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London Metropolitan Archives



Reference code(s): GB 0074 CLC/B/123-41

Held at: London Metropolitan Archives


Date(s): 1854-1955

Level of description: Collection

Extent: 174 production units.

Name of creator(s): MacKinnon, MacKenzie and Co | general merchants and agents of Calcutta, India


Administrative/Biographical history:

The firm was established in Calcutta in 1847 as a merchant partnership between Robert MacKenzie and William MacKinnon. The two had worked together since MacKinnon's arrival in India from Glasgow, trading tea, sugar, rice, jute, coal, indigo, iron and cotton. The partners chartered steam ships for the carriage of their own goods and those of their customers. In 1856, MacKinnon launched the Calcutta and Burmah Steam Navigation Company Limited, for which he had also secured from the East India Company the contract to carry mails between Calcutta and Rangoon. MacKinnon, MacKenzie partners subscribed heavily to its capital, were appointed its agents and received 5% commission from the shipping line's gross annual earnings.

In 1862, by which time services had been extended to take on cargo and passengers at ports in the Persian Gulf and Straits settlements, the shipping company was renamed British India Steam Navigation Company Limited (its historic records are held at the National Maritime Museum). The partnership and British India Steam Navigation Company grew pari passu [at an equal pace]; by the end of the nineteenth century, MacKinnon, MacKenzie and Company had become one of the greatest eastern agency houses. The trading side of the business shrank progressively in the twentieth century.

In addition to partnerships of the same name in India and the far East, Sir William MacKinnon established general merchant and shipping agency partnerships to serve the needs of the British India Steam Navigation Company in Glasgow and London and at strategic ports in the Persian gulf and East Africa: W. MacKinnon and Company in Glasgow, ca.1854 (CLC/B/123-57), Gray, Dawes and Company in London in 1865 (CLC/B/123-30), Gray, Paul and Company in Bushire in 1865 (see Gray, MacKenzie and Company Limited, CLC/B/123-31), Gray, MacKenzie and Company in Basra in 1869, and Smith, MacKenzie and Company in Zanzibar in 1875 (CLC/B/123-51).

In 1874, James Lyle Mackay (later the first Lord Inchcape) joined the Calcutta office and was later admitted to partnership. By 1918, with the death of MacKinnon's closest relatives, MacKay was the longest serving partner and by 1950 the Inchcape family held a controlling interest. In 1951, the firm was converted into a limited company. In the preparations for the launch of Inchcape and Company Limited in 1958 (see introductory note to the Inchcape group, CLC/B/123), MacKinnon, MacKenzie and Company Limited and its local subsidiaries in India, Pakistan, Hong Kong, China and Japan were sold to the P. and O./ British India Group in 1956-7.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of MacKinnon, MacKenzie and Company, general merchants and agents of Calcutta, India; comprising: partnership deeds and other records concerning the establishment and regulation of the company, 1854-1955 (Ms 27793-6, 27838-41); private journals, 1929-51 (Ms 27797); correspondence, 1852-1955 (Ms 27798-814) operational records, 1847-1940 (Ms 27815-27); photographs, ca. 1905-31 (Ms 27828-8A); historical notes, c 1860-1955 (Ms 27829-34, 27847); and accounts, 1927-51 (Ms 27835-7, Ms 27842-6, 27848).


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

Records arranged by MS number, assigned during cataloguing at the Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section.

Conditions governing access:

These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 1998.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to this collection rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

These archives were deposited in the Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library in 1987-8 together with those of other companies in the Inchcape group. They were catalogued in 1988-9. The Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section merged with the London Metropolitan Archives in 2009.


Related material:

This collection is a sub-fond within the Inchcape Group fonds. See CLC/B/123 for a list of all the companies represented in this collection and a history of the Inchcape Group.


Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: January to May 2011.

Agents | People by occupation | People
Business records | Documents | Information sources
Coal industry | Industry
Cotton trade | Trade (practice)
Export trading companies | Trading companies | Companies | Enterprises
Freight services | Distribution services
Iron industry | Industry
Jute industry | Manufacturing industry | Industry
Mail steamers | Vessels | Vehicles | Transport
Merchants | Mercantile personnel | Personnel | People by occupation | People
Overseas trade | Trade (practice)
Rice trade | Food trade | Trade (practice)
Shipping | Maritime transport | Transport
Shipping agents | Commercial agents | Business people | People by occupation | People
Shipping companies | Transport companies | Companies | Enterprises
Steamships | Ships | Vehicles | Transport
Sugar trade | Food trade | Trade (practice)
Tea trade | Food trade | Trade (practice)
Extractive industry
Water transport

Personal names

Corporate names
MacKinnon | MacKenzie and Co | general merchants and agents of Calcutta | India

Calcutta | West Bengal | India | South Asia