Alexander Aaron Phillips: First Recorded Jewish Resident of Victoria, BC, 1858

Alexander Aaron Phillips

Values Codes I – H – L – P


Alexander Aaron Phillips was  born 1818, in London, England.


Along the way . . . .

At age 11, he went with his parents to Sydney, Australia, and then to the gold discoveries in California.

In San Francisco he learned the trades of baker and soda-water maker.


Victoria BC

Alexander Aaron Phillips arrived in Victoria, Vancouver Island, on the SS Panama in  1858, and established the Pioneer Syrup, Soda and Cider Works.

Phillips Syrup & Soda Adv, Victoria (photo-JMABC)

Phillips Syrup & Soda Adv, Victoria (photo-JMABC)

He is Victoria’s first recorded Jewish resident.

Phillips baked the first matzoh (Passover bread) in the Pacific Northwest, supplying Vancouver Island and Washington State.

He and his horse Sodawater, whose humorous antics were often chronicled in the newspaper, were familiar figures on Victoria’s streets.

Initially the factory was on Fort Street. Later, the successful entrepreneur owned a brick building at the corner of Blanchard and Fort Streets.

His son, Philip Aaron Phillips, joined him in the business in 1879, and by 1881 they had opened a branch, A. Phillips & Son, on Columbia Street in New Westminster.

During that time, Alexander also managed the company on Yates near Wharf Street.

Eventually, other children joined the firm.

Early 1900s Victoria Government Street Postcard Vintage Postcard


Alexander Aaron Phillips  was President of Congregation Emanu-El when the synagogue was consecrated in 1863.

Temple Emanu-El, Victoria, built, 1863, #WS0343

Temple Emanu-El, Victoria, built, 1863,  #WS0343


Phillips was a Founding Member of both the Masons and the International Order of Odd Fellows in Victoria.

He was also a member of the British Columbia Benevolent Society.

Mrs. A. Phillips was Vice-President of the Victoria Jewish Benevolent Society in 1877.



Alexander Aaron Phillips married his cousin, Rebecca, in San Francisco

They had five daughters and three sons.

Two of the Phillips’ daughters married two Mayer brothers from Seattle.

Descendants of the Phillips-Mayer family lay claim to being the oldest Jewish family in the Pacific Northwest.


Alexander Aaron Phillips died in in Seattle, Washington, in 1900.

Rebecca Phillips died in Seattle, Washington, in 1917.



  • 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 Alexander Aaron Phillips exhibit.