James Henry Steward (1818-1896)

In 1852, James Henry Steward (who described himself as a silversmith in 1851) established his company under the name J.H. Steward in London. Their address was given as 406 Strand in the 1853 Post Office Directory. In the early days, they concentrated on producing pocket watches and equipment associated with field sports, and sold their wares from a stall at the early meetings of the National Rifle Association of the United Kingdom. From 1866, they described themselves as “Official Optician to the National Rifle Association”. As their 1885 catalogue shows, the company rapidly expanded their range of goods to include to include optics (including microscopes and magic lanterns) and meteorological equipment, and they were describing themselves as “Optician to the British and Foreign Governments, and the National Rifle Associations of England, Ireland, India, Canada, and America, by Appointment”.

Many of their advertisements also strongly emphasised educational equipment.

As each of James’ sons reached adulthood, they were given a subsidiary shop elsewhere in London to manage, but the establishment at 406 Strand remained as the centre of the business. It is clear from their catalogues that the company was not producing everything they sold, and many items were bought from other sources for sale.

After James’ death, the company continued (only being inherited through the male line) until 1975.