Swire Papers

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of notes and papers collected by Professor Hyde on the Swire family and the John Swire and Sons company. The records include copies of letters selected from of the shipping firm of John Swire and Sons Ltd, together with material on the family history and related topics, there are covering letters and notes by Professor Hyde. The Swire Papers contain the notes and some correspondence of Professor Hyde relating to John Swire and Sons Ltd including notes made on the Roose family, articles on the shipping and John Swire and Sons by various authors and Swire letter books and press copies of correspondence between John Swire and Sons and Alfred Holt & Co.

Administrative / Biographical History

This administrative history has used Mariner, Sheila and Hyde, Francis E.The senior John Samuel Swire, 1825-98: management in Far Eastern shipping trades.Liverpool University Press, 1967 and the Swire Group website swire.com to create this administrative history

John Swire was a Yorkshireman, he was born in Halifax his father and grandfather were both in the woollen industry but were both declared bankrupt. In his teens John Swire left for Liverpool to seek his fortune. He began work as an apprenticeship but soon struck out in business on his own. John Swire was married to Maria Loose John Swire became a trader and by the time of his death in 1847 he left his sons John Samuel and William Hudson with a small but profitable business and 1000 each in capital to continue the business. John Swire was married to Maria Louisa Roose on 27 August 1822, they had two sons, John Samuel Swire born on the 24 December 1825 and William Hudson Swire born on the 5 February 1830. After the birth of his two sons John Swire changed the company name to John Swire and Sons in 1832. After the death of John Swire Senior in 1847 his sons took charge of the family business. John Samuel Swire (1825-1898 ) was a formidable man, he lived for business. By the time of his fathers death John Samuel was already an accomplished business man, in his 20's he travelled widely throughout the Unites States. He then set sail for Australia, to reportedly prospect for gold and to search for new business opportunities. This culminated in the opening of a branch office in Melbourne in 1855 and established the creation of Swire Bros. This established a growing export trade to Australia of all manner of goods.

In 1865 an opportunity to expand the market in China arose, as an old friend of John Samuel Swire, Alfred Holt made a business proposal. Holt had designed a new type of steam ship, it would be fast but low on fuel consumption, with the new steamers he intended to dominate the Liverpool-Far East fast service Holt wanted Swire to invest in Holts shipping line and in return Holt would make Swire his China agent if he set up his own office in Shanghai. Swire saw this as a great opportunity and in 1866 they formed a partnership with R.S. Butterfield a Yorkshire textile manufacturer. They opened their first office in Shanghai in 1867 as Butterfield and Swire and created firms in England and America. However this partnership was to be short lived as in 1868 it came to an end, with Swire taking sole charge of Butterfield and Swire in Shanghai and Butterfield taking the English and American firms. The firm was given the Chinese name Taikoo meaning Great and Ancient, in keeping with the local tradition, it is still known by this name in Asia today. Mary Swire died in 1869 leaving John with a young son, in 1870 the firms head office moved from the Liverpool branch to London the death of his wife could of influenced this decision. Now that Swire had a firm foothold in China he intended to exploit its potential even further and saw the Yangtzee River as a great opportunity to trade with China's interior. In order to exploit this market Swire again sought the backing of Alfred Holt and of Holts shipbuilders Scotts Shipbuilding & Engineering Company of Greenock and formed the China Navigation Company, which was highly successful in the region. The firm went on to to further growth in the Eastern market with the creation of a sugar refinery and after the John Swires death the building of the Taikoo Dockyard. The firm has since gone from strength to strength and Swire and Sons Ltd has become the London based parent company for an international corporation the Swire Group of wide range of interests from airlines, owning Cathay Pacific, to shipping, haulage and even owning franchises in coca cola products.

Arrangement

The collection has been arranged into two groups 

  • Swire Family History
  • Shipping. Swire Correspondence

Conditions Governing Access

Access is open to bona fide researchers

Acquisition Information

The Swire Papers were given to the University of Liverpool in October 1975  by Professor F.E.Hyde

Note

This administrative history has used Mariner, Sheila and Hyde, Francis E.The senior John Samuel Swire, 1825-98: management in Far Eastern shipping trades.Liverpool University Press, 1967 and the Swire Group website swire.com to create this administrative history

Other Finding Aids

A finding aid is available in the reading room.

Alternative Form Available

The transcripts of letter books and the correspondence with Alfred Holt are copies from the archives of Swire and Sons which are held at London University School of Oriental and African Studies Library.

Archivist's Note

This collection level description was created in February 2004 for the archives hub.

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction and licensing rules available on request

Appraisal Information

All of the material deposited with the Swire Papers have been preserved.

Accruals

There are no anticipated accruals.

Related Material

We also hold the papers of Professor F.E. Hyde reference no. D302 created during his writing of the History of Cunard.

London University School of Oriental and African Studies Library hold the archive of John Swire and Sons Ltd. dating from 1866-1967

Location of Originals

The original letter books from which we hold typescript copies and the correspondence with Alfred Holt which we hold original press copies of the original letters are held at London University School of Oriental and African Studies Library.

Bibliography

Mariner, Sheila and Hyde, Francis E.The senior John Samuel Swire, 1825-98: management in Far Estern shipping trades.Liverpool University Press, 1967