Bailey, Banks & Biddle Company (Philadelphia, Pa.).

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Bailey, Banks & Biddle (BB&B) was a renowned upscale jewelry firm that made and sold high quality merchandise. Joseph Trowbridge Bailey (1806-1854) entered into a co-partnership with Andrew B. Kitchen (died 1850) on September 20, 1832 to establish the Bailey & Kitchen Jewelry Company at 136 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA. Bailey was an American jeweler and silversmith who is said to have enjoyed the almost unlimited confidence of his customers.

The partnership of Bailey & Kitchen was dissolved by mutual consent in November 1846. The business continued when Eli Westcott Bailey (the brother of J.T. Bailey), Jeremiah Robbins and James Gallagher formed a new partnership under the name of Bailey & Company and operated the business at the same location until 1859 when they constructed a new building at 819 Chestnut Street. In 1869 the company moved to Chestnut at Twelfth Street. In 1903-1904 they built a technologically progressive showroom and eight-story factory at 1218-20-22 Chestnut Street.

Joseph Trowbridge Bailey, II (1835-1918), entered the business as an apprentice in 1851, became company president in 1854 after his father's death, and was admitted into partnership in 1856. E.W. Bailey retired from the firm in 1866. On March 1, 1878 J.T. Bailey, II, George Banks of J.E. Caldwell & Company and Samuel Biddle of Robbins, Clark & Biddle, formed a partnership under the new name Bailey, Banks & Biddle. Biddle retired in 1893 and Banks retired in 1894. On March 2, 1894 the business was incorporated as Bailey, Banks & Biddle Company. The store flourished and was the most extensive jewelry and silversmith business in Philadelphia. C.W. Bailey (1861-1922) was the last in the direct line of Baileys to head the firm. He became president after his father's death in 1918.

By the late nineteenth century, BB&B had a successful insignia department which designed and manufactured medals, ribbons and honor awards for the U.S. government and military and naval academies. For nearly a century, BB&B produced the Congressional Medal of Honor, the first 40,000 Purple Hearts awarded, and class rings for West Point and Annapolis. Among the medals designed or produced by the firm's corps of artists, die cutters, engravers and illuminators were the Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Cross and Distinguished Flying Cross. The current version of the Great Seal of the United States was designed by a BB&B artist in 1904. The Stationery Department produced engraved testimonials, invitations and similar documents, including those for presidential inaugurations.

On October 2, 1961, The Bailey, Banks and Biddle Company sold its assets to the Zale Jewelry Company, Inc., a mid-market chain based in Texas. Zale's was renamed the Zale Corporation on July 19, 1965. "Bailey Banks & Biddle" became a "fictitious name" or trade name used by all the growing number of BB&B stores, which were operationally part of the Fine Jewelers Guild division along with the rest of Zale's upscale stores.

The Zale Corporation became the victim of corporate raiders who loaded it with junk bond debt, and it entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 1992. It emerged from reorganization on July 30, 1993, having merged or liquidated 17 subsidiaries, closed 700 stores, and returned to being a publicly-traded company. In 1998, all of Zale's upscale jewelry stores were rebranded "Bailey, Banks & Biddle Fine Jewelers," and all the other local trade names were retired. BB&B had more than 100 retail locations in 31 states and Puerto Rico.

Zale in turn sold all its BB&B stores to the Finlay Fine Jewelry Corporation for $200 million on November 12, 2007. Finlay was already operating 35 upscale jewelry stores located primarily in the southeastern United States under the Carlyle, J.E. Caldwell, and Park Promenade trade names. On September 24, 2009, Finlay Enterprises, Inc., announced completion of a bankruptcy auction for its business and assets to Gordon Brothers Retail Partners, LLC. Gordon Brothers was appointed to act as the Company's agent to conduct "store closings" or similar sales of merchandise located at all of the Company's retail store locations and the Company's two distribution centers, thus bringing the Bailey, Banks & Biddle story to a close after 177 years.

From the description of Records of The Bailey, Banks and Biddle Company, 1832-2003 [bulk, 1880-1980]. (Hagley Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 537302413

Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Bailey, Charles W. 1861-1922. person
associatedWith Bailey & Company (Philadelphia, Pa.). corporateBody
associatedWith Bailey, Joseph Trowbridge, 1806-1854. person
associatedWith Bailey, Joseph Trowbridge, 1835-1918. person
associatedWith Bailey & Kitchen (Philadelphia, Pa.). corporateBody
associatedWith Banks, George W., 1837-1924. person
associatedWith Biddle, Samuel, 1844-1919. person
associatedWith Slavick Jewelry Company corporateBody
associatedWith United States Military Academy. corporateBody
associatedWith Zale Corporation. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
California--Los Angeles
United States
Diamond industry and trade
Diamond jewelry
Jewelry stores
Jewelry trade
Medal of Honor

Corporate Body

Active 1832

Active 2003

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SNAC ID: 25283724