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William Hesketh Lever Passes Away

Today in Masonic History William Hesketh Lever passes away in 1925.

William Hesketh Lever was a British businessman.

Lever was born on September 19th, 1851 in Bolton, Lancashire, England. His father was a grocer and Lever worked in his father business at the age of 16. He was educated at the Bolton Church Institute. In 1872 he was given a partnership in his father’s business.

In 1886, Lever created Lever Brothers, a soap manufacturing company, with his brother James.

In 1887, Lever wanted to expand his business. He purchased land in Cheshire. There he built a manufacturing facility and a model village. The purpose of a model village, common at the time, is to provide housing for employees. The housing was called tied cottages, which means the rental of the cottage was tied to whether employee remained employed. The village was called Port Sunlight.

Lever also wanted to use art for his advertising campaigns. The art would later become an art collection.

In 1906, Lever entered into a monopoly scheme with other soap manufacturers. This was at a time when Teddy Roosevelt was, in the United States, pushing legislation to bust the monopolies in the United States. By the end of 1906, the monopoly scheme was abandoned by Lever.

In 1911, Lever in search of less expensive Palm Oil visited the Belgian Congo. There he entered into system known as travail forcé or forced labor. Lever was seen as paternalistic, oppressive, to the people of the Congo.

Through his life Lever was a major benefactor for various causes and public services. Included recipients of his charitable donations were the education system from elementary school up to and through the University of Liverpool where he gave money to establish a school of tropical medicine. It also included various parks and the art museum which was dedicated to his late wife.

In 2010, A.N. Wilson from the Mail Online stated that the altruism of Lever “or the Cadbury family are in sad contrast to the antisocial attitude of modern business magnates, who think only of profit and the shareholder.”

Lever passed away on May 7th, 1925.

In 1902, Lever was the first initiate into a lodge which was named after him William Hesketh Lever Lodge No. 2916. He would go on to found several other lodges. He saw the fraternity as a way to strengthen the hierarchy within Lever Brothers. He was Senior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons of England in 1919. He was also Senior Grand Warden of the provincial Grand Lodge of Cheshire.