Bryant & May

Bryant & May

Bryant & May was a match manufacturing company established in London in the mid-19th century. The firm survived as an independent company for over seventy years, but went through a series of mergers with other match companies and later with consumer products companies, before finally being taken over. The registered trade name Bryant & May still exists and is owned by Swedish Match.

In 1843 two Quakers named Francis May and William Bryant opened a grocery business in Tooley Street, London. In 1850 they started importing matches from Sweden. Their first order was for 10 or 15 cases of 720,000 matches. By 1853 Bryant & May was selling over 8 million boxes of matches per year.

In 1861 Bryant & May established a factory in Fairfield Road, Bow, in east London, with the specific aim of making only safety matches. The company was 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. However the public were initially unwilling to buy the more expensive safety matches so Bryant & May also had to manufacture the traditional kind.

In 1926 Bryant & May combined with a British match importer and the Swedish Match Co. to become the British Match Corporation. In 1973 the British Match Corporation merged with Wilkinson Sword to form the new company Wilkinson Match. In 1987 Swedish Match reacquired the company. It later sold on the Wilkinson Sword business whilst retaining the match business.