About Us

IN 1819, when young Henry Bailey opened a general merchandise store on Ingraham’s Wharf in Portland and began auctioning salvaged goods on the street out front, James Monroe was serving as our country’s fifth president. Maine was still a part of Massacchsetts (it wouldn’t become a state until 1820), and construction on the Erie Canal had only recently begun. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Portland’s native son and America’s most beloved poet, was only 12 years old. The country was still very young, but there was a great sense of optimism about the future.
IN 1827, the Bailey Company diversified and began manufacturing rolltop desks and display cabinets for stores. This required a move to a new, larger facility on Exchange Street, where it operated for the next hundred years. In the smuggling days, and in the bankruptcy-and-seizure days of the Civil War era, the company was forced to make money in myriad ways simply to survive, but always found the auctioneering business to be a particularly good money maker.
By 1866 Portlanders could look back on nearly a century of astonishing progress. Their port had grown from a frontier mast landing into a serious cultural and economic rival of Boston. Fast becoming Canada’s winter rail-head, “the Forest City” ranked fourth in imports and fifth in exports among American cities. Rich, proud, vital, and confident, Portlanders seemed to march in lock-step with national events.
But then the Great Fire of 1866 devastated the city. In less than 24 hours, the heart of a great American port city was laid in ruins, including the store operated by Henry Bailey. The grim statistics of 10 million dollars in property loss and 12,000 people left homeless translated into the worst urban fire in America to that date.

A newly rebuilt Exchange Street as it looked after the Great Fire of 1866
Out of the Ashes: F.O. Bailey Carries On the Family Business
 
IN 1867, the year after the Great Fire, Henry Bailey died. Both the city and the Bailey Company would make an astonishing recovery, however. A rebuilding spirit of pride and determination took over as new Victorian business blocks of brick, stone, and cast iron arose Phoenix-like from the ashes. The Bailey Company was carried on in 1867 by Henry’s son, Frederick Orville Bailey, in new premises on Exchange Street. That same year, F.O. Bailey took as a partner a young farm boy from Poland, Maine named Charles W. Allen.
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