(Graybar, St. Louis, MO, www.graybar.com) An international distributor of electrical and voice and data communications equipment. In 1869, the company was founded in Cleveland as Gray and Barton by Elisha Gray and Enos Barton. It initially manufactured Gray's telegraph equipment, the most successful of which was his printing telegraph.|
Gray and Barton was later renamed Western Electric Company when Western Union, its major customer, became an investor. Although Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell had battled in the courts over patent rights to the telephone, and Bell had won, Western Electric became the manufacturer of Bell's telephones. Western Electric also supplied electrical products to the telephone companies and to other organizations as the electrical business flourished in the country.
In 1926, Western Electric spun off its electrical distribution as Graybar Electric Company. In 1929, Graybar was the first large company to be bought out by its own employees.
In the mid-1980s, after the breakup of AT&T, Graybar added more voice communications suppliers and got heavily involved in data communications. Today, it handles tens of thousands of products from more than 250 major suppliers.
The printing telegraph was Gray's most successful invention in the late 1800s. Imagine the excitement this machine caused because it was no longer necessary for a telegraph operator to interpret the code and write the text. (Image courtesy of Graybar.)