Rowntree, John Wilhelm, 1868-1905, chocolate manufacturer and religious activist

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Rowntree, John Wilhelm, 1868-1905, chocolate manufacturer and religious activist

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Dates of existence

1868-1905

History

John Wilhelm Rowntree was born on 4 September 1868, the eldest son of Quaker chocolate manufacturer Joseph Rowntree, and his wife Emma Antoinette Seebohm. Educated at Bootham School in York, and Oliver’s Mount School in Scarborough, John began working at his father’s Cocoa Works in York in 1886. He became a partner in the business at the age of 21 and in 1892 he married Constance Margaret Naish, daughter of Louis Edmund Naish of Bristol, and his wife Sarah Ann Fryer. The couple had five children together. Constance's brother, Arthur Duncan Naish, later married John Wilhelm's sister, Winifred Rowntree, in 1907.

John was made a company director in 1897 when the firm was incorporated as ‘Rowntree & Co.’ It was a time of great expansion for the business following the introduction of Rowntree’s ‘Elect’ in 1887, a pure cocoa essence to rival Cadbury’s popular powder, and the manufacture of fruit gums from 1893 onwards. In the 1890s John Wilhelm was involved in planning the firm’s move from Tanners Moat to larger custom built premises at Haxby Road and in 1899 he successfully argued for the purchase of cocoa plantations in Trinidad and Jamaica, expanding the business still further.

Like many in his family, he was a supporter of the Adult School Movement and taught adult classes in York. In 1903 he co-authored ‘A History of the Adult School Movement’ with Henry Bryan Binns. In collaboration with American Quaker Rufus Jones, he was also an advocate of a new and more liberal form of Quakerism and supported Quaker involvement in broader non-conformist causes such as temperance and social reform. His intention was to write a complete Quaker history with Jones, demonstrating the link between the early Society of Friends and these ideas, but he died before they could begin.

In 1899 John retired to Scalby, near Scarborough, on account of his increasingly poor health. In 1905 he travelled to New York to visit an eye specialist but became ill on the voyage and died on 9 March 1905 in New York.

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Related entity

Rowntree, Oscar Frederic, 1879-1947 (1879-1947)

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family

Type of relationship

Rowntree, Oscar Frederic, 1879-1947 is the sibling of Rowntree, John Wilhelm, 1868-1905, chocolate manufacturer and religious activist

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Rowntree, Joseph Stephenson, 1875-1951 (1875-1951)

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family

Type of relationship

Rowntree, Joseph Stephenson, 1875-1951 is the sibling of Rowntree, John Wilhelm, 1868-1905, chocolate manufacturer and religious activist

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GB 193

Rules and/or conventions used

ISAAR(CPF): International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families, International Council on Archives (2nd edition, 2003); Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names, National Council on Archives (1997).

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Sources

Edward H. Milligan, ‘Rowntree, John Wilhelm (1868–1905)’, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004)

The Rowntree Society, 'John Wilhelm Rowntree' (http://www.rowntreesociety.org.uk/john-wilhelm-rowntree/)

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Created by Sally-Anne Shearn, September 2015.
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