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James Gamble (1803 - 1891):
Industrialist; detergent manufacturer

James Gamble is today a household name, Gamble having been the partner of William Procter; they formed the partnership of Procter & Gamble, which became and remains one of the world’s leading and best-known multinational companies, whose products range in 2012 covers  many domestic and personal products and includes 25 “billion-dollar brands”, that is, brands which generate annual world sales of over one billion dollars (USD). 

James Gamble was born at Graan, near Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, eldest son of George Gamble, whose brother was Josias Gamble, a pioneer in the chemical industry. James was educated at the prestigious Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, and emigrated with the family to Canada and ultimately the United States of America, settling in Cincinnati, Ohio where his father established a horticultural nursery. After a period of illness James Gamble was apprenticed to a soap-maker before setting up his own business in the late 1820s, with a series of partners before William Procter, an English-born candlemaker, his partner from 1837. Their acquaintanceship was initially not commercial but personal, as they were romantically linked and later married to two sisters, Elizabeth Ann and Olivia Norris, who had immigrated from Belfast. Their father has been credited with recognising the compatibility of the business concerns of his sons-in-law: soap and candles used the same raw materials such as animal oils, easily obtainable in Cincinnati’s meatpacking houses. The business became very successful, partly due to the expansion of the railway network and by 1859 had sales in excess of one  million dollars (USD). It was awarded contracts to supply the union armies with soap and candles during the American Civil War, and in 1879 began the manufacture of “Ivory” soap, which became one of its most significant and best-known products; it even had a district of New York City named after it (Port Ivory; the company had a manufactury there). 

Gamble outlived his wife Elizabeth Ann and died at home in Cincinnati.

Born: 3 April 1803
Died: 29 April 1891
Richard Froggatt

Professor Sir Peter Froggatt

Bibliography:; Dictionary of Irish Biography