GUINNESS, the name of a family of Irish brewers. The firm was founded by ARTHUR GUINNESS, who about the middle of the 18th century owned a modest brewing-plant at Leixlip, a village on the upper reaches of the river Liffey. In or about 1759 Arthur Guinness, seeking to extend his trade, purchased a small porter brewery belonging to a Mr Rainsford at St James's Gate, Dublin. By careful attention to the purity of his product, coupled with a shrewd perception of the public taste, he built up a considerable business. But his third son, BENJAMIN LEE GUINNESS (1798-1868), may be regarded as the real maker of the firm, into which he was taken at an early age, and of which about 1825 he was given sole control. Prior to that date the trade in Guinness's porter and stout had been confined to Ireland, but Benjamin Lee Guinness at once established agencies in the United Kingdom, on the continent, in the British colonies and in America. The export trade soon assumed huge proportions; the brewery was continually enlarged, and when in 1855 his father died, Benjamin Lee Guinness, who in 1851 was elected first lord mayor of Dublin, found himself sole proprietor of the business and the richest man in Ireland. Between 1860 and 1865 he devoted a portion of this wealth to the restoration of St Patrick's cathedral, Dublin. The work, the progress of which he regularly superintended himself, cost 160,000. Benjamin Lee Guinness represented the city of Dublin in parliament as a Conservative from 1865 till his death, and in 1867 was created a baronet. He died in 1868, and was succeeded in the control of the business by Sir Arthur Edward Guinness (b. 1840), his eldest, and Edward Cecil Guinness (b. 1847), his third, son. Sir ARTHUR EDWARD GUINNESS, who for some time represented Dublin in parliament, was in 1880 raised to the peerage as Baron Ardilaun, and about the same time disposed of his share in the brewery to his brother Edward Cecil Guinness. In 1886 EDWARD CECIL GUINNESS disposed of the brewery, the products of which were then being sent all over the world, to a limited company, in which he remained the largest shareholder. Edward Cecil Guinness was created a baronet in 1885, and in 1891 was raised to the peerage as Baron Iveagh.
The Guinness family have been distinguished for their philanthropy and public munificence. Lord Ardilaun gave a recreation ground to Dublin, and the famous Muckross estate at Killarney to the nation. Lord Iveagh set aside 250,000 for the creation of the Guinness trust (1889) for the erection and maintenance of buildings for the labouring poor in London and Dublin, and was a liberal benefactor to the funds of Dublin university.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)