In the 18th and 19th centuries, many Quakers threw their creative energies into family businesses in Britain and America. They soon established a reputation for integrity, and employee welfare. Most businesses that remain have become public companies, with little Quaker involvement. Current work is focussed on local and global business ethics, and in small enterprises.
The belief in equality led Quakers to campaign against slavery, and to aspire to good treatment of anyone who worked in a Quaker enterprise. As well as workplace conditions, many were also concerned with general welfare. QUNO works at the UN towards international labour standards.
Bankers in Britain
Excluded from public office, English universities and the professions many early Quakers worked in business. The word Quaker soon became synonymous with fair dealing, and they often lent money to those who needed it and looked after other people’s money and valuables for them. Some of them founded banks, two of which (Lloyds and Barclays) still have their original Quaker names, though Quaker ownership had withered away by the early twentieth century.
Barclays Bank and its Quaker roots
The international bank Barclays can trace its origins back to Quaker goldsmiths Gould and Freame who established themselves in London in the 1690’s. The name Barclay became associated with the business in 1736 when James Barclay became a partner. The bank prospered and financed canals, railways and bridges. In 1896, following several changes of name and the amalgamation of twenty banks, some with Quaker origins, it became Barclay and Company Limited.
Benjamin Huntsman (1704-1776) was a clockmaker and manufacturer of cast steel of an extremely high quality. This helped to make the industrial revolution possible through the availability of well made machine parts. His method of casting steel made Sheffield a world leader in cutlery manufacture. He adhered to his Quaker principles throughout his life.
Botanists: the Gardeners and the Nurserymen
Many Quakers ran businesses supplying plants to the nobility. There were famous nurseries in Lancashire, York and London. They were responsible for making many varieties of plants commercially available. Many were also dedicated gardeners and had a reputation for diligence and hard work. They were sought after by the gentry to care for their gardens and estates.
Botanists: the Publishers and Writers
William Curtis was a botanist and entomologist who founded the Botanical Magazine in 1787. His nephew Samuel succeeded him as editor.The magazine is still published today, and is now named Curtis's Botanical Magazine in their honour. James Maddock produced the first directory of florists' flowers. Priscilla Wakefield wrote very successful books about botany for children.
Bryant and May Matchmakers
Bryant and May opened a factory in London in 1850. The business grew and employed thousands of people, mainly women. In 1888 there was a notorious strike protesting at working conditions, which tarnished Quakers’ reputation as good employers.
Business in Africa
Business activities amongst Friends in Africa are mainly of two kinds - raising funds for Quaker work, and micro-finance. A third emerging area of work is capacity building for entrepreneurship, growing out of the first two. In Kenya several yearly meetings have business ventures, and Friends United Meeting (Africa) has recently set up a not-for-profit farm. There are micro-finance and other small loan schemes in Burundi, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Mozambique.
Business in Asia - West Pacific
This article is intended to describe Quaker thought and action about business, in the Asia - West Pacific region. If you would like to help to write this, or contribute suggestions about other business activities, please contact us.
Business in Britain and Ireland
Many businesses that are now public companies grew out of Quaker family businesses in Britain and Ireland, in ‘innocent trades’ such as chocolate. Nowadays Quaker involvement is small. From the outset, Quakers were committed to integrity, in all transactions, and today business ethics is their main focus.
Business in the Americas
This article is intended to describe Quaker thought and action about business, in the Americas. The story of the early Quaker merchants in Philadelphia will be an important part of this, as will the later philanthropy and work on business education and business ethics If you would like to help to write this, or contribute suggestions, please contact us.
During the 18th and 19th century the three great Quaker chocolate firms emerged, all family enterprises – Fry’s, Cadbury’s and Rowntrees. They developed many new methods and products, and took great care of employee welfare. In the 20th century the firms became public companies and Quaker involvement soon declined.
Clock, Watch and Instrument Makers in England
In the 17th and 18th Century several Quakers became renowned instrument, clock and watch makers. Science and global trade were developing fast, and there was a great need for the precision instruments they could make. Thomas Tompion, Daniel Quare and George Graham were particularly outstanding.
David (1729 - 1809) and his brother John Barclay opposed slavery. David belonged to the Meeting for Sufferings Committee on the Slave Trade which met from 1783 to 1792. They received land in Jamaica in payment of a debt. There were 32 slaves who lived on the land that were included in the payment. They set about freeing them.
The world is a very unequal place, in economic terms. Quakers have no easy answers to the challenges this poses. They contribute to thinking and action on aspects of economic justice such as equitable terms of trade, proper employment conditions, and fair recognition of intellectual property rights. Two Quaker agencies -QUNO at the UN and QCEA in the EU - do much work on economic justice issues.
Elizabeth Mary Cadbury
Elizabeth Mary Cadbury (neẻ Taylor)DBE (1858 – 1951) She was a philanthropist, welfare worker and educationalist. She married George Cadbury in 1888 and raised his five children and six of her own, initially at Woodbrooke, their first house in Birmingham. Together they gave this house to British Friends in 1903, and it has been the home of Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre ever since.
Fair Trade Past and Present
Quakers have long had a reputation for fair and honest dealings in all economic (and other) transactions. As consumers, this led to boycotts of goods produced by slave labour in the past, and to a modern concern with fair trade. As suppliers, they soon became known for charging fair prices. They founded many early banks because people trusted them with their money. This article is intended to describe this. f you would like to help to write it, or contribute suggestions, please get in touch.
Chocolate and cocoa maker in Birmingham. England. He was also a philanthropist and social reformer.
Hlekweni Rural Training Centre
Hlekweni (founded 1967) is a Quaker founded rural training centre outside Bulawayo, in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe, run by Zimbabweans, under the auspices of Central and Southern Africa Yearly Meeting and supported by Quakers around the world.
John Cadbury (1801-89) founded the Cadbury chocolate business. He saw many social problems around him, and helped to alleviate them. He and his brother conceived the idea of a model village for their workers, and John's sons, George and Richard, brought this dream to fruition at Bournville.
John Horniman (1803-1893) was a Quaker tea merchant and philanthropist. As a merchant, he ensured that his tea was sold as an unadulterated product, safe to drink. As a philanthropist, he supported many charities, and endowed a children’s trust whose work continues to this day.
Joseph Rowntree (1836 – 1925) played an important part in building up the Rowntree family business, and later used his personal wealth to set up four charitable trusts. Throughout his lifetime he was concerned with the welfare of his employees and wider social issues, and the trusts take forward these concerns.
Joseph Sturge was a British activist and philanthropist in Birmingham. He worked for peace, abolition of slavery, education and temperance. He helped revive the Adult School Movement.
Quakers and Business Group
The Quakers & Business Group was set up in 2002, ‘to promote Quaker principles particularly in the context of business and the workplace’
Quakers and Whaling
Quakers dominated the whaling industry in Nantucket and New Bedford, Massachusetts, for 150 years. They employed many black sailors and escaped slaves, and made vast fortunes. Whale oil was the main fuel for lamps, until the development of oilfields in Pennsylvania.
Quakers in Ireland
Quakers have had a long presence in Ireland, confronting issues of peace building and social justice. Particularly significant is their role in relief work during the Irish Famine (1846-50), and in mediation and community reconciliation during the worst period of sectarian violence (1969-1998).
Quakers in Jamaica and Barbados
The first phase (1655 – 1750) was bound up with Britain, colonial America, early Quaker mission work, and the slave trade. By 1750, there were few Caribbean Quakers left, and Quaker involvement was mainly associated with anti-slavery campaigns. The second phase (1881 -) originated with mission work on the part of US Friends.
Railways in Britain
Quakers provided the finance, vision and in some cases the project management for the emergence of a network of railways in England. This had a profound influence on the transport of goods and people during the development of the Industrial Revolution.
Richard Cadbury (1835 – 1899) was a chocolate and cocoa manufacturer in Birmingham, (England). With his brother George he built the Cadbury business into a major concern. He was also a devoted father, philanthropist, artist and poet.
Robert Charleton was a pin manufacturer and an exemplary employer. He was also a philanthropist and set up a school for the children of his employees as well as financially supporting other schools for the children of the working classes. As a Quaker minister he toured England and Ireland and lectured on Quakerism and temperance. He was part of the delegation sent to Tsar Nicholas in the hope of preventing the Crimean War.
Scott Bader Commonwealth
This is a Quaker founded common trusteeship company set up by Ernest Bader. He and his family had built up an international chemical business, which they made over to a new charity in 1951. His aim was to preserve the gift of his company for the benefit of its present and future staff in perpetuity. All staff are now members of the Commonwealth and take part in democratic decision-making. The charity owns the company as a social rather than a financial investment.
Alongside working in senior positions in the Rowntree family business Seebohm undertook several seminal studies of poverty and its causes. His analyses influenced the development of social policy in Britain in many ways. He was at the heart of the enlightened labour conditions developed at Rowntrees.
SEEDS (Seeds Educating Every Deserving Student): a non-profit venture by African Friends
SEEDS is a non-profit agricultural venture on the part of African Friends, designed to generate income to support education in Quaker schools. Planning began in 2009, and corn is now being grown on 100 acres in Western Kenya. The first harvest was in September 2011.
Six Quaker Clockmakers in North America
The so-called ‘Six Quaker Clockmakers’ comprised four generations of a family of skilled clock and instrument makers, working in North America between 1702 and 1813. The first of the six, Abel Cottey, emigrated from Devon and probably built the first clock to be made in America . The second was Benjamin Chandlee, his apprentice and son-in-law, the third was Abel’s grandson, also Benjamin Chandlee, and the fourth, fifth and sixth, his great-grandsons, Goldsmith, Ellis and Isaac. Goldsmith is known in particular for his technically advanced compasses, designed for use by surveyors.
The Backhouse Family
The Quaker Backhouse family had many interests. These included the Stockton and Darlington Railway, horticulture and botany and banking. The annual James Backhouse Lectures were instituted by the Religious Society of Friends in Australia in 1964.
The Darby Family: Abraham Darby I, II, III
Three generations of Darbys (1678 - 1789) played an important part in the early stages of the industrial revolution in Britain. At their ironworks in Coalbrookdale on the Welsh border, they developed new methods for the mass production of iron, and manufactured new things with it - cast iron pots and pans, railway lines, engine parts, and much else.
The Fry Family the Chocolate Makers
The Fry family were leading chocolate manufacturers in Bristol for three generations. They created the first chocolate bar. Although philanthropic they did not have the organisation or the impact of their rivals Cadburys and Rowntrees. Elizabeth Fry and Margery Fry made major contributions to prison reform.
The Lloyd Family
The Lloyd family from Dolobran, Montgomeryshire, Wales can trace their history back to the days of the early Quakers in the 17th Century and two brothers, Charles and Thomas. Both were imprisoned for their beliefs. Thomas later went to Pennsylvania where he became deputy governor. Many of their descendants prospered, first in iron making and later in banking.
The Pease Family
The Pease family had an enormous impact on British industrial history in the nineteenth century. They were wealthy wool producers and merchants in Yorkshire, and funded the Stockton and Darlington Railway. They also had many other industrial interests including banking and mining. They produced the first Quaker MP, followed by eight others. Many of the family were Quakers.
The Quaker Five in the 1787 national Abolition Committee
Five Quaker businessmen were prominent in the 12-member 1787 Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. Four were British - Joseph Woods, James Phillips, George Harrison, and Samuel Hoare. The fifth was William Dillwyn from Pennsylvania.
(1770 – 1843) was an eminent scientist, and pharmacist, and built his Allen and Hanbury business into a large concern. He was a generous philanthropist and activist, supporting many causes such as anti-slavery, poverty, emergency relief, and education. He travelled extensively throughout Europe and Russia, in connection with these.
William Cookworthy (1705 – 1780) had wide interests, but his major achievement was to begin porcelain manufacturing in Britain. Prior to his investigations, local potteries had only made earthenware and all porcelain was imported from China. He was also a very active Quaker minister.