Was Quaker Oats Founded By Quakers?

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A brief and introductory look at whether or not the Quaker Oats Company was formed by Quakers

The Quaker Oats Company was founded in Pennsylvania in 1901 and was named after the Quakers only because there were a lot of them in the area and they had a reputation for honesty, something that the Oats Company would no doubt want to associate with. The truth is that Quakers had no other interest in the starting of the Quaker Oats Company, other than providing, unknowingly at the time, the name it was based on.

Other than having borrowed the name of the group, Quaker Oats had no affiliation with the Quakers and was not founded by Quakers or on Quaker principles. Companies such as Cadbury’s, Fry’s and Rowntree were, but not Quaker Oats.

(Image via Wikipedia)

The Quakers (or Religious Society of Friends) allegedly got their name following the trial of George Fox for blasphemy in 1650. Fox, who was the founder of the Society, is said to have told the judge after the verdict that he should ‘tremble at the word of the Lord’, hence becoming known as ‘Quakers’. The other side of the coin is that they already had a reputation for ‘trembling’ in religious ecstacy and this may have result in the name ‘Quakers’. What ever the truth of the origin of the Religious Society of Friends becoming known as the Quakers may well have been lost in the mists of time, but other things are known for sure.

On the front of a Quaker Oats box appears a cheery character who is said to be the founder of Pennsylvania, William Penn, who was a very influential Quaker. The Quaker Oats company have denied this on many occasions. The artist who painted the original that the Quaker Oat Company’s iconic image was based on was Haddon Sundblom and he claimed that it was co-worker Harold W McAuley that the painting was based on. As a point of interest, Sundblom was the artist who also created Coca Cola’s iconic Santa Claus image.

The Quaker Oats Company may well have taken the name because the Quakers had a reputation for honesty as they thought it would reflect well on themselves, but one incident in the 1950’s badly tarnished the Company image.

Researchers from Quaker Oats, along with researchers from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were locked in an experiment to try and find out how nutrients from cereals travelled through the human body after ingestion. How did they do such an experiment? Firstly, parents of what can only be described as educationally subnormal children at the Walter E. Fernald State School (formerly called the ‘Massachusetts School for Idiotic Children) were asked to let their children become members of what was described as a ‘special Science Club’. The parents were told that, as part of this ‘club’, the children would be put on a diet high in nutrients. What the parents were not told though was that the food was laced with iron and radioactive calcium so its path through the human body could be traced properly.

In 1997, the Quaker Oats Company were forced to pay out $1.85 million to more than 100 participants in the experiment after the parents sued.


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