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Quakers and Industry

Until the 1870s Quakers and people who did not belong to the Anglican Church in Britain were not allowed to go to university or hold public office. Many of them concentrated their efforts in establishing new commercial and industrial ventures at a time of rapid expansion in society. From the beginning, Quakers brought new standards of truth and honesty to the conduct of business, putting into practice the testimony to Integrity and Truth. People realised they could trust Quakers with their money and in the 18th century this led to the rapid growth of Quaker banks such as Barclays and Lloyds. Quaker communities oversaw local Quaker businesses in order to maintain these standards and prevent over-indebtedness and bankruptcy. They also regulated the master-servant and employer-employee relationships in the interest of equality and fairness.

Many products still familiar today were started and run for many years by Quakers.  Clarks’ shoes, Bryant and May matches, Carr’s and Huntly and Palmer’s biscuits are all examples of successful Quaker businesses. Best known are the chocolate companies of Fry’s, Rowntree’s and Cadbury’s.  Abuse of alcohol was rampant in the 19th century and Quakers promoted chocolate drinks as a cheap and available alternative which was also heathy as people did not have to use the contaminated water supplies to make it. As the chocolate industry expanded, social pioneers such as George Cadbury introduced revolutionary work and living standards for their employees.

The most fundamental reason for the success that Quakers had was that they followed in business the same principle of absolute integrity that they did in life. They were scrupulously honest and trustworthy and people knew that by dealing with Quaker companies they would get a fair and honest deal.

Image: Workers at the Cadbury chocolate factory. Source: https://media.npr.org/assets/img/2010/10/28/cadbury-factory-306cb51693c44f91c634674fef7b144fa99ceb0d-s800-c85.jpg