Local and National Leader: Adolphus Solomons (1826-1910)

Adolphus Solomons counseled local and national Jewish leaders on important issues of the day. An observant Sephardic Jew, he prayed at home, where he kept a Ner Tamid (eternal light) brought with him from New York’s Shearith Israel, the nation’s first congregation. Solomons’ bookstore supplied stationery to the House of Representatives during the Civil War.

As the Civil War got underway, Solomons played a pivotal role in convincing President Lincoln to allow Jews to become military chaplains. He served in the Washington, D.C., House of Delegates (1871) and on the Presidential Inauguration Committee for Ulysses S. Grant (1873). In 1876 he raised funds from New York financier Jacob Schiff for a synagogue building for a new congregation, Adas Israel. In 1881, he helped Clara Barton found the American Red Cross.

Solomons later returned to New York to administer the Baron de Hirsch Fund, an agency providing Jewish immigrants with vocational training and assistance.

We passed a pleasant Sabbath with Mr. Adolphus Solomons whose place of business [on] Pennsylvania Avenue is the resort of men of letters…he is one of the very few Israelites there who observe the Sabbath.

The Jewish Messenger, January 24, 1862

Adolphus Solomons (older)

Early 1870s: Solomons declined President Grant’s request to serve as Governor of Washington, D.C. (during a brief period of self-government), because the position required work on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.

Courtesy Lax Archives (Archives of B’nai B’rith), Washington, DC. Solomons Collection, gift of Col. and Mrs. F.B. Nihart, 1972

Adolphus Solomons (younger)

Solomons as a young man.

Courtesy Lax Archives (Archives of B’nai B’rith), Washington, DC. Solomons Collection, gift of Col. and Mrs. F.B. Nihart, 1972.

Solomon's home interior

Late 1800s: Solomons entertained many guests—including Charles Dickens—in his elegant home at 1205 K Street, NW. Here and in his bookshop, he advised fellow Jews on causes such as the need for Jewish chaplains in the military.

Courtesy Lax Archives (Archives of B’nai B’rith), Washington, DC. Solomons Collection, gift of Col. and Mrs. F.B. Nihart, 1972

Adolphus Solomons (older)
Adolphus Solomons (younger)
Solomon's home interior