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Book Reviews Nathan Trotter: Philadelphia Merchant, 1787-1853. By Elva Tooker, Cambridge : Harvard University Press. 1955. xvii, 276 pages. $6.00. Through a City Archway: The Story of Allen and Hanburys, 1715-1954. By Desmond Chapman-Huston and Ernest C. Cripps. London: John Murray. 1954. xv, 326 pages. 25 shillings. Elva Tooker's Nathan Trotter: Philadelphia Merchant, 1787-1853, the eighteenth volume of the Harvatd Studies in Business History, examines the career of a successful Quaker businessman. Nathan Trotter started in 1803 as an assistant to his older brother, William, who imported such British manufactures as leather goods, textiles, and metals. He became the firm's head upon his brother's death in 1815. Under Nathan's guidance the house concentrated on metal wholesaling, the line still followed by Nathan Trotter and Company today. Much of Trotter's personal fortune, however, which amounted to $958,540 on his death, had been made by investing his capital in securities, real estate, and the discounting of commercial paper. Trained and guided by N. S. B. Gras, Edwin F. Gay, and Henrietta Larson, Harvard's pre-eminent business historians, the author knew the useful questions to ask of her material. The role of managerial policy, the adjustment of the firm to an evolving economic system, the performance of the company as a profit-maker, are some of the topics analyzed and made more comprehensible by appropriate statistical tables. Miss Tooker, who has been working since 1937 on one of the largest collections of business records available for this period, has, in 212 pages of text, judiciously and competently digested the raw data from over 1,100 bound volumes and nearly 200 boxes of miscellaneous items of company records. Though not a Quaker, Elva Tooker notes the influence of Trotter's Quaker heritage upon his conduct. In business, he was demonstrably reliable , industrious, orderly, honest, and prudent. He held his living expenses abstemiously to a relatively fixed figure, close to $3000 a year, although his ever-increasing income was to make him a millionaire. The money not spent was, of course, plowed back into his "productive" enterprises. This much of the story may remind Friends of the injunctions of Fox and early Quakers to heed one's earthly calling, to be frugal, and to shun diversions. On the other hand, Friends may not be thoroughly satisfied with the orientation of the author and editors, which so highly values the social usefulness of Trotter's function as an entrepreneur. Most readers will find Trotter neither a very interesting, nor a very noble, nor, except in his family life, a very lovable man; many will feel that Trotter reduces to an abstraction, an "economic man," grinding away like a profit-making machine. Perhaps a more important part of the Quaker heritage failed to be realized in this businessman's life. "Trotter gave some time, though not very 111 112Bulletin of Friends Historical Association much, to matters which were not connected with his family or profits. Nathan served for one year, 1817-1818, as Guardian of the Poor. . . . Trotter did his duty as he saw it, but during his lifetime he gave relatively little to charity and at his death he left his entire fortune to his wife and children." At least the more charming, wealthy Quaker merchants of colonial Pennsylvania spent some of their money during their lives on fine private libraries and on the charities which made the "holy experiment" famous. Through a City Archway: The Story of Allen and Hanburys, contrasts sharply in tone and purpose with the American book. Its style, moralizing and discursive, will delight some readers, reminiscent as it is of a distant era in which both reader and writer had leisure. Ostensibly an historical account of a Quaker drug firm, the book is in actuality a catch-all of biographical sketches, observations on the manners of the eighteenth century, and assorted bits of pharmaceutical lore. Almost never do the authors trouble themselves with anything suggestive of business history. By far the most interesting part of this compound is the eighty-odd-page life of the distinguished English Friend, William Allen. Only a fraction of Allen's energies were absorbed by...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1504
Print ISSN
0033-5053
Pages
pp. 111-112
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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