J. E. O'Conor

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James Edward O'Conor was an early member of the Theosophical Society and a statistician for the British government in India. He is known to Theosophists for his involvement in the Vega incident.

Personal life

Little is known of the personal life and education of Mr. O'Conor, except that he was born in 1843. Passenger lists indicate that his wife traveled with him between London and Bombay, but no children are listed. He died on January 8, 1917 in Upper Norwood, Surrey, in south London.[1]

J. E. O'Connor was a Freemason from 1863-1887. He was recorded as being initiated into the Masonic Calcutta Lodge called "Humility with Fortitude" on December 21, 1868.[2]


O'Conor was probably hired to work for the East India Company in the 1860s, but it was dissolved by June, 1874. Thereafter he continued in India, under the British Raj. As of 1877 he worked in the Secretariat of the "Viceroy and Governor-General of India, the Right Honorable Edward Robert Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, Baron Lytton" within the Revenue, Agriculture and Commerce Department. The Secretary (head) of the department at that time was A. O. Hume, and it was based in Calcutta.[3]

In 1885 he was Assistant Secretary of the Financial Department.[4] By 1890 he had became a "first class" civil servant as the Assistant Secretary to the Government of India, Finance and Commerce Department. He stayed in that position and had been awarded the honor of "C.I.E.," or Companion of the Indian Empire. By 1900 he rose to the position of Director-General of Statistics, Finance and Commerce Department of the Secretariat of the East India Company.

In the early 1900s O'Conor moved to Norwood, in southeast London.[5][6]His wife is not mentioned in historical records again after a trip from England to Australia on the ship Macedonia, so she may have died.[7]

Theosophical Society connections

Vega incident

Under Construction
Under Construction
O'Conor was traveling to England in March, 1882 aboard the ship Vega. William Eglinton, the prominent medium, was also aboard, and each of them wrote a letter to Helena Petrovna Blavatsky.

See account in D, pp. 188-9) and LBS, Letters X and XI, pp. 13-21. He was a friend of Mrs. Minnie Scott.

Professional writings

O'Conor issued many reports and statistical studies in the course of his work. A few have survived as booklets.

  • Lac: Production, Manufacture, and Trade. Calcutta, Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, 1876. (3rd edition. This was about shellac. 83 pages.
  • Vanilla: Its Cultivation in India. Calcutta : Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, 1881 (revised edition). 25 pages with illustrations.
  • The Price of Silver in London and the Exchange Value of the Rupee in India from 1st January 1892 to 30th June 1896. [Simla, India], 1896. 14 pages. "Reissue of a diagram and comments explanatory of it (with slight changes) of the author's review of the trade of India, published in 1896, together with the tables from which the diagram was constructed."

He was credited with contributions to other publications:

  • The Imperial Gazetteer of India Volume III: Economic. Oxford, 1908. Chapter V on Commerce and Trade was based on materials O'Conor supplied.


  1. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995.
  2. England, United Grand Lodge of England Freemason Membership Registers, 1751-1921. Folio Number 200.
  3. UK, Registers of Employees of the East India Company and the India Office, 1746-1939. 1877. Page 17.
  4. UK, Registers of Employees of the East India Company and the India Office, 1746-1939. 1885. Page 26. See also 1888, page 17.
  5. UK, City and County Directories, 1766 - 1946. 1911 and 1913.
  6. England Census Summary Book for 1911.
  7. UK and Ireland, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960. 12 Oct 1905.