Benjamin Fitch started making split-bottom chairs in 1816 at his cabin at the corner of what is now Libby and Warrensville Center Roads in Bedford Township, now part of Maple Heights.
One of the young men working for Benjamin Fitch was William O. Taylor. In 1841 he married Mr. Fitch’s daughter, Harriet. By the mid-1840’s William Taylor had taken over active management of the company, although Benjamin Fitch remained involved in applying his skills to production methods and tools.
Late in the 1840’s the company became known as the W. O. Taylor factory. After an 1850 fire in the sheds on Libby Road, Mr. Taylor moved his factory to its present location on Taylor Street at the end of Willis Street.
In 1871 W. O. Taylor’s son, Vincent A. Taylor took over the active management of the company, and the name was changed to W. O. Taylor and Son. In 1876 the International Exhibition in Philadelphia awarded the company a prize for outstanding products and methods.
The corporate version of the company took effect in 1885 when the name was changed to The Taylor Chair Company. As an Ohio Corporation it began with capitalization of $100,000 and an issue of 1,000 shares of stock.
Following incorporation the company grew in volume of sales and in the breadth of its product lines. By 1907 there were 102 different designs of chairs being produced. In 1913 the company began the design of office furniture. When World War I broke out the company was in a position to supply furniture for military offices throughout the country.
By 1920 sales had reached $1,000,000 a year. During the 1920’s sales continued to grow with additional expansion of product lines. The 1930’s brought the depression and created a difficult time for The Taylor Chair Co. and for other businesses during those years.
The company survived the depression, and during the World War II years of 1941-1945 it became extremely busy filling government orders In 1945 the pent-up civilian demand for furniture produced high levels of business. By 1947 the company employed the largest number of people in its history.
The 1950’s and 1960’s saw a continued expansion of product lines, including chairs, sofas, and tables available to professional interior designers. The alertness of The Taylor Chair Co. in responding to changing market conditions has been a major factor in the success of the company.
The Taylor Chair Co. was recognized as the oldest manufacturing company in existence in the Western Reserve. The factory moved to Walton Hills in July 2006 from the old located at the corner of Taylor and Willis Streets where W. O. Taylor moved it in the 1850’s. The company is still guided by the traditions established by Benjamin Fitch in 1816–chairs built to last for years, with good materials, good workmanship, and styles to satisfy customers.
Taylor Chair Closes:
On June 8, 2012 the Taylor Company announced that the company would close. The last day of regular operation was June 15, 2012. Parts of the plant remained open for a few weeks to complete orders. Equipment used for production is being auctioned in August 2012. No plans for the building have been announced. Company archives and artifacts were divided between the Bedford Historical Society and the Western Reserve Historical Society.
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