James Bailey, our founder, celebrated his
102nd birthday this year - 2016!
..... "That someone's burden may be lighter"
These are the words of James Bailey, the founder of Bailey Manufacturing, about the beginnings of Bailey Manufacturing. Mr. Bailey’s daughter, Judith, gave us this information directly from the papers of James Bailey. The Company’s headquarters are still in the same place in Lodi, Ohio.
THE BAILEY MANUFACTURING COMPANY
The Bailey Company, as we know it today, was born out of necessity and desperation. In 1949 our two-and-a-half-year-old son, Charlie, became ill with a sore throat and quickly progressed to an inner ear infection, then meningitis. The end result was cerebral palsy with regression to the capabilities of a six-month old child. An X-ray showed that his brain was compressed to about one half inch thick. Everyone knew it was hopeless except his mother and I, or at least we wouldn't let ourselves believe it.
Every day his mother exercised his arms and legs and put him through the motions of sitting up. The next day it was start from the beginning again - he had retained nothing. It seemed to me that if I could build something that would accept him in a reclining position, then gradually would put him into a sitting position and finally bring him up to a standing position, we might be able to get him to walk again.
The result of this was the Charlie Chair, the wonderful thing was that it worked. Within a few months we had him sitting and a few months later standing alone. It was after teaching him to take a few steps and found that he would walk right into the fireplace that we realized what the chair had done. It had taught him to sit and stand without going through the normal learning process, because of his nearly absent brain.
Thinking that we really had something of worth here, I took the chair to Dr. McKann at Western Reserve University to see if he might want to put it on their Sunday afternoon TV program. He was quite enthusiastic and put it on the next program and simultaneously put the Bailey Manufacturing Company into business. The date was 1951, about mid-summer. Orders began to come in so I had to elicit the help of my friends and customers. A newspaper article written in April 1952 commented on my four county production line. An Amish harness shop in Holmes County made the straps, a garage in Tuscarawas County made the metal parts, the sewing and office work was done in our home in Stark County and the wood-work, along with final assembly was done in Wayne County.
By the end of the first year, we were making cut-out tables and feeding boards to go with the Charlie Chairs, Standing Stabilizers (above right), and Exercise Mats. We also made dozens of one-of-a-kind items and special adaptations, some of which later became standard items in the Bailey line. Our motto was "That someone's burden may be lighter," and no effort was too great if it accomplished that!
James & Lois Bailey (above)with some of the Bailey Equipment.
During 1952 and 1953 the Bailey Manufacturing Company and its innovations was news. Newspapers all over the country picked up our story. Trade papers and even Science and Mechanics magazine printed stories about the Bailey Therapeutic Furniture Business. It was great publicity and brought orders from Alaska to Venezuela.
We were having growing pains, too. The logical thing to do, it seemed was to move closer to the major component suppliers, so we moved to Mt. Eaton. We found an old farm house that hand been moved over a nice new 30' x 40' basement. Incidentally, the house itself was a mess. It hadn't been lived in for years, there was wallpaper hanging in ribbons, floors that didn't reach to the walls and doors with two inch cracks in them. Just one more challenge. I should mention that our son Charlie, had seizure after seizure during these years and was now bed-ridden, blind and the whole left side paralyzed. He wasn't a burden but an inspiration.
By 1954, the house was a showplace, we had outgrown the basement and a neighbor built us a shop. It really looked more like a barn but it served our needs beautifully. A metal and woodworking shop on the first floor, a paint room and an office on the second floor. We immediately began to do all of the metal work, straps, finishing and some of the woodwork
Now it is time for that Quad Cane story because it was in 1954 that I was one day watching a stroke patient trying to learn to use a tripod cane. It was quite evident that it furnished him very little more stability than a conventional cane. To prove my point, I put marks on the floor where each of the three legs made contact, connected them with straight lines, then drew the largest circle that I could within these three lines. It was very small: I then asked the doctor in charge of the clinic for permission to build this man a four-legged cane, again drawing marks on the floor to show the area of support this would give. I was given the go-ahead to build one, then more, then we put it in the line, built many more and decided to patent it -- too late, we had built too many to call it a new design.
By 1955 we had three full-time employees and as many part-time employees as I could round up in the evenings. Fortunately, Bill Tanzie was a good foreman and was equally at home working with wood, leather or metal because my travels were taking me to St. Louis, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. We needed a distribution system badly when Mr. Warren of the Jay L. Warren Co. of Chicago offered to distribute our line along with their auditory training equipment. It was a good addition to their line and a real boost for us. I retained the state of Ohio as a house territory so that I could keep in close contact with the field so that we could keep on improving and adding to the Bailey line.
.For the final three years of his life Charlie had been institutionalized in a school for the mentally retarded. On December 24, 1955, he passed away. On Christmas Day, finding no one available at the local funeral parlor to go get him, my foreman and I made the long trip to bring his body home to Mt. Eaton, his final resting place. This sounds like a tragic ending to a Christmas day, but at nine years of age, Charlie’s illness had inspired the invention and design of physical, speech and occupational therapy equipment that is still helping thousands of children with cerebral palsy, adult stroke patients, those with industrial injuries, children with speech impediments and many others to this day, to better enjoy the life of which he was deprived.
In the Fall of 1956 we again needed a larger shop, this time a MUCH larger shop. We had proposals from the Mt. Eaton area people, Millersburg and Lodi Community Development Councils. Lodi had, by far, the best offer, so The Bailey Manufacturing Co. became a community-owned corporation and began production in March of 1957.