Selim Franklin: Jewish Pioneer of Victoria, Canada, 1858

Selim Franklin

Values Codes I-H-E-L-P


Selim Franklin was born in 1814, the son of Miriam and Lewis Franklin, a Liverpool banker and marble importer.

The Franklins had nine sons and two daughters, at least three of whom, Selim, Lumley, and Edward as well as their cousins Benjamin, Maurice, and Lewis came to the Pacific Coast.


San Francisco

After the discovery of gold in California, Selim boarded the St. George in April 1849, the first ship to sail directly from London to San Francisco, and landed October 1849.

He opened a large store and helped to found the city’s Chamber of Commerce.

Selim was successful until an 1851 fire ruined his business.

He then became an auctioneer and real estate dealer, buying large holdings on Battery Street and Sacramento Street in San Francisco.



1858 gold discoveries lured Franklin Selim to Victoria, where he established Selim Franklin &  Co., an auctioning firm and land agency on Yates Street.

He purchased numerous properties. Selim was soon joined by his older brother, Lumley.


As the only qualified auctioneer with British citizenship in the two colonies, Franklin was engaged by the government.

In 1859, he was appointed Foreman of the Grand Jury of the Colony.

In 1860, he was elected to the second Legislative Assembly of Vancouver Island, making him the third Jew to be elected to a legislature in British North America.

However, with the passage of the Oaths Bill in June 1860, it became impossible for a Jew to take the requisite Christian oath in the House of Commons.

He objected to the union of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, and resigned his seat in the legislature.

He returned to San Francisco in 1866.


Return to San Francisco

Selim Franklin passed away in 1885.

We have no record of wife or children.

The Franklin River on Alberni Canal is named for Selim.



  • Cyril Leonoff, editor, “Pioneer Jews of British Columbia,” Western States Jewish History 37/3&4
  • Sarah H. Tobe, “Lured North of the 49th: Jewish Colonial Roots,” Western States Jewish History 46/2&3.
  • Archives of Sarah H. Tobe, Cyril E. Leonoff, Christopher J.P. Hanna, and David Rome. 

Sarah H. Tobe is curator of this Henry Nathan Jr. exhibit.