Harry Hardy Peach was born in Toronto, Canada in 1874. His family settled in Oadby, Leicester when he was three years old. His father, who came from a Nottinghamshire drapery family, decided to return to his Midlands roots. Peach went to Wyggeston Boys Grammar School and then to Oakham Public School in Rutland. After a brief period working as an estate agent with his father he set up as a bookseller at 37 Belvoir Street, Leicester specialising in manuscripts and early printed books. His love of literature and appreciation of good quality printing lasted throughout his life. He also realised that good quality printing was an effective tool both for his business and other interests.
During the First World War, the Dryad Works provided cane for basket-making by wounded soldiers. Peach set up an offshoot of his business, Dryad Handicrafts, to supply the demand in schools. He was convinced of the importance of craftwork in education but only if standards were high. Under Peach’s direction, Dryad Handicrafts produced a range of well designed and informative leaflets written by practising makers and teachers. The firm also produced pattern sheets, information folders, cards and charts available through mail order catalogues. Dryad Handicrafts’ showroom was at 42 St Nicholas Street Leicester. A second showroom in London was opened in 1928. By 1936, when Peach died, Dryad Handicrafts was the largest supplier of handicrafts in the world.