Biographical / Historical
Joseph Bancroft (1803-1874) was a Hicksite Quaker who worked for the reunification of the Society of Friends in the 1860's and 1870's. He wrote a number of religious tracts and published a book, A Persuasive To Unity, in 1874. His son, William P. Bancroft ((1835-1928) was a long-time Clerk of Wilmington Monthly Meeting and the Clerk of the George School Committee, 1896-1919.
Joseph Bancroft, a birthright Friend, was the son of John and Elizabeth Bancroft. Born in Manchester, England, he attended the Ackworth School and was apprenticed to his uncle, Jacob Bright, at the age of 14 years. In 1824 he emigrated to Wilmington, Delaware, to join his family which had preceded him and were engaged in the manufacture of cloth.
Joseph Bancroft married Sarah, daughter of William and Sarah Poole in 1829. They had two sons, William Poole (1835-1928) and Samuel Jr. (1840-1915), who became his partners in 1865, forming the firm of Joseph Bancroft & Sons, manufacturers of cotton goods.
During the Separation of 1827-28, Joseph retained membership in the Hicksite branch of the Society of Friends, but devoted most of his efforts in the latter years of his life to effecting a reconciliation and reunion. After 1855 he became increasingly involved in a group of Quakers, “Friends of Truth,” which met at Bethany Mission School House at 15th and Brandywine Streets and elsewhere in Philadelphia, and signed his name as Clerk of “Some Friends Who Met in Philadelphia” after 1865. He also wrote a number of religious tracts, and, in the last months of his life, published a book on this subject, "A Persuasive to Unity." Joseph Bancroft left a trust fund to secure the free circulation of this book among members of the Society of Friends after his death. His son, William Poole, continued to promote its distribution until at least 1890.
William P. Bancroft devoted much of his life to philanthropic causes for the City of Wilmington and the Society of Friends. He married Emma Cooper in 1876. Bancroft was one of the primary benefactors of the George School, a Quaker boarding school near Newtown, Pa. He served on the School Committee from 1888-1928 and as Clerk of Committee from 1896-1919. Bancroft also served as the Wilmington Park Commissioner and established the Woodlawn Company.