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Graybar Story

Graybar Story

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Published by GraybarElectric
A history of Graybar and the accomplishments of our predecessors.
A history of Graybar and the accomplishments of our predecessors.

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Categories:Types, Brochures
Published by: GraybarElectric on May 05, 2013
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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01/28/2014

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Graybar Story
THE
From its humble beginnings in 1869 as Gray & Barton tobecoming one of North America’s largest employee-ownedcompanies, Graybar has served as the vital link in the supplychain working to the advantage of its suppliers and customers.
 
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THE GRAYBAR STORY
 
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raybar’s founding occurredduring a period of U.S. historyknown as the Reconstruction,the post-Civil War era between 1865and 1877.As the Union was being restoredand slavery was abolished, the nationbegan to rebuild itself following thetremendous losses that had occurredduring the war. While state andfederal leaders grappled withcomplex legal and political issues,individuals with vision and confi-dence created new opportunitiesfor our nation’s growth.This era of invention and entre-preneurialism laid the groundwork for significant industrial achievementsand economic expansion.One example of this was thetelegraph. The telegraph was animportant tactical factor during theCivil War, and it was also the fastestway to transmit written messagesover long distances during the post-war years.Until the TranscontinentalRailroad was constructed in 1869,communication was delivered via telegraph or horse-and-buggy, mak-ing the telegraph essential to businessoperations. The telegraph industrywas dominated by Western Union,the first communications giant inthe nation.Together, the railroad andWestern Union connected America’scoasts, fueling westward expansionand the need for goods and services.
SETTING THE
Stage
PREAMBLE TO GRAYBAR’S HISTORY 
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THE GRAYBAR STORY
WHO’S WHO IN GRAYBAR’S HISTORY 
Like any good story, Graybar’s legendary history features a cast of characters who defined andtransformed the company into what it is today.
Anson Stager
The general superintendent ofthe Western Union TelegraphCompany who helped Grayand Barton transform into theWestern Electric Companythrough his integral businessrelationships.
 
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Enos Barton
Born with the entrepreneurialspirit to one day lead acompany, Enos Barton riskedeverything to co-found Grayand Barton, and built it fromthe ground up.
 
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Elisha Gray
Fascinated by all thingselectric, Elisha Gray wasa renowned inventor ofmore than 70 patents whopartnered with Enos Bartonto form Gray and Barton.
 
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Albert Salt
As Graybar’s first presidentin 1925, Salt was a publicitymastermind and wasted notime in making Graybar ahousehold name.
 
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Jay Gould
The ninth richest man inAmerican history, a railroadtycoon and financier who ledWestern Union to become oneof the most profitable compa-nies in the country.
 
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Alexander Graham Bell
Inventor and scientist whois credited with the patentof the telephone and a found-ing member of the NationalGeographic Society.
 
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George Shawk 
A superb craftsmanand telegraph maker,George Shawkowned a smallmanufacturing shopin Cleveland, which he would later co-own with EnosBarton and eventually sell his share to Elisha Gray.
 
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THE GRAYBAR STORY
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he Graybar story beginswith Enos Barton, a young,ambitious man who servedas a telegrapher during the Civil War.Born in 1842, Barton was fascinatedby telegraphy and worked in the fieldwhile finishing his education. He washired at age 20 as the Chief Operatorfor Western Union’s office inRochester, New York. Western Unionalso operated four manufacturing shops around the country, including an operation in Cleveland.In 1867, Western Union closedits Cleveland shop, which was pur-chased by its superintendent, GeorgeShawk. On a trip to Rochester, heand Barton agreed to become busi-ness partners. Full of entrepreneurialspirit, Barton left Western Union andprepared to go into business withShawk. There was only one chal-lenge – the 26-year-old Barton wasstrapped for cash. So he borrowed$1,500 – including $400 from hiswidowed mother, who mortgagedthe family farm, to finance the pur-chase. Barton moved to Cleveland,where he and Shawk opened forbusiness in January 1869.Soon Shawk grew tired of thebusiness, and he sold his interest toElisha Gray. Up until then, Gray hadbeen one of the firm’s best custom-ers. He was a professor at OberlinCollege and an inventor of telegraphicequipment. In the fall of 1869, Gray &Barton was formed as a manufacturerof products, such as electric burglarand fire alarms, Morse telegraphinstruments, railroad safety signals andGray’s electric annunciator – a buzzersystem used in hotels and offices.The success of Gray and Bartonattracted the attention of GeneralAnson Stager, general superintendentof the Western Union TelegraphCompany. Stager trusted theircombined genius and could providemuch-needed capital, so he offeredto become a business partner on thecondition that the company wouldmove from Cleveland to Chicago.In December 1869, the companyopened its doors at 162 South WaterStreet in Chicago.With Stager’s influence, WesternUnion became Gray & Barton’sbiggest customer. In 1871 theGreat Chicago Fire ravaged the city,destroying Western Union’s head-quarters and most of its telegraphlines. Fortunately, the fire stoppedtwo blocks short of Gray & Barton’ssmall plant. The company contin-ued to prosper as its 30 employeesworked diligently to help WesternUnion rebuild its infrastructure.A year later, Stager convincedWestern Union to purchase one-thirdof Gray & Barton and the young firmchanged its name to the WesternElectric Manufacturing Company.
Entrepreneurial
SPIRIT
FOUNDING
THE GRAYBAR STORY
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