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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Emanuel, Isidore Samuel (1860–1954)

by G. C. Bolton

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Isadore Samuel Emanuel (1860-1954), pastoralist, was born on 4 February 1860 at Goulburn, New South Wales, son of Solomon Emanuel junior (d.1898), merchant and pastoralist, and his wife Sarah, née Myers; he was a grandson of Samuel Emanuel (1803-68) member of the Legislative Assembly for Argyle in 1862. Isadore and his brother Sydney Phillip (1861-1919) were educated locally and worked in the family business, including a Sydney livery stable. When the Kimberley district of Western Australia was opened for pastoral settlement in 1880 Solomon Emanuel joined with Patrick and Michael Durack in applying for large tracts of country on the Ord River, but following a reconnaissance in 1882, the Emanuels decided to concentrate on the Fitzroy valley in West Kimberley. Isadore arrived there in January 1884 with 2860 sheep, and during the next five years established a major sheep station at Noonkanbah and cattle-runs at Margaret Downs (Gogo) and Lower Liveringa. They were efficient pastoralists who chose good managers and earned high returns, though at the risk of overstocking. Although Isadore advocated the segregation on reserves of Aboriginals who interfered with his enterprise, in practice Aboriginals comprised a major part of their workforce, and were used as shearers on Noonkanbah at least until 1916.

In 1894 Isadore and Sydney entered into partnership with Alexander Forrest, obtaining a virtual monopoly as agents for the trade in live cattle between Derby and Fremantle. The Emanuels were responsible for the purchase of stock from other Kimberley pastoralists, and expanded the firm's station interests by acquiring shares in Jubilee Downs and Meda. After Forrest's death in 1901 they bought out his share of the firm, and in 1902 together with (Sir) Sidney Kidman acquired Australia's largest pastoral property, Victoria River Downs in the Northern Territory. Either solely or in partnership, the Emanuel brothers held an interest in over 20,000 sq. miles (51,800 km²) in the Kimberley and the adjacent part of the Northern Territory—the largest pastoral empire in the district. They also held a substantial investment in the wholesale and retail meat trade in Western Australia. Press and politicians condemned them as leaders in a 'meat ring' but a royal commission into the industry in 1908 found little cause for criticism.

After travelling to Europe in 1900, as Western Australian commissioner to the Paris Universal International Exhibition, Isadore Emanuel settled in Perth. On 24 August 1902 he married Muriel Urella O'Meehan; they occupied one of Perth's finest houses, close to King's Park, of which Emanuel became a trustee. A well-known character in Edwardian Perth, Emanuel was considered a shrewd, reserved personality, very knowledgeable about horses and a keen racing man, an habitué of the Weld Club, and never seen in public without an umbrella in his hand. He donated a prize for the best carriage horses to the Royal Agricultural Society of Western Australia and a shield for competition among the squadrons of the local Light Horse unit; he also consistently supported the Liberal League with donations.

In 1909 the Emanuels and Kidman sold Victoria River Downs to Bovril Australian Estates Ltd for £170,000 (the purchase price in 1902 had been £20,000). After the return of a Labor government in Western Australia Emanuel decided in 1912 to move to London where he remained for the rest of his life. He kept a vigilant eye on the family's pastoral interests in the Kimberley until his death aged 93 on 5 January 1954. He was survived by his wife and three sons. His gross estate in England and Australia was valued at over £1 million.

Select Bibliography

  • University Studies in History and Economics, 2 (1954), no 2, p 1
  • Pastoral Review, Feb, Mar 1954
  • West Australian, 8 Jan 1954
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 22 Oct 1957.

Citation details

G. C. Bolton, 'Emanuel, Isidore Samuel (1860–1954)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 18 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

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