The Bailey & Co began its existence as the Bailey & Kitchen Jewelry Company in 1830. Founded by Joseph Trowbridge Bailey and Andrew B. Kitchen, the firm was located at 136 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia.
Joseph Bailey was an accomplished silversmith and jeweler, and along with his partner Andrew Kitchen, the firm was a renowned business which had earned strong loyalty by its customers.
In 1846 the two partners decided to dissolve their partnership. However, the firm experienced a rebirth when Joseph’s brother Eli formed a new partnership with Jeremiah Robbins and James Gallagher. With the birth of the new partnership, the business continued its operations at the same Chestnut Street address.
Operating under the moniker Bailey & Co., the firm continued at its same location for the next 13 years.
In 1851 Joseph Trowbridge Bailey Jr joined the firm as an apprentice. Just a mere three years later he rose to become president of the company. Two years thereafter he became a partner.
In 1866 Eli retired, and twelve years later the firm was reorganized once again. Renamed Bailey, Banks & Biddle, the firm remained a staple Philadelphia firm until 1961, when it was acquired by the Zales Jewelry Company.
During the 19th century the firm reigned as Philadelphia’s most successful jewelry company. It specialized in precious gems, silversmithing, medals, ribbons, and awards, in addition to traditional jewelry manufacture. Among the awards and medals it manufactured were the first 40,000 Purple Hearts, class rings for the Annapolis and West Point naval academies, and the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The firm itself employed a large contingent of craftsman and artisans, including engravers, die cutters, and illuminators. The firm is credited with having designed the present-day Great Seal of the United States, as well as producing the first two Distinguished Flying Crosses made for Admiral Richard Byrd and Charles Lindbergh.
After being acquired and owned by Zales in the 1960s, the firm experienced multiple reorganizations and incarnations. By the early 21st century the firm existed merely in name alone, being operated as Zales’ upscale jewelry store brand.
In November 2007 the Zales Corporation sold all of its BB&B properties to the Finlay Fine Jewelry Corporation for $200 million. Less than 2 years later, all of Finlay properties were auctioned off, including Bailey, Banks & Biddle.
Upon its purchase, the firm was shuttered. After 177 years, the company and its brand ceased to exist.
Russell Rulau lists 2 known Bailey & Company counter-stamped tokens, as well as 8 varieties of engraved emissions. They are listed in the following table:
Below is a Miller PA-29 Bailey & Company token. Measuring 30mm in diameter, the specimen is gilt brass and possesses a reeded edge.
In addition to tokens, in 1862 the firm also issued encased postage stamps.
Notes and Sources
- ‘The Bailey, Banks and Biddle Company,’ Hagley Museum & Library, 2010
- Julio Rae’s Philadelphia Pictorial Directory and Panoramic Advertiser, 1851
- Philadelphia and Its Manufacturers, Edwin T. Freedly, 1867
- Standard Catalog of United States Tokens 1700-1900 Fourth Edition, Russell Rulau, Krause Publications, ©2004
- The Library Company of Philadelphia Digital Collections
- The Library of Congress Digital Archives