William Gray

1850 – 1903

William Gray

William Gray enjoyed tinkering at an early age. He apprenticed at a machine shop before working at Pratt & Whitney. While at Pratt & Whitney, he came up with several inventions which he patented. This included a belt shifter and an inflatable torso protector for baseball players.

First Pay Phone

When Gray had trouble finding a telephone to call a doctor for his ailing wife, he came up with the idea of a coin-operated public phone. He developed and sold the invention to Southern New England Telephone Company who installed the first pay telephone at a bank in Hartford, Connecticut in 1889. It was a “postpay” machine meaning coins were deposited after the call was placed.

The pay phone was such a success that Gray founded his own business – the Gray Telephone Pay Station Company. It operated from 1891 until 1948 when the company was acquired by Automatic Electric.

Section 7, Lot 144


Answerbag.com. Who Made the First Pay Phone? Accessed at

Baseball Biography Project. http://bioproj.sabr.org/bioproj.cfm?a=v&v=l&pid=19540&bid=1573

Radio Museum. History of the radio manufacturer Gray Manufacturing Co., Inc. Hartford, CT.

Photo Credit:

William Gray, Gray Telephone Pay Stations: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow (1935)