|Birth: ||Jul. 4, 1854|
|Death: ||Feb. 27, 1923|
Researched by Jim Moshinskie, PhD
If you can provide additional information or photographs, please email Dr. Moshinskie at James_Moshinskie@baylor.edu
Mr. Oliver H. Bair was born July 4, 1854 in Chester Country, PA., a son of Isaac and Elizabeth (Baldwin) Bair and grandson of Andrew Bair.
Oliver Henry Bair had several brothers and sisters -- Andrew J., William, Sarah, John, Katherine, Fannie, Anna, and Ella Bair. The public school in Coatesville, Pa., provided his formal schooling, and he also studied with a private tutor.
In 1862, Oliver's older brother, Andrew J. Bair, took over the undertaking firm of H.D. Stuard, his father-in-law, who started his successful business in Philadelphia in 1822. Oliver too became interested in the undertaking business, being first employed by his brother Andrew J. Bair, and remained two or three years with him.
Oliver H. Bair first appears in a Philadelphia City Directory for 1876 as an undertaker living at 1843 Filbert Street. The 1843 Filbert address was the home of his brother, Andrew J. Bair, who operated an undertaking establishment with his son, Charles, called Andrew J. Bair & Son at 19th and Filbert (next door).
Oliver H. Bair married (first) in July 1887 at Philadelphia to Mary Albertson, the daughter of Louis and Emma Albertson of Philadelphia, the former being a prominent owner of considerable land. Mr. and Mrs. Bair became the parents of one daughter, Mary Albertson Bair. Mrs. Oliver H. Bair died in January 1889. Mr. Bair later married (second) in 1895, Elizabeth Jenkins of Philadelphia. She who died in 1906.
The Oliver H. Bair Funeral Home was among the first to promote pre-need funeral financing with people paying 10-15 cents a week towards their funerals, and it was very successful. As his funeral business continued to grow rapidly, he opened a branch office at 4001 Lancaster avenue in 1892 and another at 1811 Columbus avenue in 1895. Oliver H. Bair's goal was to transform the undertaker from being a seller of funeral merchandise to a provider of comfort and intense personal service to the families he served.
According to the City of Philadelphia building permits for 1907, Oliver H. Bair in that year had constructed at 1818-1820 Chestnut Street in downtown Philadlephia his new majestic main office. The facade of the five story building featured stately columns with French plate glass windows. Inside, there were white marble stairs, bronze busts, apartments for grieving families to use free of charge, statues including a reproduction of Apollo from the Vatican, and elegant assembly rooms for funerals and organ recitals. The entrance foyer leads to a double grand staircase which ended at the Organ Hall. Funeral trolleys carried casket, flowers and family to outlying cemeteries. The firm's slogan 'No Deserving Poor Refused' was displayed on advertising placards on almost every subway car, trolley and bus in Philadelphia. Beautiful 30-page advertising brochures were mailed to Philadelphia families, one of the first times that a funeral director did such mass marketing. His efforts paid off. At one time his funeral home had 85 employees and performed over 2,000 funerals a year.
Oliver H. Bair became a well-known Philadelphia business leader active in all phases of business, community, political (a staunch Republican), and religious (a Baptist) activities. He was known for his charitable contributions to others in need. He had a winter home in Philadelphia, but spent most of his time at "Hill Crest", his elaborate Queen Anne estate near the Philadelphia suburb of Berwyn.
Mr. Bair died February 27, 1923, and was buried March 2, 1923. His daughter, Ann Albertson Bair, became the head of the Oliver H. Bair Company. She died October 20, 1970. The Bairs are interred in a multi-layer, marble-lined inground family mausoleum in Woodlawn Section 167. His brother, Andrew J. Bair, and his family are buried nearby in Woodlawn Section 18.
Mary Albertson Bair (____ - 1889)*
Mary Albertson Bair*
Ella B Bair (1853 - 1872)*
Oliver Henry Bair (1854 - 1923)
West Laurel Hill Cemetery
Plot: Woodlawn 167
Created by: Jim (Dr. Mo) Moshinskie,...
Record added: Feb 21, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 48411851