John Clapperton & Co.
Messrs. John Clapperton & Co., Wholesale Warehousemen and Manufacturers, 61, Miller Street and 62, Queen Street.—
The distinguished house of Messrs. John Clapperton & Co. stands among the patriarchal firms in the Scottish trade, and represents to-day a structure of mercantile influence, interest, and dignity whose foundations were quietly and unostentatiously, but none the less firmly and enduringly, laid in a groundwork of modest enterprise and unpretentious business integrity nearly a hundred years ago. Many a wondrous achievement was consummated “when George the Third was king”, and many a brilliant act of aggressive venture that have found places in the nation’s history for all time to come. But in looking over the whole annals of that remarkable reign there is hardly anything more impressive in itself than the sure and steady inauguration that took place in those times of a new and long-lived era of progress and development in the laws and learning, arts and commerce of the land and in all the noble industries of peace. Most of our oldest and most honoured mercantile houses look back to the days of the third sovereign of the House of Guelph for the date of their inception, and the notable firm now under notice has a high place among institutions of this kind, whose present existence and status speak of the honours attached to a long career marked never unworthily by the favours of Fortune.
Messrs. John Clapperton & Co. trace the history of their house back to the year 1796, when Mr. John Clapperton, “a man of Peeblesshire”, commenced operations in the woollen trade in Edinburgh, being subsequently joined by his brothers Alexander and Thomas in the capacity of apprentices. In those days business matters were conducted upon a good old-fashioned basis, in which the sterling qualities of the merchant had always a fair chance of success even against the quips and caprices of fortune ; and upon these sound, old-time principles of strict honour and uncompromising integrity, John Clapperton established a business whose subsequent controllers, through all the years that have come and gone, have never forgotten his golden rules of rectitude and good faith, and never failed in their faithful observance of the commercial methods to which he was devoted.
John Clapperton died at an early age, comparatively, in 1825, and the epitaph on his tomb in St. Cuthbert’s churchyard, Edinburgh, enumerates in the simple and earnest words of Sir J. G. Craig, Bart., the virtues and estimable qualities by which he had endeared himself to all who knew him intimately, and won the unreserved respect of the whole community. Messrs, Alexander and Thomas Clapperton, both of whom were prominent and distinguished in commercial and public circles in Edinburgh during their lifetime, continued to direct the business, and in 1845 established a branch house at Glasgow. Their career in the “commercial metropolis” has been one of continuous advancement.
Opening in Argyle Street, they presently removed to Trongate, and later on took over the entire business of Messrs. Harveys, Wilson, & Co., a firm of long standing and eminent repute. Further extensions were made in the matter of warehouse premises, another important business was purchased and amalgamated with their own, and in 1863 the present noble block of buildings in Miller Street was eventually purchased and occupied. Here the Glasgow business has since been centred.
Prior to this, in 1846, Mr. James Steel, who had long been connected with the house, was admitted to a partnership, and three years later Mr. Alexander Clapperton died, at the age of sixty-seven. In 1865 Mr. Thomas Clapperton died, aged seventy-eight, and in 1876 Mr. James Steel retired from the firm. In 1872 the partnership had been numerically increased by the accession of Mr. Alexander Paton, and upon his retirement in 1881 the title of the house, which had become Clapperton, Paton, & Co., was reinstated in its original and present form of John Clapperton & Co.
The warehouse building in Queen Street and Miller Street, the principal entrance being from the latter thoroughfare, comprises an exceedingly handsome and substantial block, admirably arranged in every interior detail and fully suited to all the purposes and requirements of the superior wholesale trade to which they are devoted. It would be a distinct pleasure to undertake an extended survey of the departments and varied features of interest in this eminently representative establishment, but the limited space at the disposal of the present sketch renders such a survey impracticable. It is, perhaps, sufficient to know that the warehouse of Messrs. John Clapperton to-day is, as it has always been, a model worthy of general imitation and emulation in all points of order, regularity, system, and structural plan ; the lighting of the showrooms is admirable, the arrangement of the immense stocks perfect, and for the quality and character of the goods the name of the house is a guarantee as ample as it is widely accepted. It is a matter of some difficulty in speaking of such a business as this to draw a decidedly clear line between flattery and commendation. It can only be said that the former is as unworthy of a house of this type as the latter is its unquestionable due ; and in the position they themselves have secured and retained in the mercantile world Messrs. John Clapperton & Co. find their fullest meed of compliment and congratulation.
The present partners in the firm are Mr. John Clapperton, Mr. Wm. R. Clapperton, Mr. John Clapperton, jun., Mr. Robert Clapperton, and Mr. John Whyte. The first-named of these gentlemen is the eldest son of the first Mr. Alexander Clapperton. In Edinburgh, where he principally resides, Mr. John Clapperton is a justice of the peace and a Deputy-Lieutenant for the city. He was Master of the Merchants’ Company in 1872-73, and is still a member of that influential corporation. He represents the ward of St. Giles in the Edinburgh Town Council, and is a justice of the peace for the county of Midlothian and a Commissioner of Income Tax. In financial circles he is well known in his prominent capacities in the directorate of the Commercial Bank of Scotland and of the South Australian Mortgage Company, also of the Gas Company of Edinburgh, curator of the Edinburgh University, and a Governor of the famous Heriot foundation.
Mr. Alexander Clapperton, younger brother of Mr. John Clapperton, was associated with the business until 1885, when he retired. He has filled many notable public and financial positions, and was largely instrumental in promoting the interests of the house in Glasgow, to which branch of the business he had devoted himself with great energy for many years.
Mr. W. R. Clapperton, son of the late Mr. Thomas Clapperton, is another prominent member of this influential family taking an active interest in public and company matters, and the two remaining Messrs. Clapperton (John, jun., and Robert) are sons of Mr. John Clapperton, the senior partner. They both, together with Mr. John Whyte (whose term of association with the firm has been one of great length and credit), are actively engaged in the responsible conduct of the business.
There is no more eminently reputed or worthily famous house in North Britain than this. Its trade is widespread and of high influence in its connection, and the firm’s methods of business and general principles have won for them an esteem and confidence fully befitting their honourable antecedents and long career in the commerce of the United Kingdom and the export markets of the world. In addition to the Glasgow warehouse Messrs. Clapperton have important offices in Basinghall Street, London, at 35, Hanover Street, Edinburgh, and in other commercial centres.
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