4
  • Archives of Sarah H. Tobe, Cyril E. Leonoff, Christopher J.P. Hanna, and David Rome.
  • “Warren, James Douglas,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography,”

Sarah H. Tobe is curator of this Joseph Boscowitz exhibit.


The Giant Bunkhouse for the workers at the Britainnia Copper mine at the 1920's

The Giant Bunkhouse for the workers at the Britannia Copper mine in the 1920’s