For several months the plant which had been operated by the Bedford China Works stood idle on Solon Road next to the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad tracks. Then, on May 3, 1923 The Bedford Herald announced good news for Bedford. Manufacturing would resume on Monday, May 7.
The welcome change came about through’ the efforts of Albert M. Walker, of Akron, and Henry Bailey, of Cleveland Heights. With a reported $150,000 in capital, the Bailey Walker China company was incorporated, with Mr. Walker as president of the company, and Mr. Bailey as vice president and general manager. Beginning with a small work force, the company was expected to grow to at least 150 employees.
“Mr. Bailey stated that with a mere announcement to the trade that the company is about to resume operations at the Bedford plant, unsolicited orders came in a deluge”, according to The Bedford Herald.
The new management moved quickly. An advertisement in the 1924 Bedford Directory stated that Bailey-Walker manufactured “Vitrified China, Hotel Ware, White and Underglazed decorated, for Hotels, Restaurants, Clubs, Churches, etc.
The company did grow in size and in the variety of products. In addition to normal dinnerware, the company produced many commemorative plates and a number of specialty items. One such item, a “Spirit of 76” statue was produced about 1926, and is now located in the Bedford Museum.
In 1939 the product line was expanded further with the addition of vitrified china for tea rooms. A feature article in the Cleveland Press on June 14, 1941 included the Bailey-Walker China Co. on a list of 13 large diversified industries in Bedford and Bedford Township.
In 1942 the name of the company was changed to The Walker China Company. Herbert M. Walker, a second-generation Walker, became vice-president, later to become president of the company. Herbert’s son, John, the third generation, later became active in the sales department.
The 1948 ad in the Bedford Directory included chinaware for steamships. By 1960 hospitals, cafeterias, schools, and motels had been added. A 1963 article in Ceramic Aqe noted that versatility, quality, and fast delivery was keeping Walker China Co. competitive. “We give the customer what he wants”, according to Walker China’s plant superintendent in 1963. The article further states that implementation of new developments enabled the company to satisfy its growing share of the market.
By 1963 Mr. Bailey’s and Mr. Walker’s 1923 expectation of growing to at least 150 employees had been reached and exceeded. Employment was 200, producing 700 different shapes in a variety of colors to match customer specifications, with nationwide distribution.
As was the case with other Bedford industries, ownership eventually changed from the founding families to outside interests. And so, in 1967, ownership changed from the Walker family, and the company became a Division of Alco Standard Corp. Then, on November 16, 1976 the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Walker China Co. had been sold to Jeannette Corp. In 1981 the company was listed as Mayer China Plant Two Inc. In 1982 there was no listing for the former china plant.
Bedford had lost one of its prominent industries — one that had widespread recognition. Many a traveler when dining out has cautiously turned over an empty plate or cup and found “Walker China, Bedford, Ohio” on the back. Over a period of almost sixty years Bailey-Walker and The Walker China Company not only provided many jobs to residents of Bedford and surrounding communities, it also was active in the community. It was a true contributor to the life of Bedford.
In the 1920’s it sponsored one of Bedford’s formidable baseball teams, at least one member of which was a careerlong employee of the china works. To help commemorate Bedford’s 125th anniversary the Walker China Co. joined ten other companies in holding open houses on June 15, 1962, and added Qne-hour tours for those interested in seeing how vitrified china is produced.
Over the years millions of products from the china works were shipped throughout the country. It would be difficult to estimate how many are still in use in restaurants, churches, hospitals, and other institutions.
Many of the products have been donated to the Bedford Historical Society, and can be found in the Museum. More information can be found in the Description section on the following pages. The Walker China Co. may be gone, but its products will be in use in homes and businesses for many years to come.