Members of the Sephardi community, Philip Benjamin (1779-1853) and Rebecca de Mendes (undetermined-1847) married in London, England around 1807. Rebecca was the daughter of merchant Solomon de Mendes, who moved the family from Holland to England around the time of her birth. Philip was born in the British colony of Nevis in the Caribbean. After their marriage, the couple is said to have run a small dried fruit business in London. By 1809, however, they were living on the island of Saint Croix—then part of the Danish West Indies. There, Rebecca and Philip’s two oldest children, Rebecca Benjamin Levy (1809-1884) and Judah Benjamin (1811-1884), were born. In 1813, the Benjamin family moved to Fayetteville, North Carolina, and by 1821 they were living in Charleston, South Carolina. In Charleston, Philip initially worked as a merchant at 169 King Street, selling tallow. By 1824, he had moved next door to 165 King Street and had opened a second store at 105 ½ Bay Street. At this time, Benjamin appears to have been in the construction supply business, based on a newspaper advertisement from that year in which he was selling “patent steel brick moulds.”1 By 1826, Philip had opened a grocery, liquor, and produce store on the “south corner of King and Beresford (known today as Clifford) Streets.”2 Philip moved that store to the corner of Ann and King Streets in 1827. In May of that year, Philip store went out of business, and its contents were sold at a sheriff’s sale. Taking charge of the situation, Rebecca opened her own grocery store in August 1827. By 1830, Philip had again opened his own business, this time a fruit shop at 16 St. Philip Street.
1 “Notice to Brick Makers,” The Charleston Daily Courier, July 9, 1824.
2 P. Benjamin advertisement, The Charleston Daily Courier, April 5, 1826.
Main Image: P. Benjamin advertisement. Reprinted from The Charleston Daily Courier, April 5, 1826.