Moses Samuel came to Liverpool as a child and subsequently established a clockmaking and jewellery business in Paradise Street. He was also an eminent Hebrew scholar, a multi-lingual writer who translated several important Hebrew works into English. By all accounts he was a much revered scholar but a notably unsuccessful businessman. However, whilst his scholarly achievements are now known by few, his children took over his ailing business and built it into the giant of the jewellery world H. Samuel, ensuring that his name lives on into the 21st century.
He was born in London, the son of a Polish immigrant Emanuel Menachem Samuel and his wife Hannah (née Hinde). His father having died in 1800, in around 1805 he and his mother came to Liverpool where his older brothers had already settled. He lived the rest of his life in the city, his pride in his adopted home ringing through when he wrote “all that is good has, in some degree, emanated from Liverpool”. He was largely self-taught, being said to have mastered twelve languages, including Chinese.
He was particularly noted as the translator and interpreter of the 18th century German philosopher and theologian Moses Mendelssohn, publishing English versions of his works and letters. He also translated a spurious Hebrew text, the Book of Jasher, which having been sold for publication in the United States was embraced by the Mormon ‘prophet’ Joseph Smith.
Whilst his brother Louis died a rich man from the profits of his jewellery business, Moses lived and died a relatively poor man, his only notable ‘wealth’ being a collection of rare Hebrew texts. His daughter-in-law Harriet (née Wolf) took over his business, moving to Manchester and opening a mail-order outlet. The first store of H. Samuel opened in Preston in 1890 and by 1914 the company boasted 50 retail shops.
The company was bought by Ratner’s in 1976 and when it was rebranded as the Signet Group existing Ratner’s stores were rebranded with the H. Samuel name.
Moses Samuel had various Liverpool addresses, including 15 Cornwallis Street L1 (1825) and 114 St James Street L1 (1829). For many years he lived at 20 Paradise Street L1, his shop being at No.36. At the time of his death he was living at Ranelagh Place, Mount Pleasant L3. All of these houses have since been demolished.
He married Harriet (née Israel) in 1821 and they had two daughters and three sons. The three sons all married daughters of Schreiner Wolf of Great Yarmouth, who was the first Mayor of Kimberley in the northern Cape Colony. He died on 17th April 1860 and was buried in the Jewish Cemetery at Deane Road.
One of the early H Samuel shops
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