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James William Carmichael (1819-1903), businessman, shipowner and politician, was born on 16 December 1819 at New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, son of James Carmichael and Christian (McKenzie) Carmichael. He married Maria Jane (McColl) on 5 June 1851 and they had six children. Carmichael died 1 May 1903 at New Glasgow.
Carmichael attended Pictou Academy. He became a clerk in his father's business and, in the early 1850s, gradually assumed management of the family mercantile and shipping interests. By 1854 the firm was known as J .W. Carmichael and Company. Carmichael registered his first vessel, the Helen Stairs in 1851, and, between 1857 and 1869, built at least fourteen more vessels. By the 1870s his shipbuilding yards were the most prominent in Pictou County. He constructed his largest vessel, the 1174 ton Thiorva, in 1876.
Carmichael invested in other local business, including a steam sawmill and a tannery company. He was agent for the Bank of Nova Scotia (1866-86), president of the New Glasgow Marine Insurance Association, and chair of the New Glasgow Underwriters' Association. By diversifying his investments, Carmichael maintained a strong position in the Pictou economy.
In 1867 Carmichael was elected to the Nova Scotia Legislature as the Liberal member (MLA) for Pictou, and an opponent of confederation. He lost his seat in 1872, was re-elected in 1874, and was defeated in 1878, 1882, and 1896. Carmichael was appointed to the Senate (1898-1903). He was active in the community life of New Glasgow, taking part in various religious, civic and charitable organizations.
The firm of J. W. Carmichael continued after the death of James and his son. In 1962 the firm went into voluntary liquidation, bequeathing $670,000 to charitable organizations.
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