Many early Quakers were engaged in small local enterprises. They quickly became trusted and some grew into large family companies in C19, though are no longer in Quaker ownership today. Good business ethics continue to be a central concern.
Business in Africa
Several yearly meetings have business ventures, raising funds for Quaker work. There are micro-finance and other small loan schemes in several countries. Capacity building for entrepreneurship is a developing strand.
Business in Britain and Ireland
Many businesses that are now public companies grew out of Quaker family businesses in Britain and Ireland. Nowadays Quaker involvement is small. Today business ethics is the main focus for Quakers connected with business.
Business in the Americas
This article is intended to describe Quaker thought and action about business, in the Americas. If you would like to help to write this, or contribute suggestions, please contact us.
The 19th century saw three great Quaker chocolate firms emerge, all family enterprises – Frys, Cadburys and Rowntrees. In the 20th century the firms became public companies and Quaker involvement soon declined.
During the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, many Quakers set up businesses as pharmacists. In 1841, three of them helped establish the Pharmaceutical Society, to oversee and regulate the profession.
Quaker Bankers in Britain
Many early Quakers lent money to those who needed it. Some of them founded banks, two of which (Lloyds and Barclays) still have their original Quaker names, though they have not been in Quaker ownership for many years.
Barclays Bank and its Quaker roots
Barclays can trace its origins back to Quaker goldsmiths Gould and Freame, in the 1690s. James Barclay became a partner in 1736. The bank prospered and financed canals, railways and bridges. In 1896, it became Barclay and Company Limited.
(1704-1776) was a clockmaker and later a pioneer manufacturer of high quality steel and machine parts in Sheffield. He made Sheffield a world leader in cutlery manufacture.
Bryant and May Matchmakers
In 1850 Bryant and May opened a match making factory in London. In 1888 there was a notorious strike to protest against their working conditions, which tarnished Quakers’ reputation as good employers.
(1729 - 1809) and his brother John opposed slavery. When they received land in Jamaica in payment of a debt, 32 slaves were included in the payment. They soon freed them.
Elizabeth Mary Cadbury
(1858 – 1951) was a committed adult educator. She was central to the development of education in Bournville and Birmingham. She was active in other issues too, notably disarmament and the League of Nations.
Gardeners and Nurserymen
Many Quakers ran businesses supplying plants to wealthy landowners. There were famous nurseries in Lancashire, York and London. Some worked as gardeners on large estates and had a reputation for diligence and hard work.
(1839 - 1922) built Cadburys into a large and successful concern, in partnership with his brother Richard, and created Bournville village, a 'factory in a garden'. He was also a philanthropist and social reformer.
(1801-89) founded the Cadbury chocolate business in Birmingham, though he initially worked in the tea trade. He saw many social ills around him, and was especially active in the temperance movement.
(1803-1893) was a Quaker tea merchant. He ensured that his tea was sold as an unadulterated product, safe to drink. He supported many charities, and endowed a children’s trust whose work continues to this day.
(1836 – 1925) built up the Rowntree family business, and later used his personal wealth to set up four charitable trusts. Throughout his lifetime he was concerned with social issues, and the trusts take forward these concerns.
(1793-1859) was a corn merchant and philanthropist in Birmingham. He worked for peace, the abolition of slavery, education and temperance. He helped revive the Adult School Movement.
(1694 - 1768) was part of a prosperous family of cloth merchants. He worked in the business, but his wealth enabled him to spend much of his time on philanthropy, and on scientific matters, especially botany.
Quakers and Business Group
The Group was set up in 2002. It is a charity under British law. Its purpose is ‘to promote Quaker principles particularly in the context of business and the workplace’. Membership is international.
Quakers and Whaling
Quakers once dominated the whaling industry in Massachusetts. They employed many black sailors and escaped slaves. Whale oil was the main fuel for lamps, until fossil oil was discovered.
Quakers in Ireland
Quakers have had a presence in Ireland from the early days in the 1650s. They have a long history of activism in many areas, notably relief, peace building, social justice, and philanthropy, and, more recently, sustainability.
Quakers in Jamaica and Barbados
The first phase began with Britain, colonial America, early Quaker mission work, and the slave trade. But by 1750, there were few Quakers left. The second phase was originated in 1881 by US missionaries.
Railways in Britain
Quakers made a major contribution to 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.
(1835 – 1899) was a chocolate and cocoa manufacturer in Birmingham. With his brother George he built the Cadbury business into a major concern. He was also a devoted father, philanthropist, artist and poet.
(1809 -1872) was a pin manufacturer. He was also a philanthropist and set up a school for the children of his employees and supported other schools. He also lectured on Quakerism and temperance.
Scott Bader Commonwealth
In 1951 Ernest Bader and his family made over their international chemical business to a charitable trust, the Commonwealth. It works for the benefit of staff and the community. All staff can participate in decisions.
(1871 - 1954) undertook several seminal studies of poverty and its causes. He influenced the development of social policy in Britain and was at the heart of the enlightened labour conditions developed at Rowntrees.
SEEDS, a non-profit venture in Kenya
SEEDS is 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
(1702 -1813) comprised four generations of a family of skilled clock and instrument makers. The first, Abel Cottey, probably built the first clock made in America. A great-grandson made advanced compasses for surveyors.
The Backhouse Family
The Quaker Backhouse family had many business interests, including railways, horticulture and banking. Several were prominent Quakers, one of whom introduced Quakerism to Australia.
The Darby Family
(1678 - 1789) played an important part in the early stages of the industrial revolution in Britain. They developed new methods for the mass production of iron, and manufactured new things with it - pots and pans, railway lines, and much else.
The Fry Family, Chocolate Makers
Bristol apothecary Joseph Fry was sure that cocoa was a much healthier drink than alcohol. The family became were major chocolate manufacturers in Bristol, and later created the first chocolate bar.
The Lloyd Family
The first Quaker Lloyds were brothers Charles and Thomas, from Dolobran, Wales. Thomas emigrated and became deputy governor of Pennsylvania. Later generations prospered, notably in iron and banking.
The Pease Family
The early Quaker Peases were wool producers/merchants in Yorkshire. Later the family became prominent in newer industries - railways, banking and mining. The first Quaker MP, in 1832, was a Pease, and others followed.
The Quaker Five in the 1787 national Abolition Committee
Five Quaker businessmen were prominent in this 12-member committee. Four were British and one was from Pennsylvania.
(1770-1843) became an eminent pharmacist. A generous philanthropist and activist, he supported many causes - anti-slavery, poverty, emergency relief, and education. He travelled widely in Europe and Russia, in connection with these.
(1705 – 1780) had wide interests, but his major achievement was to begin porcelain manufacturing in Britain. Prior to this, potteries had only made earthenware: porcelain had to be imported from China. He was a very active Quaker minister.
(1732 - 1822) worked in the family tea and coffee business in York, UK. He was a keen philanthropist, and founded The Retreat, in York, where he introduced humane modes of treatment for the mentally ill.