Henry Drinker was an influential Philadelphia merchant who served as Clerk of the Philadelphia Monthly Meeting. His correspondence with Elizabeth indicates his and their involvement in Quaker issues.
As an avid music lover, Drinker held exclusive invitation-only evenings featuring dinner and group singing with guests such as the famed Trapp Family Singers – regular guests at these gatherings.
Early Life and Education
Henry Drinker was the son of Philadelphia merchant Sandwith Drinker and Susannah Budd Shober and was deeply immersed in the Society of Friends – an ecumenical religious organization which shared many of his convictions about peace, social responsibility, and pacifism. Henry himself held various positions within this movement such as clerking Philadelphia Monthly Meeting meetings, co-owner of shipping company James and Drinker shipping firm ownership, as well as being active in community affairs.
Drinker was an enthusiastic music lover. He amassed an extensive collection of scores and wrote extensively on musicalology; Brahms and Schumann were particularly admired, while many musical acquaintances became his lifelong friends.
Drinker graduated from Lehigh University as a mechanical engineer in 1871 and became one of its early directors, becoming an early director of what would later become Lehigh University itself. Additionally, his passion was gardening which resulted in designing several gardens at Lehigh.
Henry Drinker was an outstanding researcher at Harvard who left an indelible mark far beyond its confines. His influence extended far beyond Harvard; he published over 80 peer-reviewed papers and several books which helped shape policies, programs, and students’ understanding of binge drinking.
Henry Drinker was an active Quaker who participated in the Philadelphia Monthly Meeting and co-owned, along with Abel James, the firm of James and Drinker which traded widely with London, Dublin, and American cities such as Philadelphia. Additionally, he invested lands throughout Pennsylvania including Beaver, Bradford, Cambria Clearfield Jefferson Monroe Luzerne Northampton Tioga counties.
After graduating from Lehigh University in 1871, he became a mechanical engineer for the Lehigh Valley Railroad and eventually its general solicitor. Later that same year, in 1905 he was named president of Lehigh University – becoming its inaugural alumnus to hold such an office.
Achievement and Honors
Henry is an esteemed legislator, having passed multiple laws regarding healthcare access, consumer protection and environmental sustainability. Additionally, he has published over 80 papers and built a robust research program. Furthermore, Henry has earned several accolades including being honored with the American Bar Association Medal.
Henry and Elizabeth Drinker were prominent Philadelphia Quakers who remained neutral during the American Revolutionary War, for which they endured harassment, jail time, and torment from both sides of the divide. Richard Godbeer drew extensively upon Henry and Elizabeth Drinker’s diaries and letters for “World of Trouble”, his dual biography written with Professor Battey’s help illustrating their lives before, during, and post American Revolution era events; it also illustrates how political events often intersect with personal ones in our nation’s past and present history.
The Drinker family was active in various social, civic, and cultural endeavors. Catherine Drinker Bowen wrote biographies of Oliver Wendell Holmes and John Adams while Ernesta (Etta) Drinker Ballard founded the National Organization for Women while acting as horticulturist. Additionally, Cecilia Beaux painted Edith Roosevelt’s White House portrait as equal of John Singer Sargent.
Drinker was an active member of the Society of Friends, serving as clerk of Philadelphia Monthly Meeting and as co-owner with Abel James of James and Drinker Shipping Firm. Devoted to his religion’s principles of pacifism, Drinker refused military service during the Revolutionary War and was imprisoned in Winchester Virginia for months due to violations against their religious freedoms. Consequently, other Quakers published The Quaker Exile Remonstrance against this violation in 1777 as a protest.
Henry Drinker had an outstanding material life as both a merchant and respected member of Philadelphia’s Quaker community. He served as clerk for Philadelphia Monthly Meeting and co-owned James and Drinker shipping firm with James Coakley; also, Henry Drinker advocated strongly for peace with signature on 1777 Quaker Exile Remonstrance.
As president, Drinker made sure Faegre Drinker took advantage of opportunities for growth and development, such as expanding into foreign markets and hiring new partners. He also assisted the firm during difficult times like pandemic, helping it through difficult periods such as declining transactional work due to transaction costs reductions from pandemic costs reductions but profits still outpaced peers, propelling Faegre Drinker into sixth place among US law firms.