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Lord Leverhulme, soap and civilization
Author: Brian Lewis

This book is an unorthodox biography of William Hesketh Lever, 1st Lord Leverhulme (1851-1925), the founder of the Lever Brothers' Sunlight Soap empire. The most frequently recurring comparison during his life and at his death, however, was with Napoleon. What the author finds most fascinating about him is that he unites within one person so many intriguing developments of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The book first sketches out his life, the rise and triumph of his business, and explores his homes, his gardens and his collections. It contains essays on Lever in the context of the history of advertising, of factory paternalism, town planning, the Garden City movement and their ramifications across the twentieth century, and of colonial encounters. Lever had worked hard at opening agencies and selling his soap abroad since 1888. But if import drives proved unsatisfactory, logic dictated that soap should be manufactured and sold locally, both to reduce the price by vaulting tariff barriers on imports and to cater for idiosyncratic local tastes. As D. K. Fieldhouse points out, Lever Brothers was one of the first generation of capitalist concerns to manufacture in a number of countries. The company opened or started building factories in America, Switzerland, Canada, Australia and Germany in the late 1890s. It then spread to most western European countries and the other white settler colonies of the empire, as well as more tentatively to Asia and Africa.

Brian Lewis

battalions and win empires, if not in war, then in peace.’6 A writer in Town Topics in 1912 rather less charitably declared that Lever was ‘more ruthless, more autocratic, more dogmatic than Napoleon’.7 The landscape architect Thomas Mawson described his first encounter with Lever in 1905: William Hesketh Lever was, I quickly realised, a man of strong personality, who had absolute control of himself and all his interests, in which I include those interests which absorbed his few leisure hours. At this our first interview he struck me as a veritable Napoleon in his grasp of

in ‘So clean’
Brian Lewis

-Gothic churches made an effort, at least before they were enveloped in grime. Bolton was an unlovely, lethal place. More than a fifth of the population did not survive their first year of life; over a third were dead by age five. Its one saving grace was that it was still small enough that, for those with the leisure and energy, the surrounding countryside was easily within walking distance.2 William Hesketh Lever grew up on one of the more prosperous, middleclass streets of this archetypal Coketown, but within spitting distance of dismal poverty and squalor. Such an

in ‘So clean’
Brian Lewis

brand because they bloody well can’t forget it. All you professional advertising men are scared to death of raping the public; I say the public likes it, if you got the know-how to make ’em relax and enjoy it.’2 Our Old Man, William Hesketh Lever, would have concurred at least in part. He always emphasized the power of advertising in bringing about his business success. ‘People already in the soap business could have put rings round me on manufacturing soap,’ he wrote in 1923, looking back to the early days of his career, ‘but none of them understood how to sell soap

in ‘So clean’
Brian Lewis

beginning to recover their imperial memory; Lever hagiographers should do the same.120 Notes 1 Daily Telegraph, 8 May 1925, quoted in Progress, 25:168 (July 1925), 143. 2 Harley Williams, Men of Stress: Three Dynamic Interpretations: Woodrow Wilson, Andrew Carnegie, William Hesketh Lever (London: Jonathan Cape, 1948), pp. 298, 300, 363. 3 Jervis J. Babb, The Human Relations Philosophy of William Hesketh Lever (New York: The Newcomen Society in North America, 1952), pp. 13–14. 4 Charles Wilson, The History of Unilever: A Study in Economic Growth and Social Change, vol. I

in ‘So clean’
Profits or perks?
Helena Chance

Hesketh Lever at Port Sunlight, 1888–1925 (PhD, Louisiana State University, 2003), 198. 190 The factory in a garden 77 Roberts, A Woman’s Place. 78 Proud, Welfare Work, p. 213. See also Margaret Willes, The Gardens of the British Working Class (London, 2014). 79 ‘Personal Reminiscences’, CB, 003270. 80 Maddren, Letchworth Recollections, p. 158. 81 Ibid., pp. 89–91. 82 Article by Mr Pearkes Withers in the Daily Mail (10 August, 1928) Cereal Partners (Nestlé). 83 The NIIP was founded in 1921. According to their pamphlet, The Human Factor in Industry (London, c.1930

in The factory in a garden
Helena Chance

separately from the factory and less than half of the residents worked at the chocolate factory which it had its own amenities. William Hesketh Lever’s village Port Sunlight, built in the 1890s near Liverpool for his employees at the Sunlight Soap factory was an integrated industrial site because all the residents of the village either worked or had associations with the factory. Port Sunlight, planned by the architect William Owen, became a highly influential factory village and one of the most visited, including by many of the industrialists whose factory gardens and

in The factory in a garden
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Brian Lewis

–1; Lever, Leverhulme, p. 280; Harley Williams, Men of Stress: Three Dynamic Interpretations: Woodrow Wilson, Andrew Carnegie, William Hesketh Lever (London: Jonathan Cape, 1948), pp. 307–9. 25 Bruce Arnold, Orpen: Mirror to an Age (London: Jonathan Cape, 1981), p. 395; Lever, Leverhulme, p. 283. 26 T. M. Devine, Clanship to Crofters’ Wars: The Social Transformation of the Scottish Highlands (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994), pp. 81–2. 27 Nigel Nicolson, Lord of the Isles (Stornoway: Acair, 2000; 1st edn, 1960), pp. 22, 49–51, 122; Bolton Evening News, 7 May

in ‘So clean’
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Viv Gardner and Diane Atkinson

Marshall was a supporter of his wife’s militant career and acted as the WSPU’s solicitor, representing suffragettes in court and visiting them in prison. 139 William Hesketh Lever (1851–1925), the industrialist, philanthropist and founder of the model village of Port Sunlight. Lever’s summer home at Rivington Pike, Lancashire, was attacked in 1913 by Edith Rigby (1872–1950), the founder and organiser of the Preston WSPU. Rigby gave herself up to the police and was sent to prison for nine months. 140 A beef extract. 137 138 GARDNER 9781526138040 PRINT regular

in Kitty Marion