Joseph W. Frazer

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Joseph Washington Frazer (1892-1971) was a middle 20th century American automobile company executive. Over the course of his life, Joe Frazer was employed in half a dozen different companies as a mechanic, instructor, financier, salesman, president and board chairman. He held down top executive positions in Chrysler, Willys-Overland, Graham-Paige, before partnering with the already storied Henry J. Kaiser.[1] in the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation. He was an important figure in the classic era of American car building.


Frazer graduated from The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut and went to engineering school at Yale University Sheffield Scientific School in New Haven, Connecticut.


While at the Chrysler Corporation, Frazer suggested a name for Chrysler's new low-entry automobile to Chrysler founder Walter P.Chrysler, (1875-1940). Frazer said, "why not call it Plymouth? That's a good old American name. Ever hear of Plymouth Binder Twine?" While others were unimpressed by Frazer's proposition, Chrysler (himself once a farmer) replied, "Every farmer in America knows about Plymouth Binder Twine. Let's give them a name they're familiar with." [2]


Frazer was elected president of Willys-Overland in 1939. During his time as Chief Executive, Willys won the U.S. Government contract for design of the Jeep ["General Purpose" - ("G.P.") military utility vehicle]. The Jeep began production in 1940-1941 after testing at Fort Hollibird, in East Baltimore, Maryland.

By the time Frazer left in 1944, Willys-Overland had obtained yearly sales of $212 million. Though the firm was a shell of its pre-Depression self, the company persisted, selling Jeep-derived cars and light trucks after the war.

Graham-Paige Motors[edit]

Frazer had every intention of resuming car production at his new company, Graham-Paige; the new post-war Graham was to be called the Frazer. He assumed control of Graham-Paige Motors Corporation in August 1944. He and some associates had earlier in the year purchased 265,000 shares of stock for Graham-Paige Motors Corporation from one of its three brother founders, Joseph B. Graham (1882-1970), for $2.00 per share. G-P's other founding brothers were: Robert C. Graham, (1885-1967); and Ray A. Graham, (1887-1932); the Grahams had purchased the Paige-Detroit Motor Car Company in 1927, to form Graham-Paige Motors. Frazer then announced Graham-Paige would return to car manufacturing after the end of World War II with an entirely new model named the "Frazer".

In his search for funding, he met Henry J. Kaiser (1882-1967), a famous eccentric California industrialist, who had already been involved in the manufacture of aluminum during the War along with his revolutionary riveted (rather than welded) "Liberty" and "Victory" cargo ships. Kaiser and Frazer decided to join forces. The car, the "1947 Frazer", was named in honor of Frazer while he was still the President of the Graham-Paige Motors Company.[3]

In the early 1960s, Graham-Paige dropped the "Motors" from its name and turned to the real estate business, buying up such properties as the "Madison Square Gardens" sports arena in mid-town Manhattan in New York City. In 1962, the firm officially changed its name to the Madison Square Garden Corporation.[4]


The Frazer car was made in association with Henry J. Kaiser, (1882-1967).[1] An extremely similar car, the Kaiser was built alongside the Frazer. The Company also began production of farm equipment under the Rototiller name. Frazer resigned from Kaiser-Frazer on January 14, 1954.


Joseph Washington Frazer was born March 4, 1892 in Nashville, Tennessee – died August 7, 1971 in Newport, Rhode Island. He was the son of James Stokes Frazer (born October 7, 1852 in Lebanon, Tennessee – died April 17, 1892 in Nashville, Tennessee.) and Mary Washington (born October 25, 1855 in Robertson County, Tennessee – died January 16, 1928 in Nashville, Tennessee). His parents were married on May 8, 1878.

Joseph married Lucille Frost (born January 3, 1896 in Chicago, Illinois – ?) died on November 18, 1914). Joseph and Lucille had one daughter Arielle (born August 23, 1917 – died February 7, 2006 in Newport, Rhode Island). Joseph later died of cancer at his home in Newport in August 1971.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Kaiser- Frazer:The Last Onslaught On Detroit", by Richard M. Langworth; Collectible Automobile, April, 1988
  3. ^
  4. ^
  • He was featured in a "Time" Magazine article in April, 1945 in an article entitled "From Riches to Riches." [2]
  • Don Sherman. "A Few who Failed - unsuccessful automakers." Automotive Industries, September 2000. [3]

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