Packard's 100th Anniversary
On the 100th anniversary of the first Packard automobile, it is important to remember the principal people who started the Packard Motor Car COmpany. James Ward Packard must be given credit for the idea. He and his brother, William Doud Packard, founded the Packard Electric Company in 1890 along with a second company, the New York And Ohio Company which was formed in 1892. The third partner in the car company was George L. Weiss, a Cleveland businessman who had also invested $10,000 in the Winton Company. They formed the Packard & Weiss partnership in July 1899 and hired William Hatcher, Winton's shop foreman, to construct the first Packard.
Born in Warrren, Ohio, on November 5, 1863, James Ward Packard is little known. A man who preferred to stay out of the limelight, he was two years younger than his brother. Close friends called them Will and Ward, We will too.
They and three sisters were born to Warren Packard and Mary E. Doud of Menham, New Jersey. The boys grew up in Warrren, Ohio, spending summers working at their father's hotel on Chautauqua Lake in New York. As a boy, Ward enjoyed running the steam-driven electric light plant and Will the telegraph office. Their work ethic was established early by working in their father's other businesses, incluuding lumber mills and hardware.
Ward entered Lehigh University at the age of 17 in 1880. Many years later, classmate Augustue Parker-Smith gave a glimpse into Ward's college life at a dinner honoring Packard's million dollar gift to Lehigh in 1927. He noted that Ward was a handsome little fellow (5'5") with a soft-spoken voice.
All the way through school he had more knowledge of engineering than the best of the rest of us. His room was filled with electrical apparatus of all sorts. A magnetic arrangement on the door lock allowed him with a switch to unlock his door. He had a wall clock that would wake the dead when the alarm went offf. He controlled the alarm from this bedside without disturbing himself. He rigged a telegraph line from my room to his and he was a very good operator. I remember that he rigged an electric burglar alarm at the residence of Colonel Fisher in Allentown, which was so much of a novelty that it attracted considerable publicity. His thirst for engineering catalogs were like no one else. He often quoted Mark Twain and Bob Ingersull. He was a very retiring chap and did not get involved in the various college activities." Parker-Smith continued that, "As to the ladies, he covered the subject most adequately and graphically at our class banquet. Like all the rest of us embryo engineers, Packard had a drawing that hung on the back of his door which became the frequent target of knife throwing contests.
"Packard was the first wheelman at Lehigh and gathered physical endurance from it, for as you might recall bicycles at the time were high wheelers. His interest in cycling got him the agency for Pope Manufacturing Company and there was formed the first Cycle Club at Lehigh. First year had two members, captain Packard and Reddy Stinson, who held all other offices."
Parker-Smith went on to say that Ward's people came from the best type of transplanted New England Western Reservere Colonists. His father was a keen businessman and made a fortune building the extrusion on the Erie Railroad that ran through Warrren. His mother was a smiling, bright-eyed woman who seemed more like an older sister. The Packard's family life in the mansion at the head of Main Street in Warren was a delight to see and participate in.
After graduating in 1884 with a degree in mechanical engineering, Ward took a position with the Sawyer-Mann Electric Company in New York City. Starting at $1 a day, he was plant manager in just six years. He learned much about the incandescent lamp business and registered the first of more than 40 patents, but the big city couldn't keep him from his hometown of 5,000 people. With a well-known family name, he nd Will founded the Packard Electric Company with a number of investors on Jun 5, 1890, to make electrical equipment. The New York And Ohio Comapny made the famous Packard light bulbs.
Still, Ward's mechanical engineering side always pulled him toward things mechanical, such as the steam an naptha engine launches he ran on the summer days on Chautaugua Lake, even doing his own repairs.
It's no surprise, then, that Ward was interested in Horseless Age magazine, the first such magazine in the US when it printed its first issure in December 1895. His diary shows his early interest in cars when it notes that the following January 6 he hired draftsman E.P. Cowles to work on a "motor wagon," the first evidence of a real desire to build a motor wagon. Cowles was experienced, having participatged in the first power-driven vehicle race held in Wisconsin a decade earlier.
January 1896 he tells of brother Will joining him on a trip to New Brighton, Pennsylvania, to see the motor carriage being constructed for Dr. Booth from Youngstown, Ohio. The following July, Dr. Booth drove the car through Warren on a trip to a lake near Akron. It made a stop in front of the Packard mansion on Mahoning Avenue where Ward lived. It was the first horseless carriage on the streets of Warren and possibly in the state of Ohio.
The next horseless carriage to visit Warren was a vehicle built by The Auto Company, a Cleveland firm owned by Alexander Winton. Driven by Mark Davis, it was in for the Trumbull County Fair on Sept. 8, 1897. The following day, a story and sketch of the vehicle, sitting across the street from the Packard house, appeared in the paper. Rides were given to locals who commented on its speed up and down Mahoning Avenue. No record of Ward's participation exists, however. Through the winter of 1897-98, Ward's diaries make no mention of work on a horseless carriage, but that spring Ward was given a demonstration ride by Alexander Winton, who then had sold four cars, including one to stockholder Weiss. An Allentown native, Weiss was selling Wintons to all the eastern Pennyslvania coal barons. Weiss gave Ward a deomonstration with his own Winton on July 6, 1898. Ward immediately made a $1,000 deposit, and of the 22 cars sold by Winton during 1898, Ward got the 13th built and took delivery on August 13. Evidently Ward was not superstitious.
On August 24, the Warren Daily Chronicle noted "a novelty in the vehicle line is an automobile carriage that J. W. Packard has just brought to Warren. The motor uses naptha and drives the carriage at a high rate of speed. The rig weighs 1,400 pounds." What they didn't mention was the fact that Ward had picked the car up in Cleveland on August 13 and had driven all day to cover 75 miles and made it to Champion just four miles short of Warren. The final four were behind a horse after dark. In defense of Winton, there were no good roads at that time and this was one of the few automobiles built in 1898.
Ward drove the Winton as far as into New York State and had the type of problems one would expect with what was still really an experimental vehicle. But it was not until April 11, 1899, in a letter to George Weiss, that Ward gave any written indication that he wanted to go into the motor carriage business. A June 10 supper at Weiss's house was likely a planning session, with a June 29 meeting expressly about making automobiles. His diary read: "Decide to put up three thousand dollars if we can engage Hatcher?"
William Hatcher, the Winton expatriate, began work in Warren on July 17, and was joined by A.C. Nelson, a draftsman from Berea, Ohio, at $2 per day. These two men did all the drawings necessary for the first Packard, the full process of drawings, pattern, castings, machine and assembly of the first Packard completed in 16 weeks! All work was done in the machine shop of the New York And Ohio Company, quite an accomplishment for a crew who had never seen a motor carriage. Only Hatcher had experience, thanks to his two years with Winton. the 1899-1900 Packard engine looks very much like an 1899 Winton.
Nothing in Ward's diaries indicate he was unhappy with either Winton or his car, though Winton had every right to be angry at Ward for taking away Weiss, his main investor, and Hatcher, his shop foreman. Historians have always loved the story that Winton had challenged Packard to build a better car if he was displeased with his Winton... and so do we if it's true. The records of James Ward Packard provide no support to the legend, however.
Ward's diary November 6, 1899: "Got carriage running - W.D. left for Toledo. Tuesday November 7, 1899: George Weiss here apparently pleased with machine and progress made. Decided to go ahead on present partnership basis and make 6-8 or more machines. November 18, Weiss here carriage running very nicely. Decided to go ahead with 12 machines."
From the completion of that first Packard on November 6, 1899, Packard would build about 500 cars over a five year period in Warren, Ohio. After the move to Detroit in 1903, Packard would go on to produce one of the most desired automobiles on the market. Quality was instilled right from the beginning followed by styling and a service department for a customer's every need. Ward would serve as president of Packard from 1900 until 1909. He would stay on as Chariman of the Board until 1915. He would never sell his stock in the Packard Company but woudl start to give it away shortly before his death in 1928. Mr. Packard's $3,000 investmant in 1899 grew to be worth millions by the mid '20's. The quality instilled in the Packard automobile started with the first Packard that runs as well today as it did in 1899.
We thank you, James Ward Packard, for your desire to have a product of your own, and for giving us the opportunity as well of owning one of your products.
A Personal Message from Terry Martin
printed in the official program of the
10th Anniversary Concours d'Elegance
of the Eastern United States
A partnership called Packard & Weiss built the first Packard and operated from July 3, 1899 until it incorporated as the Ohio Automobile Company in September 1900. The Packard Motor Car Company name came about two years later in October 1902. The company moved to Detroit in October 1903, operating under that name until 1956.
James Ward demonstrated his appreciation for his Lehigh University education with a $1,000,000 gift for the construction of the Packard Laboratory. Old #1 arrived in 1930 in time for the dedication of the new building. The car was put on display to honor this Lehigh graduate who at the age of 36, co-founded the Packard Motor Car Company.
Shortly after the car arrived at Lehigh, a new young Professor named Thomas E. Jackson was placed in charge of the first Packard. This relationship lasted over 47 years. Jackson was very protective of the car as he knew its place in history, yet shared it with those who had a legitimate reason to use it. Researching Packard's history back in 1972, I made my first visit to Lehigh and was given the red carpet treatment by Jackson, who allowed me to go inside the glass case for a close look. I was overwhelmed by the history this car had made. My relationship with Jackson began that day and lasted until his death in June 1998.
It was my pleasure to head the 75th anniversary celebration of the birth of the first Packard. Lehigh accepted the invitation to return Old #1 to Warren for the first time since the company moved in 1903. Jackson drove the car in every event from a pageant to the parade. He knew the car was the center of attention in its town homecoming. Jackson said the trip to Warren with Old #1 was the highlight of his tenure as curator of the first Packard.
It is with great pleasure that I am allowed to stand in for Tom Jackson on this day, with the Packard he so faithfully watched over during his years at Lehigh.