The Barcolo Manufacturing Company plant at 255 Louisiana Street, c. 1935. Image source: private collection

Edward Joel Barcalo was born in Mt. Morris, NY in 1870. After high school, he attended the Geneseo Normal School. At the age of 20, he came to Buffalo and began work as a bookkeeper for Buffalo Brass and Iron Bedstead Company. In a feature from the February 24, 1952 Courier-Express, a company profile (by Lee Griggs) follows.

"You can look a long time in Buffalo before you find a manufacturing concern that turns out a wider variety of seemingly unrelated items than the Barcalo Manufacturing Co., a pillar of industry here since the turn of the century.

"The company's products run from Summer metal furniture to mattresses and box springs. But the clincher is Barcolo's complete line of drop forged hand tools and special parts. The company ranks among the biggest upholstered-chair companies in the country, and is the nation's fourth largest producer of Summer furniture.

"Why all this diversity? It came about gradually, combined with plenty of sound engineering know-how that has made the name of Barcolo increasingly well known and respected through the years.

"The driving force behind the company ever since its formation in 1896 as the Barcolo and Boll Manufacturing Company has been Edward J. Barcalo, past president and chairman of the board...

"Barcalo located his first plant in Chandler Street in the Black Rock section. Oddly enough, the company later vacated the land but is now back on the original site due to a merger. Chandler Industries, manufacturers of upholstered living room furntiure, occupied the site of the original Barcolo plant, but merged with Barcolo in 1947, bringing the property back into the company family...


The Barca Loafer moving along the assembly line at 255 Lousiana Street, 1952. Image source: Courier Express, courtesy BECHS Library

"Barcalo's main offices are located at 255 Louisiana Street., where, under a peculiar arrangement, operations are carried on in eight adjoining buildilngs in the same block, varying from one to five stories in height. Covered corridors connect the buildings, which were erected between 1896 and 1917 to take care of increasing business. In recent years, company production has overflowed into three leased buildings in nearby Kentucky Street.

"When the company opened its doors, it had a grand total of six employees hard at work making beds and bedding. Today there are 550 employees involved in a much more diversified operation, 150 of them at the Chandler Street installation. They draw a payroll of better than $1,500,000 annually from the wholly-owned Buffalo company.

"During the early years of the company, it got into the tool business. Chief reason for this expansion came about from the need for strengthening bed construction. The weakest part of a bed in those days was the spot where the bedrail was driven down into the bedstead corner. The cast iron pieces tended to break, making the whole piece useless.

"Barcalo ingenuity went to work and the company installed drop forge hammers to make bed forgings. With surplus capacity, plier forgings were turned out. This was only the beginning. Today the main plant has a bank of 22 such hammers, each costing from $12,000 to $30,000 that are constantly busy with all types of forging.

"Forgings require a lot of equipment so Barcalo bought out the Charles E. Hall Co., and went into business in earnest. During World War I Barcalo made 90 per cent of all airplane drop forgings produced here and in Canada for what was then a limited production of aircraft. In those days, forged plates held the flimsy planes together.

"When Curtiss-Wright moved to Buffalo from Hammondsport in 1915, Barcalo soon had its forging business. Curtiss struggled for a time with separate companies, but had to go to a different place in town for each of the forging, machining, treating and heating operations. Barcalo, thanks to its absorption of the Hall firm, could offer all these services under one roof. Since that time, the foreign part of Barcalo's operation has grown with Curtiss."

 


1957 Advertisement in "Buffalo's 125 Anniversary World Port Celebration" publication, private collection.

Up until the 1920's, many Barcalo products were sold through Larkin's mail order business. It was not unusual for daily orders for 20 different products to come in from Larkin. After World War I the Ford Motor Company because a steady customer. The company's emphasis in the 1920's was mattresses and porch furniture including gliders, hammocks. In 1932, he invented the Six-Way pillow, a triangular pillow with adjustable firmness as a way to help his granddaughter who had asthma.

In 1937, his company hired Nelson Graves and made him president in 1939. Barcalo became chairman of the board.


2007 view of the former Barcalo plant at 255 Louisiana and O'Connell Street.

[Griggs article continued] "The pride and joy of the company is the comparatively recent BarcaLounger, a fantastically constructed easy chair that will adjust to any position at the whim of the occupant. Unique sliding arrangements are built in to fit the body. Since 1947, sales of this item have increased steadily. It has helped revolutionize the furniture business.

"Production of the BarcaLounger is concentrated at the Chandler Street plant, and has grown so tremendously that employment here is at an all-time high and additional skilled labor is being added...The revolutionary chair is made up in 12 styles in a variety of fabrics, plastics and leathers of several colors...Sales of the BarcaLounger went up 100 per cent over the preceding year in the fiscal year ended July 31, 1951, and estimates for the current fiscal year are that another 50 per cent rise will result. Production is constantly reaching new peaks on this item."


Detail of O'Connell Street entrance, the faint "BARCALO" lettering still visible.

After 1947, Edward J. Barcalo reduced his involvement with his company to that of honorary chairman of the board, a position he held until his death in 1963 at the age of 93. He continued to go to his office daily into the 1950's.

The Barcalo Company sold its tool division in 1963 and, in January 1965, completed sale of the company to Mohasco Industries. All of the manufacturing work was relocated to Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Some of the remaining 175 employees were offered jobs in the new plant. BarcaLoungers continue to be manufactured in 2008. Their main competitor is La -Z-Boy, whose name has supplanted BarcaLounger's as the synonym for reclining furniture.

The former Barcalo plant at 255 Louisiana is occupied by multiple tenants.

Thanks to Sara Lawrence, assistant librarian of the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society library for her assistance with this pictorial.



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