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Jonas Hanway

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Jonas Hanway
Portrait of Jonas Hanway by James Northcote, c. 1785
Born12 August 1712
Died5 September 1786
Occupation(s)Philanthropist, traveller

Jonas Hanway FRSA (12 August 1712 – 5 September 1786), was a British philanthropist and traveller.[1] He was the first male Londoner to carry an umbrella and was a noted opponent of tea drinking.



Hanway was born in Portsmouth, on the south coast of England. Whilst still a child, his father, who had been a victualler, died, and the family subsequently moved to London.

In 1729, Jonas was apprenticed to a merchant in Lisbon. In 1743, after he had been in business for himself for some time in London, he became a partner with Mr Dingley, a merchant in St Petersburg, and in this way was led to travel in Russia and Persia. Leaving St Petersburg on 10 September 1743, and passing south by Moscow, Tsaritsyn and Astrakhan, he embarked on the Caspian Sea on 22 November and arrived at Astrabad on 18 December. Here his goods were seized by Mohammed Hassan Beg, and it was only after great privations that he reached the camp of Nadir Shah, under whose protection he recovered most (85%) of his property.

His return journey was embarrassed by sickness (at Resht), attacks from pirates, and six weeks' quarantine; he only arrived at St Petersburg on 1 January 1745. He again left the Russian capital on 9 July 1750 and travelled through Germany and the Netherlands to England (28 October). The rest of his life was mostly spent in London, where the narrative of his travels (published in 1753) soon made him a man of note, and where he devoted himself to philanthropy and good citizenship.

In 1756, Hanway founded The Marine Society, to keep up the supply of British seamen; in 1758, he became a governor of the Foundling Hospital, a position which was upgraded to vice president in 1772; he was instrumental in the establishment the Magdalen Hospital; in 1761 he procured a better system of parochial birth registration in London; and in 1762 he was appointed a commissioner for victualling the navy (10 July); this office he held till October 1783.

He died, unmarried, on 5 September 1786 aged 74 and was buried in the crypt at St. Mary's Church, Hanwell. A monument to his memory, sculpted by John Francis Moore was erected in the north transept[2] at Westminster Abbey in 1786.[3]

Hanway was the first male Londoner, it is said, to carry an umbrella, (following women who had been using umbrellas since 1705) [4] and he lived to triumph over all the hackney coachmen who tried to hoot and hustle him down.[5] He attacked vail-giving, or tipping, with some temporary success; by his onslaught upon tea drinking he became involved in controversy with Samuel Johnson and Oliver Goldsmith. His last efforts were on behalf of child chimney-sweeps. He also advocated solitary confinement for prisoners and opposed naturalisation of non-British Jews.[6]

Opposition to tea


Hanway was a staunch opponent of tea drinking.[7] In 1756, he authored An Essay on Tea which argued that tea was "pernicious to health, obstructing industry and impoverishing the nation". Hanway stated that tea drinking caused bad breath, ugliness and weakened the nerves. Hanway was concerned about the nation's economic loss from the tea trade with China. He believed that Britain's national wealth was being given to other countries instead of being used in preparing the nation's defence and that excessive tea drinking was weakening the British population.[8]

In 1757, Samuel Johnson, a tea drinker, wrote an anonymous negative review of Hanway's essay for the Literary Magazine.[9] This led to a heated dispute between them.[7] Johnson's review was controversial as it criticised the Foundling Hospital. The governors of the hospital considered taking legal action against the publisher of the Literary Magazine.[10] However, the publishers of the magazine did not apologise or reveal Johnson's name but decided it was time for him to hand in his resignation as a reviewer.[11]



Hanway created seventy-four printed works, mostly pamphlets. Of literary importance is the Historical Account of British Trade over the Caspian Sea, with a Journal of Travels, etc. (London, 1753). He's also cited frequently for his work with the Foundling Hospital, particularly his pamphlets detailing the earliest comparative "histories" of the foundation versus similar institutions abroad.[12]

On his life, see also John Pugh, Remarkable Occurrences in the Life of Jonas Hanway (London, 1787); Gentleman's Magazine, vol. xxxii. p. 342; vol. lvi. pt. ii. pp. 812814, 1090, 1143-1144; vol. lxv. pt. ii. pp. 72 1722, 834-835; Notes and Queries, 1st series, i. 436, ii. 25; 3rd series, vii. 311; 4th series, viii. 416.




  1. ^ Trueman Wood, Henry (1913). A History of the Royal Society of Arts. London: John Murray.
  2. ^ Stanley, A.P., Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey (London; John Murray; 1882), p. 248.
  3. ^ Dictionary of British Sculptors, 1660-1851
  4. ^ Easton, M (2013). Britain Etc.: The way we live and how we got there. London: Simon and Schuster UK Ltd. p. 224. ISBN 978-1-47112-918-6.
  5. ^ William John Thoms, John Doran, Henry Frederick Turle, Joseph Knight, Vernon Horace Rendall, Florence Hayllar (1850) Notes and Queries: Umbrellas. Oxford University Press, pp.25. Retrieved 2006-10-30.
  6. ^ Hanway, Jonas (1776) Solitude in Imprisonment: With Proper Profitable Labour and a Spare Diet, the Most Humane and... J. Bew. Retrieved 2006-10-30.
  7. ^ a b Hsia, Adrian. (1998). The Vision of China in the English Literature of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. Chinese University Press. pp. 276-277. ISBN 962-201-608-1
  8. ^ Jonas Hanway: Philanthropist and Founder of the Marine Society. Journal of the Johnson Society of London, 1987.
  9. ^ Murphy, Arthur. (1824). The Works of Samuel Johnson. London: Thomas Tegg. pp. 333-348
  10. ^ Taylor, James Stephen. (1985). Jonas Hanway: Founder of the Marine Society. Ashgate Publishing. p. 54. ISBN 978-0859677004
  11. ^ Hanley, Brian. (2001). Samuel Johnson as Book Reviewer. University of Delaware Press. pp. 144-145. ISBN 0-87413-736-5
  12. ^ Hanway, Jonas (1759). A Candid Historical Account of the Hospital For the Reception of Exposed and Deserted Young Children; representing The present Plan of it as productive of many Evils, and not adapted to the Genius and Happiness of this Nation. London.

Further reading

  • Roland Everett Jayne, Jonas Hanway: Philanthropist, Politician, and Author (1712–1786), London: Epworth Press, J. Alfred Sharp, 1929.