Samuel Smith senior (died 1880) was born in Yorkshire, and was originally a tanner. In 1847, this Samuel bought a brewing business in Tadcaster from the Hartley family. That brewery, founded in 1758, is said to be the oldest in Yorkshire.
Samuel's sons, John Smith (brewer) and his brother William, took over the brewery in 1852. Another brother, Samuel Smith, inherited the business on William's death in 1886, and re-opened the brewery under his own name. He then ran it in competition of another brewery in the same town which still bore the name of his brother John. Samuel Smith's is the only one of the Tadcaster breweries which has remained an independent family firm.