Scope and Content

The Tientsin Lighter Company was formed in 1904 as a joint venture by John Swire and Sons and Alfred Holt's to serve primarily the China Navigation Company and the Ocean Steamship Company. Butterfield and Swire [B&S] were appointed the Eastern Managers, the management being the responsibility of the Shanghai Office and run through the B&S Agent at Tientsin. Lighters had to be used for loading and discharging cargoes at Tientsin due to insufficient water depth in the Paiho River and over the bar at Taku and Swire's and Holt's had employed the local firm Taku Tug and Lighter Company [TT&LCo] up to 1904. The suggestion that Swire's should form their own firm had been put forward several times in the 1880s but it was one of the projects with which John Samuel Swire would not agree. The difficulties, however, between TT&LCo and John Swire & Sons increased with disputes over inefficient and inadequate service and too high costs, leading by 1903-04 to the decision to set up an independent company. The two firms competed for business for some years until after a period of hostility in 1911-12 working agreements were reached. The company was suspended during the Japanese invasion from 1941-45, was reformed in 1946 and continued in existence until the final accounts were presented in July 1951.Apart from the Company's records listed below which cover all aspects of the general management through B&S Shanghai and Tientsin from 1917 to 1936 and accounts up to 1951, there are also several sections of the archive which relate to the development of the firm.

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Paper handlist available

Archivist's Note


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Copying for personal research purposes is permitted. Please contact the archivist for all publication requests.

Copyright is owned by John Swire & Sons, Ltd, 59 Buckingham Gate, London, SW1E 6AJ

Related Material

Related MaterialFor the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century discussions on the need for a lighter company JSSI 2/21 covers the Shanghai Managers' views and JSSII 1/15 the Tientsin angle, particularly the difficulties with the TT&LCo. The London side of the debate is unfortunately missing as there is no Out Letters volume for the years 1902-04, but the early years of the company's business can be traced in JSSI 1/14 & 15.