James Fothergill Smith was born in Stockton in October 1856. His father was George Fothergill Smith, who at the time of his birth was an earthenware manufacturer, employing around 48 people. George’s father and his Uncle William owned their own pottery businesses. William had founded Stafford Pottery and was infamous for creating ceramics identical to Josiah Wedgwood’s products (you can find out more about William Smith and Stafford Pottery here). George was successful as a manufacturer of ceramics and bricks and was also Stockton’s Mayor in 1880-1881.
Despite the family history in making ceramics, James Fothergill Smith and his brother both trained to be drysalters, businessmen who traded in salts and chemicals which could be used to make a range of products, including colourings and preservatives for foods.
Sweets jar, once containing Rose and Lemon gums, sold by J. F. Smith and Co. Image courtesy of Preston Park Museum.