METRO MONTHLY | FEBRUARY 2011
BY GORDY MORGAN | METRO MONTHLY STAFF WRITER
Three former Delphi Packard buildings, once part of the holdings of Packard Electric but idle since 2006, were sold for an undisclosed amount in late January to Sergio DiPoalo, owner of DiPaolo Industrial Developers, LLC.
The buildings were once part of a sprawling complex that had housed the world headquarters of Packard Electric, and, in earlier years, were associated with the Packard Motor Car Company.
The buildings, constructed of brick and reinforced concrete, are located on Dana and Griswold streets north of downtown Warren.
This industrial site was an outgrowth of the ingenuity of two of Warren’s better-known citizens and industrial pioneers – brothers James Ward and William Doud Packard.
In 1882, William, the elder, left The Ohio State University after one year and returned home to become involved in his father’s hardware business as a bookkeeper and salesman.
Two years later, at age 20, James graduated from Pennsylvania’s Lehigh University with a mechanical engineering degree and set about to put what he learned into practice.
Local historian Wendell F. Lauth, who has studied the Packard family, said that James took a job at with the Sawyer-Mann Electric Company in New York and quickly rose through the ranks until “he was running that plant.”
He said William also worked at the company, in the administrative end of the business. According to historical accounts, the brothers took the experience and knowledge acquired at Sawyer-Mann and brought it back to Warren, Ohio where they eventually formed their own company.
Apparently, money was not a problem at first for the Packard brothers because their father, Warren, had many successful businesses in the city.
Lauth speculated that Warren Packard encouraged his sons to return home, perhaps to take advantage of recent industrial developments in their town. “In 1890 they were getting ready to establish the first electric generating plant in Warren and he could see the future of the electrical era coming in,” Lauth said.
The Packard brothers grasped that future and didn’t let go, becoming famous not only in their hometown of Warren, but throughout the world.
The roots of the Packards
Warren Packard was born in Austintown on June 1, 1828, when that pioneer township was still part of Trumbull County. His father, William, was the son of Thomas Packard, and the first of the family to settle in the Western Reserve, coming here from Washington County, Pa. in 1801.
Thomas was a farmer, but apparently took an interest in community service. In April of 1802, at a citizens’ meeting held at the public house of Judge William Rayen, he was elected one of nine supervisors of highways for the civil township of Youngstown, which included nine other adjacent townships. Other prominent pioneers present that day were George Tod, who served as the township clerk, and James Hillman, who was elected constable.
It was Warren Packard’s father, William, who eventually brought the family to northern Trumbull County. He settled in Lordstown in 1834 and became its first postmaster.
Warren Packard’s mother was Julia Leach, whose father, Benjamin Leach, was a descendent of Francis Cooke, a passenger on the Mayflower.
Warren Packard moved to Warren in 1846, carrying on his back, as one family history noted, “everything he owned in a cotton handkerchief.” A relative helped him get a job with Milton Graham, who owned an iron and hardware business in Warren.
That first year, it was said that he worked long hours as a clerk. On Saturdays, he would drive a team between Warren, Niles, and Youngstown buying nails and iron for Graham’s store. Packard continued to work in the store after Graham sold it to Charles Harmon. Then, in 1851, he finally began working for himself when he formed a partnership with Harmon, creating the Warren Packard Company.
Packard became sole owner in 1853, when he bought out his partner.
Warren Packard married his first wife, Sylvia Camp, in 1852, a union which produced two sons. However, the Packards lost son Harry at 10 months and Rollo at two years of age.
Finally, in 1856, Sylvia succumbed to illness and died. In the years that followed his wife’s death, Packard’s iron and hardware businesses continued to grow so that by 1863 he was the owner and operator of the largest iron and hardware business between Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
Packard remarried in 1856, this time to Mary E. Doud, granddaughter of Captain James Doud, who commanded a company of cavalry in the War of 1812. Warren and Mary had five children together: daughters Alaska, Carlotta and Olive and sons William Doud and James Ward.
Around this time, William Packard began to diversify his business interests. Lauth said Packard founded a lumber business locally in 1861-1862 and eventually expanded operations into western Pennsylvania and New York, adding that the company supplied much of the lumber used in building the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad.
Warren Packard died on July 28, 1897.
The founding of Packard Electric and the Packard Motor Car Company
On June 4, 1890, James W. and William D. Packard and six other shareholders signed the articles of incorporation forming the Packard Electric Company.
The articles, in part, read: “… said corporation is formed for the purpose of manufacturing, purchasing and dealing in machinery, electrical appliances, and supplies, do a general manufacturing business, supply power and electricity for light and other purposes and to do all things requisite for the convenient prosecution of said business for profit.”
The company started business in a two-story, wood-frame building on North Avenue (present-day North Park Avenue) and had 10 employees. Lauth believes that the elder Packard helped advance his sons’ first business venture by supplying raw materials. “The lumber was coming out of the Packard Lumber Yard,” Lauth said. For tax purposes, the company was incorporated in West Virginia.
In the early years of the automobile industry – before the introduction of car dealerships – customers had to return to the manufacturing plant for repairs. Lauth said that James Ward Packard “being a stickler for good mechanical detail,” followed this procedure with his Winton automobile – over and over. “He kept taking the car back.”
The story, which may or may not be true, goes that during one trip to the Winton Motor Carriage Company of Cleveland, James Packard, wishing to make a few constructive suggestions to owner Alexander Winton, was told: “If you know so much about these horseless carriages, why don’t you go back to Warren and build your own!”
During his numerous trips to Cleveland, James Packard got to know George Weiss, a major investor in Winton’s company. Along with Winton shop superintendent William A. Hatcher and William Doud Packard, Weiss and James Packard set out to actualize the younger Packard’s ideas.
On November 7, 1899, the Warren Tribune simply reported that “The automobile completed by W.D. Packard was given a first test this morning. It proved satisfactory in every particular. It was expected the car would make 30 miles an hour and it can easily go 35 miles. This successful completion of the machine will probably mean a factory for automobiles in this city.”
A second Packard automobile was completed in May of 1900. The editors of Horseless Carriage, a trade paper of the day, wrote in their May 16 edition that the Packards’ car was “solidly built to endure high speeds on rough roads, and workmanship is thorough and first class.”
Packard had indeed built a better car.
The four original manufacturers of the Packard “horseless carriage” and a fifth man, James P. Gilbert, established the Ohio Automobile Company on Sept. 10, 1900. An initial stock sale raised $100,000 and shares were divided as follows: James and William Packard, 33 shares each; George Weiss, 32 shares; and Hatcher and Gilbert, one share each.
Henry B. Joy and Detroit
Eventually the Ohio Automobile Company drew the attention of Detroit capitalist Henry B. Joy, who bought 100 shares of OAC stock in November of 1901, and another 150 in December.
Later in 1902, after being strapped for cash, the Packards offered a substantial amount of shares for sale. This would be a turning point for the company.
Joy persuaded a group of investors to invest in the Packards and took control of the company in 1903. He changed the firm’s name to the Packard Motor Car Company and moved operations to Detroit. James Packard stayed on as president, but this act was largely ceremonial.
Joy and his “Princes of Griswold Street” had control over the company’s day-to-day operations, especially since the Packards preferred to stay in Warren. James Packard resigned as president in 1909 and was replaced by Joy, and took on a new, if equally powerless, role of chairman of the board until 1915. The company existed until 1958, until continued losses from Studebaker, a sister company, pulled Packard under.
However, the Packard brothers kept control of their electrical company, which had begun manufacturing cable for the automotive industry. Lauth said the Packards owned Packard Electric until 1915, when they sold their controlling interest to Newton Wolcott. The company enjoyed success under Wolcott’s leadership until 1932 when General Motors bought Packard Electric.
Wolcott served as general manager for a year until he died in 1933. In 1995 the company was renamed Delphi Packard Electric Systems and was spun off from GM in 1999.
In its heyday, Packard Electric became the world’s leading manufacturer of automotive, appliance and aircraft wiring assemblies and employed 6,500 workers.
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