"A Quaker's View" first appeared in 1990, as a column in the WHF newsletter. Articles from that column are now available online (though some have been lost).

Nothing here is meant to be the last word in Quaker Orthodoxy. It is, after all, "A Quaker's View."


Hello Friends and friends of Friends! I am your host, Pendle Hill. In this issue, we take a Quaker's view of chocolate. Quakers took an important role in making chocolate the phenomenon it is today.

Chocolate first came to Europe as plunder from the New World. After the conquest of Mayan and Aztec civilizations, European elites brewed chocolate as a beverage. It was a drink for princes and patricians.

In 1657, the first shop of its kind peddled chocolate to the citizens of London. Still served as a beverage, chocolate soon won the endorsement of the Paris faculty of medicine.

As the 17th Century drew to a close, Friends were gaining a reputation as good merchants. Of course, few other career paths were open to them. Quakers were excluded from the universities. And, as people committed to nonviolence, careers in the military were certainly out of the question!

In time, Quaker merchants were attracted to the chocolate trade. With its medicinal qualities endorsed by estimable scholars, Friends embraced chocolate as a healthy alternative to alcohol.

The first Quaker to make a name for himself in the chocolate trade was a British physician named Joseph Fry. Friend Joseph's Bristol shop sold pharmaceuticals. He included chocolate among his other wares.

By 1795, the Fry family had nearly 50 years of experience in the chocolate business. That year, with the help of a Watts steam engine, Fry's Chocolate became the first chocolatier to use factory methods in the manufacture of their product.

In 1824, at the tender age of 23, Quaker John Cadbury was given a sum of money by his father and told to "sink or swim." Perhaps inspired by the liquid imagery of his father's ultimatum, Cadbury opened a shop selling tea, coffee and cocoa. Cadbury's shop was also noteworthy for its plate glass window (the first in Birmingham) and for employing a Chinese clerk at the tea counter.

The trinity of Quaker chocolate is completed by the name Rowntree. The Quaker Rowntrees opened their chocolate shop in York.

During the 19th Century, Friends helped to transform the way we eat chocolate. Up until this time, chocolate was a beverage -- or perhaps an ingredient in other recipes.

In 1847, the descendants of Joseph Fry introduced the chocolate bar to English society. Melted cocoa butter was mixed with cocoa powder and sugar. The resulting paste could be pressed into a mold.

Other innovations were taking place at Cadbury's Chocolate. For years, people had been extracting cocoa butter from chocolate in order to make powdered cocoa. But no one could squeeze all the fat from cocoa. Therefore, additives (like potato flour) were used to keep the powder, "powdery." In 1866, the Cadbury's were able to eliminate additives from their cocoa powder by discovering an improved method of extracting the natural cocoa butter. This innovation allowed the Quaker Cadbury's to advertise, "Absolutely Pure: Therefore Best."

Not only was the marketing strategy a success, the process provided the company with extra cocoa butter (a boon for their candy making operation).

As another feather in their cap, the Cadbury's started the trend of boxed chocolate candies (achieving this distinction in 1868).

Milk chocolate was invented in 1875. This time, the credit goes to Nestle (who was not a Friend). Soon thereafter, the Quaker companies developed their own formulas for milk chocolate. Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate bar became the company's best seller by 1913. It remained king of the British chocolate bars for the following 75 years.

Although the brand names all survive, the chocolate empires of Fry, Cadbury and Rowntree are no longer under Quaker control. Fry's and Cadbury's merged in 1919. In 1969, the resulting company merged with Schweppes Ltd. Rowntree was purchased by Nestle in 1988.

The Cadbury company is worth special mention for its enlightened attitude toward employees. This Quaker-owned chocolate company was the first firm to grant its workers a 5-day work week. Also, sports facilities, medical facilities, schools, kitchens and community gardens were built for the employees.

In 1893, the Cadbury brothers purchased 120 acres near their factory (to help workers escape the slums of Birmingham). 144 cottages were built for Cadbury workers and for the public at large. By 1915, rates of death and infant mortality in the Cadbury development were half those of Birmingham as a whole.

Here are questions to consider:

1. In part, Quakers were attracted to the chocolate trade because they hoped to alleviate the social ills caused by alcohol. Where, for modern Friends, do business concerns and social concerns intersect?

2. Success in business helped the Quakers help others. Do modern Friends continue to see this connection between prosperity and service?

3. Think it's time to open another Quaker chocolate shop?