Monday, March 22, 2010

Odd Questions about Quakers

Very soon, the Quaker Information Center webpage and the responsibility of responding to emails will be transferred from our office in Philadelphia to the Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Indiana. In preparation, I have been going through old emails, culling classic examples to send them. Below are a few of the more strange or amusing questions I have received over the past six years.

Chel Avery

We are using cutting oil QUAKER ALU 3853 for our machining. We are buying from your Poona local representative ‘Techno Tooling.” . . . Our order is 1 Barrel and your local auth dealer is supplying in 20 LIT can. What the meaning of this? . . . Expecting a good business relationship always.

I am sorry, I cannot help you. The Quaker Information Center provides information about the Quaker religion. We have nothing to do with products that carry the name Quaker, no more than Saturn automobiles come from the planet Saturn.
I believe you may be thinking of Quaker State Motor Oil, a company that is owned by Pennzoil. Try contacting them at

My friend suggested to me that Quakers do not procreate, but rather obtain all members via conversion. . . . I told her she was crazy and misguided, she insisted she was not crazy. She is crazy, right? You know how Catholics can be. Christian Reformed here.

I assure you, Quakers do indeed procreate. (One of our songsters has a humorous ballad called “Making Quakers from Scratch.”) I think your Friend has us confused with the Shakers, a religious sect that started in England and came to North America. Shakers lived in communities that practiced celibacy and took in orphans. There is a very minor connection between the two groups. The Shakers had been a small group in Manchester started by a couple named Wardley, two former Quakers. Ann Lee--who had no Quaker connections—joined the group and eventually became its leader and introduced many changes, including the part about not procreating. I don’t think your friend is crazy, just misinformed.

My friend heard on the Philadelphia Duck bus/boat tour that there is no First Street in Philadelphia because our Quaker fore-parents, in naming streets, decided that no earthly location should be set above God and called “First,” so they named it “Front Street.” Do you know if this is true or is it a Quaker urban legend? People are being told this everyday in the tour.

Quaker urban legend indeed! “Front Street” is a commonly used term in many American cities for the street that faces a water front. The next street is second street, and so forth. There is nothing “Quakerish” or unique to Philadelphia history in this naming of our streets. I once spent a couple hours dissuading a BBC reporter who had participated in a local tour from including this little bit of local color in her story about Philadelphia Quakers. I cannot figure out why visitors are unable to remember the difference between William Penn and Benjamin Franklin, or forget the difference between Quakers and Pennsylvania Dutch, but relentlessly remember this bit of nonsense!

Do the Quaker’s still own Quaker Oats? If the Quaker’s no longer own Quaker Oats, do they still represent Quaker Oats? Are Quaker’s the inventor of the Oatmeal cookie recipe?

Quakers do not and have never owned the Quaker Oats Company. “Quaker” is simply their brand name (like “Eskimo Pie,” which I do not believe was ever owned by Yupik, Inuit, or Aleut people). . . . . I do not know who first made oatmeal cookies. However I have read that the process for making rolled oats was developed by a Quaker woman in the U.S.

What is a Quaker spook chaser?

You’ve got me. According to the writer, this was the description applied to a noisemaker sold in an antique shop. I hope it isn’t what it sounds like!

How do I get my Quakers to mate?

(Ref Q2 above.) Dinner and soft music weren’t effective? Then I am going to assume this question refers to the breed of parrots known as “Quakers.” Try this other Quaker Information Center:

What age are Quaker girls when they get their bonnets? Do Quakers commemorate the occasion with a special ceremony?

I’m all out of answers. I hope somebody else will take this one.