The Gray Tools Story-First Factory (1912-1928)
- Gray Tools Official Blog
- 23 Oct, 2015
This is an excerpt from the book "Gray Tools-A 100 Year History" written by Alex and Gail Gray.
The year 1912 was one of great personal significance for Alex Gray in that it set his family's course for a century. Alex, now twenty-nine, and two of his brothers incorporated the Gray Manufacturing & Machine Company Limited in September. The letterhead described the company as a "Manufacturer of steam and power pumps and special machinery". The articles of incorporation spelled out the goals:
"To manufacture, buy, sell and deal in mill supplies, engines, boilers and machinery of all kinds and to carry on the business of a founder, steel manufacturer, machinist and woodworker."
The authorized capital was 240 shares at $100 each for a total of $24000, although a much smaller amount was actually used to start the business.
And now, almost the entire John Gray family was involved in two companies: the St. Lawrence Starch Company and the Gray Manufacturing & Machine Company Limited.
At the starch company, John Gray had always set an example of hard work and canny management. For example, he put together a contract that paid him a bonus of $3000 every year the factory was in production. All of his children worked at the plant when they were fourteen and under legal age, and one of them, William Thomas, stayed for seventy-five years.
John had been frugal his entire life. As late as 1908, when he had more than 150 men in his employ, his wife and daughters were sewing the filter cloths for the corn presses. He was also tough: he fired two of his sons at least once and, when he hired them back, it was with loss of seniority and a lower wage. Nevertheless, the starch company became the professional home for several of his children, and a granddaughter, Helen Fray, was a company secretary for twenty-five years.
When the three Gray brothers, Alex, James and Robert, were ready to launch the new company, they went in search of a site. Building a new factory was not in their budget, and yet they wanted a workplace that suited their specific needs. They found it at 686-692 St. Clarens Avenue in west Toronto. It was on the west side of St. Clarens, south of Dupont Street (known as Royce Avenue until the 1950s). This two-storey, red-brick building was ideal because it had a very high ceiling in the centre to accommodate the tall machinery and an overhead crane. There were offices on either side of the ground floor with large multi-paned windows to let light into the premises. From 1912 to 1928, this remained the home of the new company.
Manufacturing in Ontario was growing rapidly in the second decade of the 20th century. The onset of the war created new markets and new opportunities for expansion. By 2017, the company was well established and Alex felt confident about following the rising business trend.