14a["Socialites at Broome", The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), Sunday 07 August 1910, 3rd Section p1]


Once a year a magnificent blow-out occurs at the spacious bungalo of Pearl-buyer Davis, partner and general manager of the wealthy Hebrew firm of Rubin and Co. Mark Rubin originally carried a pack to the White Cliffs opal fields; later he came with the spoils to buy pearls and establish the business of Rubin and Co. According to popular report, Mark amassed quite half a million sterling, and now lives among the rich Jews of London.

* * * * *

Months ahead the cards are out notifying such as are deemed fit and proper persons of the approaching shivoo. 'Twas a gorgeous scene the other night, when some hundred and fifty of the best filed through the brightly-lighted grounds of Davis's residence into the ballroom. Costly and beautiful dresses, equal to the choicest worn by the haut ton of the metropolis, swished among the pot-plants and creepers trailing about the verandahs. Pearls, however, though won from the deep close by, did not sparkle on showy bosoms to any extent. Men appeared in dress suits despite the sultry atmosphere, in accordance with an accepted rule practised all the year round, even in sweltering mid-summer. Lord Chesterfield laid down the axiom that to succeed it was necessary to put on a black coat and go into society, but Broome wears dark, hot and heavy garments at public functions because it's English, you know. The inhabitants have long followed the example of the cable-house which wouldn't get out of the conservative rut of the old country for the world. Even when attending the deliberations of that imposing body, the "Broome Literary and Debating Society," which happen now and again with as much solemnity as surrounds the debates of the Federal Parliament, men and women came on view in evening dress. Nevertheless the peal-buyer's annual "swarry," quoting somebody in the crowd, was a picturesque and fascinating exposition of the wealth that lies within the pearling port of the Nor'-West.


14b[Low, James Galloway, Letters, 1904-91, Battye Library, MN681, ACC2612A, Letter from Jim to his sister Jane, 20 September 1912]


We had Mark Rubin the Pearl King out here recently, his London office is on the next floor to the De Beers diamond people and he is quite a big man, more than a millionaire, made mostly of pearls and pearl shell, he admits to having made £80,000 last year and in appearance he looks like a Jew peddler but he has a head on him, it is the first time I have had the opportunity of sitting at the same table as one of these people, he got outside his tucker in very plebian style.



RUBIN, MARK (1867?-1919), pearl dealer and pastoralist, and BERNARD (1896-1936), sportsman, were father and son. Mark was born probably in 1867 at Salantai in the province of Kovno, Russia (Lithuania), son of Louis Rubinstein, medical practitioner, and his wife Hannah, née Smitkin. He left Russia as a young man and lived for a time at Cardiff, Wales, before reaching Sydney in December 1886. He moved to Melbourne in February 1887. With little English, he worked at odd jobs, including a spell as a wharf labourer, before investing his savings in haberdashery which he hawked round the city in a wheelbarrow. After acquiring a horse and buggy he extended his business into country areas. For several years he was an opal miner and dealer at White Cliffs, New South Wales. On returning to Melbourne, he was naturalized in January 1893. He became a jeweller and married Rebecca, daughter of Woolf Davis, a well-known figure in the Melbourne Jewish community, on 23 October 1895 at Carlton.

Soon after 1900 Mark moved to Broome, Western Australia, centre of the pearling industry, where he quickly became a leading pearl dealer, travelling yearly to London. He also owned a large pearling fleet. About 1901 the family moved to London, although Mark continued to spend most of his time in Australia. Believing that war in Europe was inevitable and that wool would be more in demand than pearls, he bought several large sheep stations in 1912-13, including de Grey and Warrawagine near Port Hedland, Western Australia, and Northampton Downs in Queensland. He also transferred his pearl-dealing business to London and Paris. Mark died at Fontainebleau, France, on 6 November 1919, leaving a fortune. His will requested that he be buried in the Jewish cemetery, Melbourne, and a special request was entered that his family return to live in Australia and his sons marry without delay and take an active interest in Jewish communal affairs. The running of the family business was left to his younger son Harold de Vahl (1899-1964), who achieved fame as an art collector and philanthropist.


Select Bibliography

J. S. Battye (ed), The History of the North West of Australia (Perth, 1915); H. Birkin, Full Throttle (Lond, 1932); O. Cathcart-Jones, Aviation Memoirs (Lond, 1934); I. L. Idriess, Forty Fathoms Deep (Syd, 1937); J. D. Benjafield, The Bentleys of Le Mans (Abingdon, Eng, 1948); A. F. C. Hillstead, Those Bentley Days (Lond, 1953); N. Bartlett, The Pearl Seekers (Lond, 1954); D. Berthon, A Racing History of the Bentley (1921-31) (Lond, 1956); W. O. Bentley, An Illustrated History of the Bentley Car 1919-1931 (Lond, 1964); E. Nagle, The Other Bentley Boys (Lond, 1964); W. O. Bentley, My Life and My Cars (Lond, 1967); A. Swinson, The Great Air Race (Lond, 1968); M. A. Bain, Full Fathom Five (Perth, 1982); H. Edwards, Port of Pearls (Adel, 1983); E. P. Wixted, The North-West Aerial Frontier 1919-1934 (Brisb, 1985); Autocar, 26 Oct 1928, 3 July 1936, 10 June 1978; Australian Jewish Herald, 14 Oct 1921; Argus, 6 Apr, 3 May 1934; Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Apr 1934, 7 Mar 1964, 4 Oct 1972, 16 Apr 1983; Times (London), 2 May 1934, 1, 4 July 1936; Sunday Telegraph (Sydney), 20 Oct 1957; West Australian, 30 July 1963; Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 7 Mar 1964; Courier Mail (Brisbane), 4 Feb 1966; Daily Mirror (Sydney), 21 Apr 1977. More on the resources

Author: John Playford

Print Publication Details: John Playford, 'Rubin, Mark (1867? - 1919)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, Melbourne University Press, 1988, pp 474-475.