Dictionary of National Biography, 1927 supplement/Fry, Joseph Storrs

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FRY, JOSEPH STORRS (1826–1913), cocoa manufacturer and quaker philanthropist, was born in Union Street, Bristol, 6 August 1826, the eldest son of Joseph Fry, of Bristol, by his wife, Mary Ann, daughter of Edward Swaine, of Henley-on-Thames, A younger brother was the distinguished jurist, Sir Edward Fry [q.v.]. He was educated chiefly at home, but was at Bristol College for a short time. After learning business methods in an accountant’s office, he entered the family business of cocoa and chocolate manufacture, established in Bristol in the middle of the eighteenth century by his great-grandfather, Joseph Fry [q.v.]. In 1855 he became a partner in the firm.

Fry’s interest in local affairs of a religious and social character was deep and constant. For many years he conducted a brief service with the employees of the cocoa works, and in his will he left £42,000 to be distributed among them. In 1871 he joined the Young Men’s Christian Association in Bristol, and he became president in 1877. In 1887 he was elected a member of the committee of the Bristol General Hospital, becoming later chairman, treasurer, and president. Up to the last few years of his life he visited the hospital every Christmas Eve and spoke to each patient at his bedside. In 1909 he became an honorary freeman of the city, and in 1912 the university of Bristol conferred on him the honorary degree of LL.D.

Fry was born a member of the Society of Friends and throughout his life gave ungrudging attention to its interests. He rose to the highest position in this religious body, being ‘clerk’ (or president) of the ‘London Yearly Meeting’ for fifteen years (1870–1875, 1881–1889), the longest period for which that office has been held by any individual since 1704. He was a preacher among the Friends and a pioneer in many organizations connected with their Sunday schools and home and foreign missions.

Fry’s private life was singularly uneventful. The room which he occupied on the business premises to the end of his life was, he believed, the room in which he had been born. He lived with his mother for sixty years and never married. The things which usually interest men in his position—travel, politics, art, science, intercourse with nature—had no attraction for him. The distribution of his charities occupied no inconsiderable portion of his time and thought. He died 7 July 1913. The funeral was a remarkable demonstration of the esteem in which he was held by his fellow-citizens.

[The Annual Monitor, 1914; Proceedings of London Yearly Meeting, 1914; numerous magazine articles; manuscripts in Friends’ Reference Library, Devonshire House, London; personal knowledge.]

N. P.