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a gray-dort touring car on display at the chatham-kent museum
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Gray-Dort History

Chatham-Kent's strong ties to the automotive industry in Canada are clear - from festivals and events to heritage stories and artifacts in the community.

The Gray-Dort Company was the brain child of William Gray of Chatham and his partner J. Dallas Dort of Flint, Michigan.  At the peak of its popularity in the early '20s, the Gray-Dort company employed 800 people in Chatham and the company's factory was located at the intersection of William Street and Wellington Street in Chatham. The company took good care of its employees and built a recreation hall for them.

Gray Dort Fast Facts

  • William Gray, a Scottish blacksmith immigrated to Chatham-Kent in 1853 and established a carriage-making business called William Gray & Sons 
  • His eldest son Robert Gray took over his father's business at the age of 22, following his father's death
  • A total of 26,000 cars were manufactured here in Chatham between 1915-1925
  • It was among the four most popular car makes in Canada along with Ford, Chevrolet, and McLaughlin-Buicks (and even outsold Chevrolet in Ontario for a period of time) 
  • The Gray-Dort Touring Car was recognized as a National Treasure of Canada
  • The Gray family remains are found at the Maple Leaf & St. Anthony Cemetery; their gravestones can be located in the Old Maple Leaf Cemetery

A Chatham-manufactured Gray Dort is in storage at the Chatham-Kent Museum. This 1919 touring model is one of the last few in existence and the 1919 Gray-Dort Touring Car has been named a National Treasure of Canada. For more details please contact the Museum at 519-360-1998.