Business among the Mennonites of the Netherlands

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In the Netherlands Mennonites (before 1795 excluded from the governmental positions) were much engaged in business, besides being in agriculture and cattle-breeding. Particularly in the second half of the 17th century and in the 18th they held leading positions in the lumber trade (Zaandam, Workum, Harlingen, Groningen), in shipbuilding (Zaandistrict, Sneek), while ship-chandleries in many seaports were owned by Mennonites. The herring-fishery was for a large part operated by Mennonites (de Rijp), and whale-fishing was a Mennonite business (de Rijp, Warns, Ameland). Though there were some exceptions (H. H. van Warendorp), Mennonites did not take much part in the Dutch East Indies Company, because the ships sailing to the Far East had to be provided with cannon or convoyed by warships for protection against the pirates. Instead of the excellent revenues of this trade they usually preferred the somewhat smaller, but still important profits of the Baltic Sea trade, in which many Mennonites were engaged. Mennonite ships from Holland sailed to many Baltic ports, such as Copenhagen, Danzig, Königsberg, Riga, and St. Petersburg. Seventy fluiten (large sailing-vessels) from the little town of Molkwerum in Friesland are said to have cast anchor at one time in the harbor of Riga in Russia (Doopsgezinde Bijdragen 1874, 86). And although not many Mennonite boats visited the Levant, the ships of van Eeghen and van Lennep did regularly carry Dutch and German products to Smyrna and other Levantine ports. The shipping trade to Iceland and Greenland generally was handled by Mennonites. As was the case in Norden, Danzig, and Königsberg, Mennonites in Holland were gin and brandy distillers, for instance, Doyer at Zwolle and van Calcar at Hoogezand.

Besides shipping and trade, a considerable number of Mennonites have been and still in the 1950s were engaged in banking, and also in insurance. Many of the old sawmills and oil presses operated by wind on the Zaan River, which have mostly disappeared now and been replaced by modern mills driven by steam or electricity, were Mennonite. There are still a number of big businesses and industries in Holland which were owned by Mennonites, for example the Honig factories (flour and related products, also vegetable oil products) at Koog aan de Zaan, the W. Middelhoven lumber business and P. Schoen's world-famous dye-factories, both at Zaandam, the Ten Cate factories (world-known textile industry) at Almelo in the province of Overijssel, etc. The flower-export of Aalsmeer, mostly in Mennonite hands, should also be mentioned here. There are not many Mennonites among the bulb-growers, however. Two outstanding grocery chains, each with more than 300 shops throughout the country, those of Albert Heyn and Simon de Wit, both had their beginning in a grocery store at Zaandam about 1890, with Mennonites as founders. Many Mennonites still hold leading positions in the wholesale trade of different branches, which are not seldom also financed by Mennonites.

See also Business

Author(s) Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1953

Cite This Article

MLA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. "Business among the Mennonites of the Netherlands." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 19 Aug 2022.

APA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. (1953). Business among the Mennonites of the Netherlands. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 August 2022, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 483. All rights reserved.

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