Best, brightest came to build Packards | News, Sports, Jobs – Warren Tribune Chronicle

May 2, 2022 by No Comments


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of a weekly series on our region’s history offered in a collaborative effort by local historical societies.

In July 1899, the Packard brothers and George Weiss of Cleveland formed the Packard & Weiss partnership to design a durable, reliable and elegantly crafted automobile.

The partners insisted on only the finest materials regardless of cost. Likewise, they recruited the best and brightest craftsmen to build their first automobile.

The partnership’s first recruit was former chief mechanic and engineer of the Winton Corporation, William “Bert” Hatcher. He was tasked with developing a “practical motor vehicle at the earliest possible date.” Hatcher’s start date was July 15, 1899, but, being enthusiastic, he presented preliminary blueprints on July 7, 1899.

To assist Hatcher, Packard and Weiss assembled a talented and skilled team. Claude L. Matthews, a 20-year-old from Princeton University, was working for Packard Electric when J. W. Packard discovered his drafting ability and assigned him to assist Hatcher with drawings for the first Packard.

A short time later, 20-year-old Edward D. Jones, who regarded himself a machinist, was added. The team completed the first Model A powered by a single-cylinder 9-hp engine on Nov. 6, 1899. It was an instant success, so four more were completed.

Llewellyn Chadwick also was part of the team, and his son recalled his father riding with Ward Packard on an all-day trip to Cleveland, where people lined Euclid Avenue to marvel at the car as it passed.

On Dec. 30, 1899, the Packard & Weiss partnership was renamed the “Automobile Department” of the New York & Ohio Company. Incorporated as the Ohio Automobile Company in 1900, it employed 17 workers, who were paid an average wage of 20 cents per hour. (That’s roughly $6.85 per hour by today’s standards.)

Packard’s reputation as America’s leading luxury car was firmly cemented at the first National Automobile Show held at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 10, 1900. Matthews was assigned to take the cars to New York. Matthews recalled the show in an interview published in 1936:

“I was just finishing the work of dusting off those Packard carriages when a man walked up and began firing all sorts of questions at me. He seemed particularly interested in one feature, which I believe to have been one of the best about the first Packards. This was the great, heavy flywheel, which was necessary in those early days of the single-cylinder engine to keep the machine going in the intervals between explosions. This flywheel, as I recall, was mounted on the crankshaft, and, by means of three heavy coil springs, a crowfoot attached to the periphery of the flywheel transmitted power to the axle. In other machines, the flywheel was bolted rigidly to the shaft, and thus made them ride in a jerky and less comfortable fashion than the Packard vehicles.”

Matthews continued his explanation, “Many parts of Packard’s cars were made of these stronger steels, instead of the malleable and cast-iron parts used by other car makers. And last, but by no means least, was the automatic spark advance, which Packard invented for his first horseless vehicles.

“After I had covered all these points, my prospect, unquestionably the first prospect ever contacted by a Packard automobile salesman, gave me a real thrill. The man said, ‘Just as soon as you can do …….



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