George Ham and Company

It is a lucky thing George Ham and Co. took out advertisement in the Kingston Chronicle, as otherwise we would have no idea what kind of business they did - in fact we would probably have little idea that there was a store in the building and we would certainly be puzzled by the store space that physically survives since finished in beaded wooden planks, it is very different from the rest of the building.

Figure 1. Advertisement for George Ham and Co., Kingston Chronicle, Dec. 1 1820.

The 'Co.' part is Peter Ham. Before 1825 no deep-hulled vessels could reach the Great Lakes from the ocean meaning everything arrived by bateaux. Great fortunes were made in Kingston collecting fees for goods arriving from Montreal and transferring them to lake-going vessels, By the 1790's even greater fortunes were made in the trans-shipment of goods being exported from the region - particularly potash(1).

It appears the business of 'George Ham and Co.' was importing manufactured goods from Montreal, mainly bartering with the farmers for their grain, and selling the flour. Discovered near the outside foundation wall during its restoration were many tokens with a strong cluster of dates around 1820. With its great remoteness deep within the wilderness, real currency was rare in the colony of Upper Canada, and though legal tender such as Spanish reals were discovered, trade was mainly in tokens issued by merchants in the UK and British North America.


1. Bruce Wilson, "As She Began, An Illustrated Introduction to Loyalist Ontario", Dundurn, 1981