The Story of Hartley’s Jam Nicholas Hartley
Amberley Publishing plc Paperback; 192 pages; illustrated. Price £14.99
William Hartley was a man ahead of his time. From modest beginnings in the late 19th century he created a world class company which went on to become a household name. In the midst of extreme poverty his work ethic was a utilitarian vision of benevolence and philanthropic ideals.
Hartley’s ‘Do as you would be done by’ maxim was often at odds with prevailing attitudes, but he was not just looking for quick profits. Following in the humanitarian tradition of fellow industrialists Cadbury, Rowntree and Lever, he regarded his workforce as his moral responsibility. He built a garden factory and model village in the Lancashire countryside where his employees benefited as much from the space and fresh air as they did from Hartley’s enlightened approach to their productivity.
A single fortuitous decision had set Hartley on the path of producing the familiar preserves free from artificial colourings and chemicals and it was this resolution that formed the basis of his continuing success. By 1907 strawberry jam had became the country’s firm favourite, a trend which never declined.
Hartley died in October 1922 but the new generation of Hartleys were not all suited to a life of commerce. Two world wars also had their effect on the firm’s fortunes; rationing reduced sales and profits and in 1941 wartime restrictions forced the company to become ‘pulpers’ – and an entire legacy based on the use of whole fruit came to an end.
In 1959 most of the firm’s directors were approaching retirement, and with little modernisation being undertaken, the company was ripe for takeover. When Schweppes made a bid for the company, the shareholders considered it too good an opportunity to resist.
The product survived, but the man and the foundations of his business were in danger of being forgotten. ‘No more than a name on a label… History misplaced him.’ The author, a direct descendant of William Hartley, seeks to correct this oversight. His assiduous research, in often trying circumstances – not everyone has seen the value of archive preservation over the years – has resulted in an engaging memoir. He champions the vision and preserves the legend, deftly interspersing biography with manageable slices of social history in an obvious labour of love.
Nevertheless, Nicholas Hartley’s 21st century perspective vividly illuminates the rise to prominence of one of this country’s foremost industrialists and benefactors. Using photographs and illustrations from his personal collection, he charts the success and failures, personalities and characters which featured in the life of his extraordinary ancestor in a lively and informative chronicle.
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© Published on The History of Advertising website Nov 2011