British women trade unionists on strike at Bryant & May, 1888

Early years

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Bryant & May grew from modest roots. The founders, William Bryant and Francis May, worked variously as soap and tea manufacturers and grocers to eventually become the largest British match manufacturers and an important player in both home and export markets, trading in many countries. The documents in this section reflect the progress of their early years, from lone operators to partners in an increasingly important and profitable business.The existence of Charles Dickens' article in the journal Household Words (1852) among these papers proves the firm had an awareness of phosphorous necrosis, the grisly industrial disease linked to matches and white phosphorous. This would come back to haunt the firm in later years. There are very early match receipts which specifically propose using alternatives to white phosphorous. Dangers of death by fire are also referenced in the advertising material as white phosphorous was known to spontaneously burst into flames. Bryant & May used this as a selling point for their non-white phosphorous matches, whilst at the same time selling the white phosphorous 'Lucifer' matches alongside their 'safety' versions.

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Showing 11 documents Early years

Biographical information

  • Contributor: C L R James Library, Hackney
  • Reference: 72993a-01
  • Keyword:  politics activism women history protest unions workers
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Articles of partnership, 1851

  • Contributor: C L R James Library, Hackney
  • Reference: 72993a-02
  • Keyword:  politics activism women history protest unions workers
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'Household Words', 1 May 1852

  • Contributor: C L R James Library, Hackney
  • Reference: 72993a-03
  • Keyword:  politics activism women history protest unions workers
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Correspondence, 1850-1855

  • Contributor: C L R James Library, Hackney
  • Reference: 72993a-04
  • Keyword:  politics activism women history protest unions workers
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Lundstrom correspondence, 1852-1859

  • Contributor: C L R James Library, Hackney
  • Reference: 72993a-05
  • Keyword:  politics activism women history protest unions workers
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Bryant's Soap Analysis Book, 1856-1870

  • Contributor: C L R James Library, Hackney
  • Reference: 72993a-06
  • Keyword:  politics activism women history protest unions workers
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Fairfield Works, c1861

  • Contributor: C L R James Library, Hackney
  • Reference: 72993a-07
  • Keyword:  politics activism women history protest unions workers
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Patents, etc.

  • Contributor: C L R James Library, Hackney
  • Reference: 72993a-08
  • Keyword:  politics activism women history protest unions workers
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Match advertisements

  • Contributor: C L R James Library, Hackney
  • Reference: 72993a-09
  • Keyword:  politics activism women history protest unions workers
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Early photographs

  • Contributor: C L R James Library, Hackney
  • Reference: 72993a-10
  • Keyword:  politics activism women history protest unions workers
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Title to premises

  • Contributor: C L R James Library, Hackney
  • Reference: 72993a-11
  • Keyword:  politics activism women history protest unions workers
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