Voices of Minnesota

Graco Inc. Oral History Project

Graco Inc. David A Koch Center.


DATE: 1982-2000

INTERVIEWER: James E. Fogerty

The Graco Inc. Oral History Project was conceived by Charles F. Murphy, Graco Vice President for Community Affairs, and by James E. Fogerty of the Minnesota Historical Society. The Company's management was particularly interested in documenting its history, but realized that the paper record did not reflect the entire story. As is true in most organizations, key decision makers operate under constant time pressures, and the views of the corporate leadership on the business and its development are seldom recorded in depth.

Lending further impetus to this project was Graco's fiftieth anniversary celebration in 1976, and the fact that one of the company's co-founders, Russell J. Gray, was available. The opportunity to capture Mr. Gray's recollections presented a remarkable and significant opportunity.

The Minnesota Historical Society was interested in documenting Graco history as part of the business history program, which includes the records of many of Minnesota's major corporations. The objectives of the Company and the Society were thus complementary, and Graco joined the growing ranks of those corporations whose management sees value in collecting and preserving company history for a variety of purposes.

The Graco Project began with several interviews with Russell J. Gray. The series of interviews with Mr. Gray was completed late in 1982, and the Project continued with other interviews focusing on David A. Koch, Charles F. Murphy, Maynard B. Hasselquist, Barbara Gray Koch, Claudia Hunt Wheaton, Lee Harness, and Robert F. Hasse. The Project began none too soon, for Russell Gray died on June 1, 1983. His interview, rich with the color of his memories and personality, stands as a remarkable memorial to the Company's early creative genius. The September 1983 dedication of the Russell J. Gray Technical Center at Graco's main plant afforded the chance to record a series of recollections of Mr. Gray by several of his friends and colleagues.

Project narrators were carefully selected from lists of those involved in the making of the modern Graco. The interviews varied with the nature of each narrator’s involvement with the Company, but all were correlated to provide a firm base for comparison of views, recollections, and motivation.

The original Graco Inc. Oral History Project includes interviews with eight people; the Russell J. Gray Technical Center dedication series of brief interviews includes an additional ten people. All transcripts have been lightly edited for clarification.

In 2000, a second series of three interviews was conducted to deal with the preceding fifteen years, and thus to update the project and information on the Company. The series included interviews with David A. Koch, George Aristides, and Roger King. Those interviews join the earlier project as part of the Graco Inc. history. The Society also holds the archives of Graco Inc., which, together with the interviews in the oral history project, constitutes an excellent historical record of this important Minnesota business.

The Graco project makes a significant contribution to Minnesota and national business history, and also provides the Company with information for its own use in tracing the development of Company products, corporate structure, and its position in the national and international marketplace. The project is a testament to the Company's care for its heritage, and understanding of the role of the past in determining the present and planning for the future.

LENGTH OF INTERVIEWS: 30 hours 56 minutes

TRANSCRIPTS: 732 pages