Nantucket native, Captain Charles B. Ray began his career at sea as a young boy, and eventually became a well-respected whaling Captain. History suggests that his years at sea, surrounded by all of the tools and materials needed to become a Nantucket basket maker, led him to become a prolific weaver later in life. Ray’s baskets were known for their neatness and beauty.
Captain Charles B. Ray married Clarissa Folger and had four children, Charles F, Emily, Elizabeth and Mary. Ray’s years as a sea Captain led him all over the world, but he retired at home in Nantucket to farm his land and make baskets. When his grandson Clinton “Mitchy” Ray was seven years old and sick with diphtheria, Charles passed on his knowledge of basket making to him in a shed on Starbuck Lane, where Mitchy would continue the family and Nantucket tradition making baskets until he died at 85.
There are several members of the Ray family who made Nantucket lightship baskets:
- George Washington Ray, brother to Charles B. Ray
- Frederick Ray, cousin to Charles B. Ray
- Charles F. Ray, son of Charles B. Ray
- Clinton M. Ray son of Charles F. Ray, grandson and early student of Charles B. Ray.
- David E. Ray
- Sylvester B. Ray
Charles B. Ray was a well-loved Captain and Island character, who made hundreds of baskets, many of which were covered. He made 310 baskets in his 80th year alone! His basket making career was the beginning of a long history of mentoring basket makers who are directly related to a number of today’s contemporary maker.