1871-1940 New Fields of Enterprise

1872 Paddle Steamers on the Yangtze

Category: Corporate, Marine Services

John Swire & Sons established The China Navigation Company ("CNCo"), initially operating Mississippi-style paddle steamers on China's Yangtze River - a vital link with the country's interior at a time when there were few roads. CNCo's vessel, Tunsin, was the first of many to sail under the CNCo flag. Within a few years, the company was also operating ships on the China coast, before spreading its network of services further afield to Japan, Southeast Asia and Australia.

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1882 Swire Banknotes

Category: Corporate

Butterfield & Swire opened an office in Shantou. The first Taikoo Tsng or "Swire Bank" notes went into circulation at the port in the same year.

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1882 Breaking ground on a new sugar refinery

Category: Corporate, Beverages & Food Chain

The shipping business gave rise to other new ventures. Encouraged by China Navigation's growing trade in raw cane sugar from Java and the Philippines and ready markets in China and Japan, Butterfield & Swire acquired a sizeable plot of waterfront land at Quarry Bay on Hong Kong Island and incorporated Tai-koo Sugar Ltd. Work soon commenced on the Taikoo Sugar Refinery, which went into production in 1884. In its day, this company ran one of the world's largest and most sophisticated plants.


Category: Corporate

James Henry Scott (1845-1912) becomes Senior Partner of John Swire & Sons.

1907 Opening of Taikoo Dockyard

Category: Corporate, Marine Services

The need for a reliable repair facility for both Blue Funnel and China Navigation Company fleets prompted the construction of the Taikoo Dockyard in Hong Kong. It literally entailed moving a mountain: 1,600,000 cubic yards of granite hillside was levelled and used to reclaim 20 acres from the harbour at Quarry Bay, creating a total flat area of more than 52 acres and over half a mile of deep-water berths. Boasting Hong Kong's largest supply of electrical power, its most extensive machine shops and a dry-dock capable of accommodating the largest ships in the world, Taikoo would go on to become one of Hong Kong's biggest, and one of its most progressive employers.

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1910-40 Marine expansion

Category: Corporate, Marine Services, Trading & Industrial

This period saw considerable expansion of Swire's marine business under the Chairmanship of John Samuel Swire's two sons, John - known as "Jack" (1861-1933), who took over following the death of James Henry Scott in 1912, and (George) Warren Swire (1883-1949), who became Chairman in 1927. Further new business ventures included a tug and lighter company on the Heiho River at Tianjin, and the establishment of one of Shanghai's leading paint manufacturers, Orient Paint, in 1933.


1941-1945 Fortunes of War