John Shiels was a tinsmith, born and trained in Canada, who moved to California with his family in about 1883. He worked for a local plumbing company at first, but on March 1, 1883, John opened a tinsmith shop at Main and Ninth Streets, gradually adding plumbing to his services.
In 1888, John took sons, Charles and William into the business, renaming it John Shiels & Sons and in 1891, they moved the business to Tenth and Market Streets. The Shiels were listed in the city directory as “tin and coppersmiths, gas fitters, plumbers and bell hangers.”
The John Shiels & Sons plumbing firm became highly successful, securing large contracts and opening a spacious display room and separate workshop in a new brick building on Market Street. John died in 1911, and Charles and William continued the business as Shiels brothers.