Barzilla L. Marble started working at the age of twelve in the Bedford chair shop of M. A. Purdy & Son. Born in Bedford in 1851, B. L. Marble came from a family who knew chair-making. His grandfather operated a chair factory in Marbletown, New York, and it is evident that B. L. took an early interest in chairs.
At the age of fourteen B. L. was working at The B. J. Wheelock Company in Bedford, and in 1872 he became superintendent of The Taylor Chair Company. He left Taylor Chair in 1885 to form a new company with A. L. Shattuck — The Marble and Shattuck Chair Company.
In 1894 Mr. Marble formed his own company. This was the beginning of the B. L. Marble Chair Company. And this was the beginning of many years of turning out fine wooden chairs made for comfort and elegance, and made to last. (Note that The Marble Chair Co. never made marble chairs.)
The company continued to make household chairs until 1910 when it began to produce office furniture. During World War I the product line was expanded to include wooden aircraft propellers for military use. Three of the propellers, each over ten feet long, are on display in the Bedford Museum.
By 1921 The Marble Chair Company had outgrown its wooden buildings on Willis Street, and construction began on new brick buildings which eventually stretched a tenth of a mile along Willis Street and comprised more than four acres of floor space.
This was the largest building in town. From this facility high-quality products were shipped throughout the country to banks, court houses, city halls, libraries, colleges, hospitals, and numerous business and professional offices.
B. L. Marb1e died in 1932. He had been a resident of Bedford all his life, and was active in the community. The loss was deeply felt. Prior to Mr. Marble’s death A. D. Pettibone had become president of the company, and was a part owner. In 1953 Mr. Pettibone sold out his interest in the company to other local investors, and was succeeded as president by Charles L. (“Brud”) Pettibone, no relation to A. D.
Under both of the Pettibones the company experienced steady and substantial growth. In 1965 the company merged with The Dictaphone Corporation, and the name was changed to The Marble Imperial Furniture Company. For the first time in its long history the company was controlled by outside interests.
The downfall of the company can probably be traced to the sale of the locally-owned firm. The last day of production was in 1985 — exactly 100 years after Mr. Marble and Mr. Shattuck formed The Marble and Shattuck Chair Company.
The building was left unattended by the owners, and by 1991 was in such bad condition that it had to be demolished. A $330,000 federal block grant allowed the City of Bedford to tear the building down and prepare the site for sale.
For a time the site was an open field. Eventually the site was sold, and in 1996 construction began on a new Bedford post office. Soon, on the site where thousands of chairs were shipped to customers, a busy post office will serve thousands of people in Bedford and the surrounding communities.
The B. L. Marble Chair Co., known by most Bedford people as simply “Marble Chair”, is gone but not forgotten. The building may be gone, but its long history remains. And its products are still in use throughout the country, and are just as sturdy as ever. Many of the chairs are located in the Bedford Museum, just across from Willis Street, not far from where they were made.