1861-1870 The China Trade

1861 Entering the China trade

Category: Corporate

John Samuel Swire began to trade with China after the outbreak of the American Civil War started to disrupt imports of raw cotton from the Southern States – a mainstay of his trade at this time.

1866 Formation of Butterfield & Swire

Category: Corporate

John Samuel Swire established Butterfield & Swire in Shanghai, in partnership with Richard Shackleton Butterfield. Initially trading in tea and silk and British imports of cotton and woollen “piece goods”, Butterfield & Swire also became an agent in China for a number of UK businesses, including leading insurance and shipping companies – most notably, the Blue Funnel Line, for which Swire was Far Eastern manager for over 120 years. In keeping with local tradition, John Samuel Swire chose a Chinese "hong" name for the company, and it is by the name Taikoo (太古) - meaning "Great and Ancient" – that Swire is most widely known in Asia today.

Inside Story


Category: Corporate

Butterfield & Swire opens a branch office in Yokohama

1868 London headquarters

Category: Corporate

John Swire & Sons transferred its head office to London and John Samuel Swire dissolved his partnership with R.S. Butterfield. Nevertheless, Swire’s Asian offices kept the name Butterfield & Swire into the 1970s.


Category: Corporate

Butterfield & Swire opens a branch office in Hong Kong


1871-1940 New Fields of Enterprise