Everyone likes a good story.
Lately, I’ve found myself drawn the story behind the product. There are countless products in our world that started with someone’s idea, a random thought, a crazy dream. Those ‘someones’ were most likely surrounded by skeptics, by naysayers, non-supporters, and flat out disbelievers. Probably even family members who told them that it was “nonsense”, “don’t waste your time”, “that’s such a stupid idea.”
They didn’t listen. Or they didn’t care what others said, or thought, or felt. They listened to themselves. To their crazy idea. The voice they can’t quiet inside their head until they do something about it. And this is the story that fascinates me the most. The dreamers. The doers. The entrepreneurs. The inventors. What’s their story?
I google these people. A lot. Most of them are completely at random. I’m on a bus, drinking a Starbucks admiring the mermaid logo on my cup and think, “how did that even happen”? I turn straight to my friend, Google, and search for answers. I always find what I’m looking for and I am never disappointed.
People are straight up fascinating.
As many inventors as there are out there, there are biographies. Ginormous books with all the history and backstory anyone could want. And as much as I would love to sit and dig into the pages of their life, there is such little time any more.
But I also thought, during my recent quest for knowledge (which began when seeing a Guinness beer commercial), someone else might find their story interesting. And although they could Google it too, they may not.
So I decided that I’m going dust off my dormant blog, and jot down my findings along with some old timey pics and share these random founder stories. They may be stories you already know, or bits and pieces, but either way, I hope you enjoy my interpretation of these fascinating people.
Arthur Guinness was born in Celbridge, Co Kildare, in 1725. His father was land steward to the archbishop of Cashel, Dr Arthur Price, and brewed beer for workers on the estate and was well known for his particularly fine porter beer. He taught Arthur the craft of brewing with the equipment they had in the churches basement.
Arthur was 27 when the archbishop passed away in 1752. Dr. Price left him £100 (the equivalent of four years wages at the time). Over the following three years, he perfected his skills as the brewer for an inn owned by his stepmother. In 1755, at the age of 30, he struck out his own, purchasing a small brewery in the village of Leixlip. He felt that brewing beer was a service to the community: this was the era in which gin was devastating poor communities and beer provided a far healthier and less intoxicating alternative.
In 1759, southwest of the city, he found an old dilapidated brewery in Dublin, named St. James’s Gate Brewery. Although the building needed a great deal of work, 34-year-old Guinness saw this as a major opportunity and rented the factory for just £45 a year, for an unprecedented lease-term of 9000 years.
In 1761 Arthur Guinness married Olivia Whitmore in St. Mary’s Church in Dublin. They had 21 children, 10 of which lived to adulthood.
In 1764, Arthur built the Beaumont House where the family lived on a farm of 51 acres. Now it’s the estate of Beaumont Convalescent Home, behind the main part of Beaumont Hospital, between Raheny and Santry in north County Dublin.
Arthur was a very dedicated member of the Church of Ireland. He had inherited the ethics of hard work from his father and the church instilled the goodness and responsibilities of wealth, which included the importance of caring for the poor.
As a result, Arthur became involved in a variety of social welfare organizations. He also gave to a number of charities, promoted Gaelic arts to encourage pride in the Irish heritage, and joined the Friendly Brothers of St. Patrick, an organization dedicated to ending the practice of dueling.
He was also a champion of the Sunday School movement in Ireland, which provided basic education to children. For Arthur, this was part of an interest in prison reform as well: he believed that education combined with Biblical teaching would keep people from falling into a life of crime.
Guinness Stout As We Know It
Guinness continued to develop and improve as a brewer. In 1779, he was named official brewer of Dublin Castle. At this point, he was brewing ales as well as a variety of dark porters. Gradually, though, he decided to specialize in porter; he finally gave up brewing ale in 1799 and figured out how to produce a good quality black porter (stout).
That’s when the production of the dark beer with creamy foam originated, and the company quickly became a symbol of Ireland. It was only four years later, at age of 78, when Arthur Guinness died. As a legacy to their children businessman left 25,000 pounds, which by today’s standards would amount to about 865,000 pounds.
By his death in 1803 the annual brewery output of the stout over 20,000 barrels.
The harp, which serves as the emblem of Guinness, is based on a famous 14th century Irish harp known as the “O’Neill” or “Brian Boru” harp, which is now preserved in the Library of Trinity College Dublin.
The harp has been synonymous with Guinness since 1862, and according to some calendars it dates back to today April 5, when it was used as a symbol on the first bottle label for Guinness. It was registered as a Guinness company trademark in 1876.
The harp is also the official national emblem of the Republic of Ireland and can be found on the Republic’s coinage.
However, there is a difference between the Irish government harp and the Guinness harp. As Guinness had trademarked the harp symbol in 1876, the Irish Free State Government of 1922 had to turn the official government harp the other way around so as it could be differentiated from the trademarked Guinness harp.
The distinguishing feature between the two harps is that the Guinness Harp always appears with its straight edge (the sound board) to the left, and the government harp is always shown with its straight edge to the right.
It is because of the harp trademark that the Guinness company named its first lager ‘Harp’ in 1960. The harp is one of three elements that make up the Guinness livery. The other two elements are “Guinness” (the word) and Arthur Guinness’s famous signature.
There have been a number of changes to the design of the harp device over the years including a reduction in the number of strings shown. The current harp was introduced in 2005 when a new brand livery was launched.
The history of the Guinness brand is also the story of one of the most famous books in the world… the Guinness World Records book.
The Guinness Book of Records
Legend has it that in 1954, Sir Hugh Beaver, then the managing director of business for the Guinness Brewery, became involved in an argument during a shooting party, regarding the fastest game bird in Europe. There was no book available to provide the answer (and obviously no Google). Beaver quickly realized that there were probably thousands of disputes just like this taking place and decided to run a Guinness promotion based on the idea of settling pub arguments over a pint of beer.
After speaking with some friends in London, twin brothers Norris and Ross McWhirter, it was determined that a book of this kind could be very popular and they began working on the project. After nearly 14 weeks, at 90 hours a week, the project was complete. The first print run of The Guinness Book of Records was for 50,000 copies and by Christmas had become a bestseller in the UK, and is now one of the best selling books in the world.
The Guinness Legacy
Arthur died in 1803, but his legacy lives on. Over the next century, Guinness grew to be one of the largest and most respected breweries in the world. That story is a tribute to Arthur’s hard work and insistence on excellence, qualities which he passed on to his children and heirs. But that is only part of the Guinness story. The other part is the amount of good Guinness has done for its employees and their families and for Dublin, all of which is also part of Arthur’s legacy.
In the late nineteenth century, Dublin had the highest rate of contagious disease and the highest death rate in Europe. The city was a squalid mess of overcrowded slums as people from across Ireland made their way to Dublin in hopes of emigrating, but found the voyage too expensive or spaces on ships simply unavailable. Diseases such as smallpox, measles, dysentery, typhoid fever, and tuberculosis swept the population, striking women and children most severely.
The Victorian period is not known for its compassion to the working classes, yet the Guinness board members were molded by Arthur Guinness’ values. The benefits that came from working for Guinness not only applied to its workers, but to their families, widows and retirees.
A Guinness worker during the 1920s enjoyed full medical and dental care, massage services, reading rooms, subsidized meals, a company funded pension, subsidies for funeral expenses, educational benefits, sports facilities, free concerts, lectures and entertainment, and a guaranteed two pints of Guinness beer a day.
Today, the Guinness legacy lives on. It is one of the largest European beer brands and is respected by people throughout Ireland and beyond. But Arthur’s goals and dreams were always modest: move to the big city, make a good beer for its citizens, and a decent living for his family. He lived his entire life within a few miles of his brewery. He was not a titan of the beer industry. He was simply a man from a small town, with strong values and a knack for making good beer and he shared his love for it with his family.