Gray’s Hardware, the Talking Machine, and Four Generations

   Talking Machine Sign for Gray’s Hardware, Gloucester, circa 1900 Anonymous/ ©Fredrik D. Bodin
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.
Fredrik D. Bodin
Bodin Historic Photo
82 Main Street
Gloucester, MA 01930


  • I certanly remember Gray’s Hardware & Corner because growing up an living in Gloucester it was the place to shop for all hardware and paint supplies.


  • I can remember my father sending me to Gray’s Hardware for nails and spikes for his wood eastern rig. the F/V Linda B. , docked at the Fisherman’s Wharf. As a kid the store seemed to have anything you needed from A-Z.The back door was on Rogers Street leading into the Hardware supplies then up a few stairs to the Main Street store front where sporting goods to household items were kept.


  • This post card reminds me how wide Main Street always looks in old photos, probably because there weren’t big cars parked on both sides of the street. Traffic used to go both ways on Main Street, didn’t it?


  • I was just foraging for screws in the basement and came across five or six intact boxes, each containing three dozen thumb tacks made by the Moore Push Pin company, each with a Gray’s price label for .15¢


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  • Just stumbled on your information regarding Gray’s Hardware, and wanted to share a bit more detail… It was actually Lynn’s great-great grandfather who started the business in 1876, primarily as a bicycle shop which quickly became much more. The owners were Charles J Gray (the first), and then his son Charles A Gray (who died in 1963 or 1964), and then his son Charles J Gray (the second) who continued the business until 1970 (give or take a year). I worked there part time during my high school and college years in the 1960’s, and remember Jim on the big-wheel bicycle… if I ever find a picture, I’ll be sure to share it.


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