Bryant & May Matchstick Striker MI056

Bryant & May Matchstick Striker, late 19th century. Cast Iron. Excellent condition.


Bryant and May

Advertisement from the Illustrated Guide to the Church Congress 1897

Bryant and May was a United Kingdom (UK) company created in the mid-nineteenth century specifically to make matches. Their original Bryant and May Factory was located in Bow, London. They later opened other match factories in the United Kingdom and Australia, such as the Bryant and May Factory, Melbourne; and owned match factories in other parts of the world.

A partnership was formed in 1843 between two Quakers, Francis May and William Bryant, to establish a Provisions Merchants business in Tooley Street, London. In 1850 they started importing Swedish matches, produced by Carl and Johan Lundström. Their first order was for 10 or 15 cases of 720,000 matches (each case held 50 gross boxes, with a box holding 100 matches). The next order was for 50 cases; and later orders for 500 cases. This partnership was successful, so Francis May and William Bryant decided to merge the partnership with Bryant’s company, Bryant and James, which was based in Plymouth. By 1853 Bryant and May were selling over 8 million boxes of matches per year; which was approximately 50% of the output of the Lundström brothers.

The company, Bryant and May, was founded with the specific aim of making only Safety Matches. They were influential in fighting against the dreadful disease known as Phossy jaw which was caused by white phosphorus used in the manufacture of the early matches. They started in 1861, on a dilapidated site in Bow which had once been used for the manufacture of candles, crinoline and rope. This site was gradually expanded as a model factory. However the public were initially unwilling to buy the more expensive safety matches so they also had to make the traditional Lucifer Matches.

They were the target of the London matchgirls strike of 1888, which won important improvements in working conditions and pay for the mostly female workforce.