TAYLOR CHAIR CO. - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
TAYLOR CHAIR CO., headquartered in BEDFORD, is the oldest business still in existence in Northeast Ohio and is believed to be the oldest company in the United States still owned by the same family. Taylor Chair originated in 1816 when Benjamin Franklin Fitch began making split-bottom, slat-backed chairs by hand at his cabin located at what is now the corner of Libby and Warrensville Ctr. Roads. Fitch's chairs were superior to others, partly because he used preshrunk materials combining green and dry lumber so that they would not creak. Later he invented the strap lathe, which subsequently became a standard machine in the furniture industry. As demand increased, Fitch added workmen to his staff, including Wm. O. Taylor, who had come to the WESTERN RESERVE from Charlemont, MA, in 1831. Taylor soon became Fitch's assistant and in 1841, his son-in-law, following Taylor's marriage with Fitch's daughter Harriet. These developments began a long succession of continuous family ownership. Fire destroyed the Libby Rd. sheds in 1850, leading the company to move its operations to its present location in Bedford, adjoining TINKER'S CREEK. By 1879 the company produced 40 different styles of single- and double-seated cane chairs; it was incorporated in 1885 as the Taylor Chair Co. By 1907, the company's line expanded to over 102 designs and began to specialize in office furniture. Mrs. Moselle Taylor Meals (d. 1978) assumed the presidency in 1953 after the death of her father, Joseph F. Taylor. She introduced the company's first "high style" designer chairs, receiving patents for her contemporary furniture design in the 1950s and 1960s. This trend represented a change for the company, as it embarked on designer lines for business offices. This shift also marked the beginning of a period of expansion for the company. In 1973, Taylor Chair built a 40,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility in Clarksdale, MA, and in 1986 it acquired a desk company in Los Angeles. That same year, Joseph Taylor Meals died suddenly and Fred J. Baldassari, who joined the firm in 1972, became CEO. Baldassari, who became the only CEO who was not a direct descendent of the Taylor family, headed the firm until 1994, when he was replaced by J. Taylor Meals, Jr. In 1995 Taylor employed 100 people in the Cleveland area. By 2002, the company continued to expand and executives of Taylor Chair announced they had outgrown their cramped headquarters and would consider leaving the state if they could not secure a larger facility. Responding to the possibility of losing one of their most prestigious local companies, Bedford officials sought federal funding to clean up the contaminated site formerly occupied by BRUSH-WELLMAN, INC. By the end of 2004, Bedford officials announced that they had, secured $6 million in grants and low-interest loans from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to clean up the contaminated property, and Taylor Chair was expected to be the first tenant in the proposed Tinker's Creek Commerce Park.