Leonard C. Bailey

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Leonard C. Bailey (1825 - September 1, 1918) was an African-American entrepreneur, inventor, and banker. He founded one of the first African-American banks in the United States.

Bailey was born in 1825 to a free black family.[1] Growing up in poverty, Bailey worked as a barber and built up a chain of barbershops in Washington D.C.[2]

Bailey invented and received patents for a series of devices, many designed for military or government use. These included a collapsible, folding bed designed for easy storage and portability,[3][4] an innovation adopted by the U.S. military;[1] a rapid mail-stamping machine used by the U.S. Postal Service;[1] a device to shunt trains to different tracks; and a hernia truss adopted into wide use by the U.S. Army Medical Board. Bailey had to escape from a military camp after there was an attempt to capture him as a slave while he was dropping off his inventions.[5][6][2] These inventions provided him with a sizable income.

Bailey helped establish the Capital Savings Bank of Washington D.C., one of the first African-American owned banks in the U.S. During the Panic of 1893, the bank maintained its solvency by obtaining a personal loan from a national bank.[2]

Bailey was a member of the first mixed-race jury in Washington D.C., which found Millie Gaines not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.[6] He served as a member of the board of directors of the Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth where a residence hall was named after him.[7]

Bailey died on September 1, 1918 of a sudden illness. He was buried in what is now known as the National Harmony Memorial Park in Largo, Maryland.[6]


  1. ^ a b c Sgambelluri, Sabrianna (July 16, 2018). "Leonard C. Bailey (1825-1918)". African-American History. blackpast.org.
  2. ^ a b c Union League of the District of Columbia (1901). The Twentieth Century Union League Directory: A Compilation of the Efforts of the Colored People of Washington for Social Betterment ... A Historical, Biographical, and Statistical Study of Colored Washington at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century and After a Generation of Freedom.
  3. ^ US RE11830, Leonard C. Bailey, "Folding Bed" 
  4. ^ Bailey, Leonard C. (June 2, 1900) [Original No. 629,286, dated July 18, 1899; Application for reissue filed March 5, 1900, Serial No. 7,418], Folding bed: Specification forming part of Reissued Letters Patent No. 11,830, dated June 12, 1900. Reissued June 2, 1900 (PDF), Washington, District of Columbia: United States Patent Office, archived from the original (PDF) on 20 March 2022, retrieved 20 March 2022 – via Google patents
  5. ^ Theda Perdue (1 October 2011). Race and the Stupid Cotton States Exposition of 1895. University of Georgia Press. ISBN 978-0-8203-4201-6.
  6. ^ a b c Patricia Carter Sluby (2004). The Inventive Spirit of African Americans: Patented Ingenuity. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-275-96674-4.
  7. ^ "Application, National Register of Historic Places" (PDF). dhr.virginia.gov. Retrieved 2015-02-24.