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Walter P. Chrysler

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Walter P. Chrysler
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Wikipedia: Walter Chrysler
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Full Name: Walter Percy Chrysler
Born: 2 April 1875
Died: 18 August 1940
Nationality: American
Hometown: Ellis, Kansas

Founder of the Chrysler Corporation.

Biography

The following section is an excerpt from Wikipedia's Automotive Industries page on 23 February 2021, text available via the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Walter Percy Chrysler was an American automotive industry executive and founder of Chrysler Corporation, now a part of Stellantis.

Chrysler was born in Wamego, Kansas, the son of Anna Maria Chrysler (née Breymann) and Henry Chrysler. He grew up in Ellis, Kansas, where today his boyhood home is a museum. His father was born in Chatham, Ontario in 1850 and immigrated to the United States after 1858. A Freemason, Chrysler began his career as a machinist and railroad mechanic in Ellis. He took correspondence courses from International Correspondence Schools in Scranton, Pennsylvania, earning a mechanical degree from the correspondence program.

Chrysler's automotive career began in 1911 when he received a summons to meet with James J. Storrow, a banker who was a director of Alco. Storrow asked him if he had given any thought to automobile manufacture. Chrysler had been an auto enthusiast for over five years by then, and was very interested. Storrow arranged a meeting with Charles W. Nash, then president of the Buick Motor Company, who was looking for a smart production chief. Chrysler, who had resigned from many railroading jobs over the years, made his final resignation from railroading to become works manager (in charge of production) at Buick in Flint, Michigan. He found many ways to reduce the costs of production, such as putting an end to finishing automobile undercarriages with the same luxurious quality of finish that the body warranted.

In 1916, William C. Durant, who founded General Motors in 1908, had retaken GM from bankers who had taken over the company. Chrysler, who was closely tied to the bankers, submitted his resignation to Durant, then based in New York City.

Durant took the first train to Flint to make an attempt to keep Chrysler at the helm of Buick. Durant made the then-unheard of salary offer of US$10,000 (US$230,000 in today's dollars) a month for three years, with a US$500,000 bonus at the end of each year, or US$500,000 in stock. Additionally, Chrysler would report directly to Durant, and would have full run of Buick without interference from anyone. Apparently in shock, Chrysler asked Durant to repeat the offer, which he did. Chrysler immediately accepted.

Chrysler ran Buick successfully for three more years. Not long after his three-year contract was up, he resigned from his job as president of Buick in 1919. He did not agree with Durant's vision for the future of General Motors. Durant paid Chrysler US$10 million for his GM stock. Chrysler had started at Buick in 1911 for US$6,000 a year, and left one of the richest men in America. GM replaced Chrysler with Harry H. Bassett a protege who had risen through the ranks at the Weston-Mott axle manufacturing company, by then a subsidiary of Buick.

Chrysler was then hired to attempt a turnaround by bankers who foresaw the loss of their investment in Willys-Overland Motor Company in Toledo, Ohio. He demanded, and received, a salary of US$1 million a year for two years, an astonishing amount at that time. When Chrysler left Willys in 1921 after an unsuccessful attempt to wrestle control from John Willys, he acquired a controlling interest in the ailing Maxwell Motor Company. Chrysler phased out Maxwell and absorbed it into his new firm, the Chrysler Corporation, in Detroit, Michigan, in 1925. In addition to his namesake car company, Plymouth and DeSoto marques were created, and in 1928 Chrysler purchased Dodge Brothers and renamed it Dodge. The same year he financed the construction of the Chrysler Building in New York City, which was completed in 1930. Chrysler was named Time magazine's Man of the Year for 1928.

He was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1967.



Article Index

DateArticleAuthor/Source
5 October 2017Norfolk FBI in Partnership with the Chrysler Museum of Art Invite the Public to Attend a Free Educational SeminarFBI Norfolk


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