Silvermans Linked to Sudbury’s Rich Jewish History – Gary Peck

The Atlantic has served as a favorite, well-travelled route for the pioneer who cast his eyes westward. For numerous reasons, some more obvious than others, Canada and the United States have attracted their share with Canada alone settling over three million newcomers in the years 1896-1914. In 1906, Lord Strathacona, formerly Donald Smith of the CPR, predicted a population of at least 80 million by the end of the twentieth century – the century Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier boasted belonged to Canada. It was a time of optimism.

Prior to the wave of newcomers associated with the Laurier years, 1896-1911, the Silverman’s of Poland traversed the Atlantic, landing in New York. Three brothers – Aaron, Myer and Miram – soon would reach Algoma district and make Sudbury their home.
Aaron Silverman had been in his early teens when he arrived in New York. Employment in a clothing factory terminated when the factory closed. Soon he would be in Algoma district. It appears Aaron first saw Sudbury when the camp was but a clearing with a few buildings, having arrived in either 1884 or 1885. Sudbury was not initially to his liking. Before returning, his wandering would take Aaron to Webbwood, Trout Creek, back to New York where he opened a store, and a return to the north, settling in Wahnapitae for two years, calling the Queen’s Hotel home.


Young Silverman was but a teenager when in Wahnapitae. Arriving with a pack on his back, Aaron Silverman sold clothes to the few local communities and camps. By 1889 he would be in Sudbury.
On September 10, 1895, Aaron Married Rosa Greenblatt of New York, her parents, also having come from Poland. The bride accompanied the businessman to Sudbury – a town that definitely would have a degree of uniqueness to someone from New York. Shortly after, the bride returned to New York for the birth of their first child. Saul, born in Sept. 10, 1896. The next five children, Manuel, Jack, Mollie, Sylvia and Elaine, would be born in Sudbury, growing up in the community when the family home was at 8 Beech West, now Lam Optical.
Myer Silverman also arrived in the village of Sudbury in 1889. At the onset, he operated a men’s furnishings store until 1894, when he moved west to Copper Cliff for a few years. Upon his return, Myer sold his wares from a frame building on Elgin and then from a store fronting Elm at 24 Elm East. Mayer’s wife, Sara Riva Benjamin, also hailed from Poland. Their family included one son, Max, born in New York on Aug. 24, 1899. Max, or Maxie as so many came to know him by, had two younger sisters, Lena and Belle, and two older, Minnie and Rose. For the Meyer Silverman family, home was at 177 Louis, a home that no longer stands.
The third brother, Hiram, presumably also arrived in Sudbury close to, it not at, the same time as his brothers. His stay in Sudbury was not, it appears, as long as that of his brothers. Of interest, though, is that Hiram’s daughter was the first Jewish girl to be married in Sudbury. In 1908, over 75 guests were present at the Opera House when       H. Spaner of Kenora and Hiram’s only daughter, Tilly Silverman, were married. Bridesmaids were Miss Ethel Rothschild, maid of honor. Rabbi Kaplan of Toronto performed there ceremony.
Dates conflict, but there appears to be evidence that Aaron Silverman, with his brothers, were in business by 1890. Again, there is confusion about where the first operation was, but one source indicates the brothers began on Elgin and shortly thereafter, also operated on Elm. Certainly, by 1900, Aaron, Hiram and Meyer were partners but in October, 1901, the partnership dissolved. Aaron operated independently from his brothers. In 1902, Meyer Silverman would hang the sign “M. Silverman – The Ottawa Bargain Store.” The store would have a variety of locations, with one being on Elm, opposite that of one of his brothers.
There was a time when disagreements were settled in a variety of ways, including the ever-popular fight. In 1902, excitement was created when brothers, Myer and Aaron, reported to settling their differences with their firsts. After both had dissolved their partnership in 1901, numerous quarrels ensued, “culminating in a regular rough-and-tumble on (a) Saturday night in which both were pretty badly punished.” Both were fined each $20 and costs amounting to $29. It appears, henceforth, their energies and talents would be channeled elsewhere.
The Silverman family has been part of Sudbury’s business community for three generations. In fact their family business appears to be the fourth oldest family business in Canada. Two sons, Saul and Max, would be and are well remembered in the community for their involvement and significant contributions in the area of sports, politics and business.

Also, it appears, the family is well-remembered in Toronto for the Royal Ontario Museum has on display, in their textile gallery, garments from the Silverman family. There, until March 31, 1979, visitors will have an opportunity to view a costume collection formed by Mrs. Saul A. Silverman. The collection spans four generations of the family that lived in Montreal, Sudbury and Toronto.

Highlighted are three wedding dresses: the 1903 dress worn by Mrs. Silverman’s mother, Mrs. Silverman’s own worn in 1932, and a 1963 dress worn by Mrs. Judith Silverman Teller. Also included are a number of other garments in the display appropriately entitled “Fashion in a Family.” The ROM display is one that should be of particular interest to many in this area. 

Gary Peck is a retired Sudbury high-school teacher with a passion for history.