This Was Then: Mayhew’s hardware store

Hunters — presumably for duck — show off outside William H. Mayhew’s hardware store on North Water Street, Edgartown, about 1894. - Courtesy of Chris Baer

Willie Mayhew’s parents had left Edgartown for California seeking gold just a year before he was born in 1859 in San Francisco. When his mother died a few short years later, young Willie and his baby sister were brought back to Edgartown to be raised by their grandparents. Their father, Captain J.A. Mayhew, began a new family and a new life as an Old West cattleman and lawman: Alameda County sheriff. He never returned to Edgartown.

Will Mayhew owned and operated a hardware store in downtown Edgartown for the whole of his life. The late Arthur Railton of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum described his shop as “delightfully disorganized.” Besides paints, “boat furnishings,” and “oiled clothes,” he also sold guns, rifles, and ammunition. “Loaded Shells a Specialty” read his ads.

Mayhew was a lifelong bachelor, and lived alone with his sister. He likely appears in this image, which has been attributed to photographer Richard Shute, and is probably the gentleman with the chain on the far right.

Chris Baer teaches photography and graphic design at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. He’s been collecting vintage photographs for many years.