Franklin was born in Liverpool, England, the son of a banker and emigrated to San Francisco during the Gold Rush in October 1849 where he was joined by brother and two cousins. Another brother joined him in 1854. Franklin was one of the smart ones who joined the Gold Rush; he didn't try to strike it rich mining, he and his brother opened a store selling mining equipment and supplies. In 1851 they established Selim and Edward Franklin Real Estate and Auctioneers. Together they built a hotel, the Franklin House, on Sansome Street in 1852 which was one of the more upscale hotels in the city. The hotel housed permanent residents including physicians, attorneys and a judge. Their cousins relocated to San Diego and built the Franklin House there in 1855; it was the first three-story building in Southern California.
In 1858 Selim moved to Victoria, British Columbia where, with his brother Lumley, he opened Franklin and Company, Auctioneers and Land Agents. They listed real estate, furniture, cattle, and vehicles for auction. Because they were British-born, they were appointed as the first government auctioneers in Victoria and British Columbia. Selim also served as an adviser to Queen Victoria in the 1859 Oregon boundary dispute over the San Juan Islands.
In 1859 he was elected to the Legislature of British Columbia, becoming the first Jew to take a seat in any legislature in British North America. He achieved the title of Esquire and was a founding member of the Freemason lodge in Victoria. He was also Chairman of the Vancouver Island Exploring Expedition of 1864. The Franklin River on Vancouver Island is named for him and he and his brother founded the Victoria Philharmonic Society.
In 1866 he resigned from the Legislature and returned to San Francisco. In 1879 he served as a Trustee of the Mineral Fork Mining and Silver Company of Utah and in 1881 he served as a Trustee for the Geographical Society of the Pacific. His nephew, Selim M. Franklin, was elected to the Arizona Legislature in 1884 and later became a founder of the University of Arizona.
Somewhere in all his adventures and accomplishments Franklin managed to become recognized as a chess master. He played in the chess clubs in London, especially the Westminster Chess Club and Simpson's Divan Chess Room and 1857 he was on the Planning and Rules Committee for the first American Chess Congress held in New York. This was the tournament that propelled the 20-year-old Paul Morphy to fame.
In California, Franklin was President of the California Chess Congress of 1858 that established San Francisco as a world chess center. Three San Francisco chess clubs joined together to host the Congress: the Mechanic's Institute, the German Chess Club of San Francisco, and the Pioneer Chess Club. The Mechanic's Institute is still very much alive. Of course, Franklin won the tournament and the first prize of an expensive gold watch.
Franklin participated in several London chess matches from 1868–1871 and his last “serious” games were apparently against Johannes Zukertort. First, in a blindfold simultaneous in San Francisco at the Mechanics' Institute Chess Room in 1884; Franklin lost.
A few days later, on July 21, 1884, Zukertort defeated Franklin in an individual game also played at the Chess Room of the Mechanics’ Institute. Zukertort was on a tour of the country giving exhibitions and he had stopped in such out of the way places as Wyoming (then a territory, not yet a state!). There was only one known chess player in Wyoming, but he was 300 miles away so Zukertort never met him. From there he visited Utah (also a territory) which did have a few chess players. From there he went to San Francisco.
Franklin died in San Francisco in 1884.
Not many of his games seem to have survived and the few that I found were not of especially high quality, but here is one of his losses to Zukertort; it's the one that was played on July 21. Zukertort wins in crisp fashion.