Bailey Portrait Memorial Tablet, 1918

(presumed to be in bronze)

“Jason S. Bailey stood unique among Boston Merchants,” read the obituary in a trade journal. The headline announced him as the “Founder of Popular-Price Stores in New England.” Woolworths, the 5 and 10 cent store took over his Boston store at downtown crossing on Washington Street. A man of considerable energy even at the time of his death from a heart attack at age 75, he opened his first store at age 17 with $500 in savings, amassed a bit of a fortune in his years as a businessman and was “said to be one of the largest real estate taxpayers in Boston.” He owned the controlling interest in four stores called the J. S. Bailey 5 to 50 Cent Store Company. He was a member of the Chamber of Commerce and the Eliot Masonic Lodge.

Frederick Allen was commissioned to create a portrait memorial for which he was paid $1000, more than a year’s salary for his teaching job at the Museum School. Bailey had bought or built an elegant mausoleum for himself at the Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain, not far from his home. There he was laid to rest in the second of two marble caskets with his first wife, Laura. The ashes of his second wife, Anna, who had taken over the business, were placed in an urn on a shelf above by a window. The Bailey Memorial tablet, which is presumed to have been large and heavy, would have been a portrait or dressed figure in relief with appropriate symbols significant to him and lettering presenting the memorial words. It was not located at Forest Hills Cemetery and no record of it has been found elsewhere.

Jason Samuel Bailey was a Vermont boy, born in 1843 in the town of Pomfret. Ready to get started with his life, he moved to Boston at age 16 where he worked as a clerk during the day and peddled dry goods in the evening. Within six months he had saved enough money to open a store of his own on “Tremont Road” for which he ordered three hundred dozen bowls to sell. On an old map showing downtown Boston in 1895, there was a Tremont Row which was considered to be “the great Dry Goods Street of Boston.” When he had grown his business enough to need a larger space, he leased 615 Washington Street, the address given with the name “Mrs. J.S. Bailey” in the diary address book of F. W. Allen.

Bailey married Laura A. Page in 1870 at the age of 27 and maintained a home at Corey and Pomfret Streets in West Roxbury with three servants. They had one daughter, Vivienne, who married, but had no children. Jason and Laura were “parted by death” in 1908 at which time she was laid in the mausoleum. He remarried two years later a Mrs. Anna D. Nugent, with whom he had worked for years and who was his wife to the end. He had a brother, John, who was the father of John Ora Bailey, Harvard graduate and Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court. J.O. Bailey named one of his sons Jason Samuel Bailey 2nd after his uncle.

Bailey traveled twice to England and on one of those trips became quite ill with his heart problem, ill enough to necessitate his staying aboard for several days after the ship had docked. It was that same ailment that suddenly took his life July 31, 1918. His passport applications described him as 5’7-8” in height with gray hair, brown eyes and a high forehead. A photograph of him shows a pleasant looking man with dark wavy hair, a medium beard in a jaunty brushed-out style, a long straight nose and large bright eyes.

The portrait memorial is missing.

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