Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: James Isham (c1716-1761)

Fur trader.

Born at Holborn, London, England around 1716, he first joined the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1732 as a writer. With occasional visits home, he remained at the Bay until his death. He became Chief Factor at York Factory in 1737, and as well as becoming intimately knowledgeable about the fur trade, he managed to send unusual bird specimens to London, which were employed by the naturalist George Edwards in his Natural History of Uncommon Birds (1750). In 1741 he was transferred to Churchill. In ill health, he went to England in 1745 with a collection of manuscript writings on the fur trade and the Bay, including an early vocabulary of Cree. Isham became involved in the controversy initiated by Arthur Dobbs, because he had been friendly with Christopher Middleton while at the Bay in 1741. Ordered to Flamborough House in 1750, he instead stayed at York Factory following the drowning of its Chief Factor, and served there until 1761. Isham did not publish his work, and he remained known mainly through the writings of others until the publication of James Isham’s Observations on Hudson Bay, 1743, edited by E. E. Rich (1949).

See also:

“Assistant to York:” The Ambiguous Role of Flamborough House, 1749-1759 by Scott Stephen
Manitoba History, Number 62, Winter 2009

James Isham (c1716-1761): How an Eighteenth Century Fur Trader is Influencing Canada Today by Scott Stephen
Manitoba History, Number 68, Spring 2012

James Isham, Dictionary of Canadian Biography III, 301-4.


Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 21 December 2017

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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