Gray Dawes and Company was founded in 1865 by business partners Archie Gray and Edwyn Sandys Dawes. Located at 13 Austin Friars in London, England, the company was focused, at least initially, on maritime insurance. By the mid-1870s, the company had also expanded its operations into shipping, overseeing a fleet of steamships that circulated within a trade network including London, Calcutta, Madras, and elsewhere. The company was closely linked to the Scottish shipping titan, Sir William MacKinnon (1823-1893). Gray was Mackinnon's nephew. Dawes, meanwhile, went on to become a close and trusted business partner to MacKinnon. As such, the firm became a useful means for MacKinnon to reward his friends and business associates. The company availed insurance accounts to these select individuals, accounts that could be used as a source of credit to be paid at a later date. The company became associated with Henry Shelton Sanford thanks to the mutual connection to MacKinnon. In 1880, MacKinnon lent Sanford, who was faced at the time with financial difficulties, some £8,000 to facilitate the founding of a Florida land investment company. The money offered by MacKinnon was in fact loaned to Sanford by Gray Dawes and Company. Additionally, at the behest of MacKinnon, both Gray and Dawes became reluctant subscribers to Sanford’s land investment scheme, the Florida Land and Colonization Company.