This successful business continued to expand to become one of the
largest confectionary businesses in Michigan. The five-story factory building
was equipped with the latest and most improved machinery. In addition
to candy, they carried a full line of fireworks, making them the “go-to”
business for all festivities. In 1894, John was able to expand his business
interests to become president of the German American Bank of Detroit.
A Risky Investment in Motor City
John and his wife, Anna, had four children. Their son David began
his career as a clerk at Preston National Bank when he was 18 years old.
The following year he joined his father in Gray, Toynton & Fox.
In 1903, well known Detroit coal dealer and nephew to John S. Gray,
Alexander Young Malcomson, approached his uncle with a proposition.
Malcomson had formed a partnership with Henry Ford to develop a
motorcar of simple design, and they needed capital to fill an order for 650
of these vehicles. Though more than a bit skeptical, John Gray nevertheless
invested $10,000 for 10% interest in the company and an extra $500 for
a position on the board of directors of which he became president. Not
optimistic, he once remarked that he could not in good conscience sell his
stock certificates to anyone, as the venture was sure to be a failure.
That first year, Ford Motor Company retained the services of O.
J. Mulford’s advertising company. Mulford was also the proprietor of a
business that built small powerboats and distributed the “Rolls Royce” of
gasoline marine engines, the Sintz.
Brothers Paul and David Gray were avid boaters and members of
the venerable 1839 Detroit Boat Club, the 1895 Detroit Yacht Club, and
later, the newly-formed Detroit Motor Boat Club. In 1905, the brothers
joined Mulford in creating the Gray Motor Company, which initially
created only marine engines.
When John Simpson Gray died suddenly in 1906, David took a
position on the board of Ford. The two brothers, however, remained active
in the Gray Motor Company until about 1909 after which time Mulford
continued on his own.
The Ford Motor Company was thriving and the Grays’ fortune
increased as the dividends kept rolling in. In 1906, Ford was the top
selling brand in the United States, and in 1908, the famous Model “T”
swept the world with its affordability. In 1913, the Highland Park plant in
Michigan became the first moving automobile assembly line in the world.
In 1915, the one millionth Ford car rolled off the assembly line.
During this time, David Gray became a trustee of the Detroit
David Gray (facing page) and David Gray, Jr. and Martha Platt Gray (left) posed
for Carolyn and Edwin Gladhill (courtesy of Santa Barbara Historical Museum)
(Below) An initial source of the family wealth, Gray, Toynton & Fox became one of
the largest confectionary businesses in Michigan (courtesy Library of Congress)
Moguls & Mansions