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Gray family letters- 1900-1940

Discussion in 'Research and History' started by frogahern, May 29, 2012.

  1. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Lena Dillingham Gray was born on January 12th, 1879 so was 21 at the time. She spent 1896-1898 at Wellesley College and was living at home while attending the University of Maine in 1900 so she might well have been anxious about the future. She died when I was a baby but her daughter was both bright and a bit abrasive in my opinion. They are the ones who kept this collection of letters all their lives.

    It is interesting that the graphoanalysis page at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graphoanalysis indicates that "there is no commercially available computer software that will score all of the datapoints for a report based upon Graphoanalysis" since this would seem to be a logical extension of the capability. Do you know of any?

    Benson
     
  2. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    Something extra-cool about the 1900 start-date... great discovery, Benson!
     
  3. Treewater

    Treewater Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    I have seen handwriting analysis, signature only, machines at County Fairs. They are little better than fortune telling machines. The practice of handwriting analysis is so complex that I expect it will be a while before computers do any good. Even then, they will make mistakes. Much of it is perception. Did you notice how the T bars are short, strong and placed exactly where they should be? Strength of character but controlled and not highly aspirational. But for a 21 year old woman to write this letter indicated maturity and sophistication beyond her age, abrasiveness not withstanding.
     
  4. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Yes, and it fits well following the first mention of the new and unnamed company from the local news paper in October as shown below.

    Benson


    IOTC-1.jpg
    IOTC-2.jpg
    IOTC-3.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2014
  5. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Progress has been slow but I discovered that Sam got permission from his college to take a week off from his sophomore year in March of 1901 to attend the New York Sportsman's show with his Uncle Herbert while his father George stayed home. The flier shown at http://www.wcha.org/catalogs/indin-ot/flier-1.gif and http://www.wcha.org/catalogs/indin-ot/flier-2.gif was probably printed for that event. His letter home to his mother as shown below indicates his excitement by announcing "We sold all the canoes here, also all the paddles, 5 dozen, all four deer heads, one moose head and $330.00 worth of moccasins. Our sale of canoes aggregates fifty five, so that I think that the trip has been a very successful one, at least this end of the company is pleased." The response from his mother as shown below was equally revealing when she said "This end of the line seemed very much pleased with your success. George thinks they ought to have more canoes on hand. He thinks they are better to season awhile. I suppose they will have to put on more force, a bigger crew. It looks as if it might be a good business. I hope you are well and not all tired out."

    The picture of the New York Sportsman's Show from 1897 at http://www.mainememory.net/artifact/17572/zoom may give you some idea of how things may have looked. The show was even described in Old Town's local paper as shown at http://oldtown.advantage-preservation.com/document/old-town-enterprise-1901-03-02-page-9 although it is focused on the railroads' displays and the Indian Old Town Canoe Company's participation wasn't mentioned.

    Happy New Year,

    Benson
     

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  6. paul s

    paul s Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Great job Benson. Very interesting stuff!
    That link to the New York show in 1897 is great. The taxidermy mounts are terrific. Huge moose, large caribou and some trophy brook trout. There is even a snowy owl there.
     
  7. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    The irony of research is that you start out looking for answers and often end up finding nothing but more questions. I have recently reviewed the letters from the period when the Robertson & Old Town Canoe Company was founded but was not successful in finding any more details about how this all came together. The attached excerpts out of a letter to Sam from his sister dated November 8th, 1901 may hold a clue about Robertson's early help. It appears to say 'Papa is so busy that we don't see anything at all of him, only just long enough to eat, one of this "Boston men" came down the other day and brought some more with him which was a very glad surprise for Papa as he was one of his best men and he knew nothing about it.' This might mean that Robertson was helping out providing canoe builders before January of 1902 when they reincorporated as the Robertson and Old Town Canoe Company. Unfortunately, I've not found any other references to "Boston men" in other letters or the local newspaper from that period.

    There were several references to sponson canoes in the letters during this period which seem very strange. The first one shown below was a single sheet in a letter to Sam from his sister on January 20th, 1902 that appears to say "It is a d--- lie. Sponson Canoes will upset" signed Oliver Cone. I've found that Oliver Cone lived in Old Town and had a summer cottage on Pushaw Lake near Herbert Gray's cottage (who was the president of the canoe company and Sam's uncle). I haven't found anything that connects Oliver Cone to the Gray family or the canoe business. A second letter to Sam from his mother on January 23rd, 1902 ends with a postscript asking "What do you think about Sponson Canoes?" A third letter to Sam from his mother on February 4th, 1902 asks "What do you think of Mr. Cone's opinion of Sponson Canoes?" The only response from Sam that I've found is from February 5th, 1902 which opens with a typical college student's 'please send money' message followed by "You can tell Uncle Herb that it is forgery to sign other peoples names, and that if he wishes to attempt to disprove any statements which I have made to do so over his own signature. A bateaux will fill with water if you swing it broad-side to the wind." I'm not sure what was going on but it doesn't sound good.

    Benson
     

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    Last edited: Jan 16, 2015
  8. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    Very interesting-- thanks for sharing this. I love old letters-- like eavesdropping on the times.
     
  9. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Now I could use some help from anyone who knows the names of people who might have managed a Charles River canoe livery in 1902 or who is good at reading cursive handwriting. Sam Gray wrote his mother a letter on May 27th, 1902 and mentioned a trip he had recently taken to Boston as shown below. He said "From there I went out to Auburndale and saw" but I can't identify the next word. It could be "Cecil" or "Curt" or something completely different. He goes on to say "and the canoe livery, also Mr. Robertson who kindly showed me all over his place. It is much larger than I expected and I should say that he did a big business." This is just four months after the incorporation of the Robertson and Old Town Canoe company. The Gray & Frost Auburndale Boathouse was near Robertson's. My research indicates that Edgar G. Frost managed the operation and had been living on the premises since 1897. Does anyone know the first name of the Gray partner in this business or the full names of any of the people who managed Robertson's boathouses? Thanks,

    Benson
     

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  10. Greg Hare

    Greg Hare Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Benson it appears to be Curt. Notice he uses the same wide u and very narrow r in several other words in the same letter .Just my 2c's.
    Greg
     
  11. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    I vote for Cecil. He dots his "i"s in such a way that he appears to be crossing a "t".
     
  12. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    Ulysses G. Gray. His parents were from, and he was born, in Maine.

    I have a list with something like 70 names of people who worked in the canoeing industry along the Charles, and none of them are named Cecil or Curt.

    Dan
     
  13. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    I also vote for Cecil. Note the middle "c", which has a little hook off the top -- not at all like the "u"s in the rest of the letter. Also note the "l" has been crossed, as if it were a "t"... but there is also a tendency in other words to drag the pen, after dotting an "i."
     
  14. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    This is a big help Dan. His census record from 1900 at http://us-census.mooseroots.com/l/488195469/Ulysses-G-Gray lists Edgar G. Frost as a boarder and the information at http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/t/a/y/Sarah-Taylor-CA/WEBSITE-0001/UHP-0029.html traces his line back to the 1700s with no obvious connection to my family. I appreciate everyone's help with this but it is likely to remain a mystery. Thanks,

    Benson
     
  15. Old_Paddler

    Old_Paddler Canoe nut

    Truly amazing that this turned up.
    Very glad that it is back in your family with someone who appreciates it.
    Too often people just don't care. I've seen family items on eBay from families I was acquainted with.
    I took the time to track them down - only to find that THEY were the ones selling the items - and not for a lot of money.
    As the family historian our family, that type of material is worth more than gold.
     
  16. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Al Bratton has kindly forwarded another one of these letters that was sold on eBay many years ago for more than I wanted to pay. It is from Samuel Gray to his mother on March 10th, 1901. He was 19 and had left college for the week to help his uncle Herbert Gray work a booth for the Indian Old Town Canoe Company at the New York Sportsman’s Show at Madison Square Garden. The message at response number 25 in this thread has a similar letter that was written after the show was over. This one was interesting because he said “We are meeting with good success and the advertising cannot but bring the best of results. Already we have sold the three best canoes, half of the paddles, three deer and one moose head, and taken orders for six canoes.” His more telling comment was about the hotel saying that “Next year however I hope that the canoe company will have prospered enough to keep its representatives in better style.” Fun stuff,

    Benson
     

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