Gray’s Hardware, the Talking Machine, and Four Generations
My research for Gray’s Hardware began a week ago when I got an email from Lynn Gray. She’s the great granddaughter of Charles A. Gray, who founded the store more than a century ago, and wanted to know if I had any photos of it. As you can see, I have a picture of Gray’s Talking Machine sign (or is it a horse-drawn billboard?). Lynn loved it, but what she really wanted was the front of the building, which was located at 129 Main Street (where Growing Pains is now). I was on a mission.
I called up an old friend and retired lobsterman, who grew up going to Gray’s for onion and potato sets (bulbs), nails, screws, and hardware. He said it was the first shop on Cape Ann to sell Kodak photo supplies. I think they were also the first “phonograph parlor” here, which were springing up nationwide since the Talking Machine’s invention in 1877 by Thomas Edison. My friend’s circa 1900 post card appears below, showing they named the intersection “Gray’s Corner.”
From Lynn Gray: “Gray’s Hardware was built in the early 1870’s. It was started by my great grandfather, Charles A. Gray, and was later run by my grandfather Charles J. Gray. My dad, James Gray, used to ride an old fashioned bicycle with the large front wheel around Gloucester as advertising for the store. He lives and works at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, NH. If anyone has a picture of my dad on that bicycle, now THAT’s something I’d like to see :)”
If you can help Lynn find her father on that bicycle – please let me know!
Talking Machine photograph printed from the original 5×7 inch glass negative in my darkroom. Image # A9357-002
Post card from a private collection.