John Samuel Swire was born on 24 December 1825 in Liverpool, England. His father, John Swire, was the founder of the Swire Group. His mother was Maria Louisa Roose.
He grew his family business, the Swire Group, and expanded the cotton and sugar trade with China. He established the Taikoo Sugar Refinery in Shanghai and The China Navigation Company on the Yangtze river. He had a younger brother, William Hudson Swire, born in 1830.
Later in his twenties, he went travelling in the United States and Australia.
Swire established Swire Bros in Melbourne, Australia in 1855. In 1865, he negotiated with Alfred Holt to expand the cotton trade with China by using Holt"s Blue Funnel Lincolnshire.
A year later, in 1868, they parted ways, as Swire kept the Shanghai office and Butterfield kept the English and American operations. Swire renamed the Shanghai company Taikoo Sugar Refinery.
Swire moved his main office from Liverpool to London in 1870.
Together with Holt and the Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, he established The China Navigation Company to expand trade with China on the Yangtze river. He died on 1 December 1898 in London.