John Shepherd, like many campaign furniture manufacturers started off as a trunk maker. The painted stencil used on his later furniture made a point of stating his established date of 1778. It is likely that there were 3 generations of the family, all called John, who carried on the business. John Shepherd the founder was born in 1760 and so commenced his business as an 18 year old. He died in 1817 and the business was taken over by his brother Robert Camp Shepherd and John junior. This is likely to be the John Shepherd listed in the census of 1841 and 1851 as a trunk maker married to Harriet born in the same year. The birth date for John and his wife in 1841 is given as 1791 whilst in 1851 their birth date is given as 1788. It is probable that this is a clerical error and they are one and the same. It is unknown if the 2nd generation John was the son or nephew of the founder. The partnership with Robert, by now likely to be in his 60s, was dissolved in 1823 with John continuing the business.
The 3rd generation John was born in 1826 and the census of 1841 lists him as a trunk maker at the age of 15, no doubt in the family business. He took over the business in 1854 on the death of his father. It appears that Robert also had a son, born in 1796 and sharing his Christian name. In 1835 there are various bankruptcy notes naming him and in 1839 there is a Robert Shepherd listed as a carrier at 34 Camomile St. By 1846 Robert is listed as a trunk maker in the directories and he had premises at 8 Alfred Place, Newington Causeway. The 1851 census lists him as a trunk & chest maker with a wife Elizabeth and 5 daughters who were all milliners.
John Shepherd is listed throughout the company's history as both a trunk maker and undertaker, as are a number of his contemporaries, but it is clear from his adverts and sales flyers that he offered a comprehensive service to those looking to purchase travel items from furniture and clothing to soap and cork life belts. As well as portmanteaus, mahogany and leather writing desks and dressing cases he also offered patent brass and iron bedsteads and the improved Derby Chair. He described the company in 1857 as a Wholesale and Retail Portable Furniture Manufacturer suppling every description of Barrack-room and Cabin Furniture. They made Solid Mahogany Drawers, brass-bound with Cupboards, Washstands, Cabin Lamps, Dover Chairs, Cabin Chairs with caned seats and Ship Couches with and without Drawers. Their 1880 sales flyer lists groups of items for First Class Passengers, Second Class and Third Class. Amongst other items noted are Book-case to fold in box, Washstand to form a Table (fitted), Swing Trays and folding Tables, Shepherd's Improved Safety Lamp, American Chairs, Camp Stools and Sea Chests. They also described themselves as Cabin Fitters with the ability to deliver a customer's goods direct to their cabin and at only a few hours notice.
The main address associated with John Shepherd is 90 Bishopsgate Within, London. It is the business' earliest listed address and they kept it until March 1865 when they moved across the road to 55 Bishopsgate. They still dealt from no. 55 in 1887 but by 1893 they are only listed at 26 Leadenhall St & Tottenham Green. John Shepherd had additional premises to those at Bishopsgate. In 1851 his advert noted he was also at Wellesley Cottage, Wellington Place, Stoke Newington Road. By 1858 he also has a Factory and Store Rooms at Helmet Court, Wormwood Street and in 1859 orders can also be sent to 8 Summit Place, Upper Clapton. An invoice of 1887 gives the primary address as The Original Tottenham Green Furnishing Warehouse but also notes 55 Bishopsgate and Lower Tottenham Opposite Northumberland Park which was a factory and warerooms. In 1893 the trade directories list Shepherd's addresses as 26 Leadenhall Street & Tottenham Green. By 1899, John Shepherd is no longer listed in the trade directories and we can presume that the company had ended. They traded for over a century and built their business by providing a good customer service. This included being a 'one stop shop' with a delivery and cabin fitting service for those travelling overseas. They offered quality items and warned of others offering glowing descriptions of low-priced articles. They stood by their goods and gave a warranty to exchange them if found to be defective. Given the size and age of the business it is only a surprise that not more of the pieces come to the market.