James Ward Packard

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James Ward Packard
Born(1863-11-05)November 5, 1863
DiedMarch 20, 1928(1928-03-20) (aged 64)
SpouseElizabeth Gillmer
RelativesWilliam Doud Packard (brother)
Alaska P. Davidson (sister)

James Ward Packard (November 5, 1863 – March 20, 1928) was an American industrialist who, alongside his brother William, created the Packard Motor Car Company and Packard Electric Company.

Early life[edit]

James Ward Packard was born in Warren, Ohio, on November 5, 1863, the son of Mary Elizabeth Doud and Warren Packard.[1] He had a brother named William and sisters named Alaska,[2] Carlotta,[3] and Cornelia.[4][5] Alaska later gained fame as the first female FBI agent.[2] From 1880 to 1884, Packard studied mechanical engineering at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.[6]


After he graduated, Packard and his brother William founded the Packard Electric Company in 1890, through which they manufactured incandescent carbon arc lamps. In 1893, the brothers formed a partnership with Winton Motor Carriage Company investor George L. Weiss called Packard & Weiss. The first Packard automobile was released in 1899.[7] In 1900, the company incorporated as the Ohio Automobile Company and was renamed the Packard Motor Car Company in 1902.

The company relocated to Detroit in 1903. The company eventually merged with the Studebaker Corporation in 1954, and the last Packard was made in 1958. Following the company relocation to Detroit, the Packard brothers focused on making automotive electrical systems via the Packard Electric Company. General Motors acquired the company in 1932, renaming it Delphi Packard Electric Systems in 1995. The company was spun off and became independent of GM in 1999.


Packard fell ill in 1925 and underwent surgery for cancer the following year.[8] He spent his final 16 months at the Cleveland Clinic Hospital, where he died at the age of 64 on March 20, 1928.[7] He was survived by his wife, Elizabeth Gillmer, with whom he had no children.[8]


Packard Park in Warren, Ohio, is on land donated by the Packards. The James Ward Packard Laboratory of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering at Lehigh University was funded by him and completed in 1929, the year after he died.[9][10]

In 1927, Packard commissioned Patek Philippe to create the world's most complicated watch that could never be outdone; banker Henry Graves Jr. surpassed him in 1933 to become the owner of the Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication, the most complicated watch ever made, spending nearly five times the price paid by Packard.


  1. ^ Adler, Dennis (2004). Packard. MotorBooks/MBI Publishing Company, ISBN 978-0-7603-1928-4
  2. ^ a b Theoharis, Athan G. (1999). The FBI: A Comprehensive Reference Guide. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 321–322. ISBN 9780897749916.
  3. ^ Gray, Andy (November 28, 2016). "Book chronicles Packard family history". Tribune Chronicle. Archived from the original on November 29, 2016. Retrieved September 2, 2023.
  4. ^ "Petition of September 3, 1925, for Order Directing Appraisal of Transfer Tax". State of New York Supreme Court Appellate Division Fourth Department. New York: State of New York. 1928. pp. 224–299.
  5. ^ Coupland, Bob (October 25, 2021). "Residents tour Warren's oldest cemetery". Tribune Chronicle. Archived from the original on October 27, 2021. Retrieved September 2, 2023.
  6. ^ Packard's 100th Anniversary http://www.lehigh.edu/~inmem/packardcar.html
  7. ^ a b "Death of Packard". Time magazine. April 2, 1928. Archived from the original on November 21, 2010. Retrieved October 9, 2010. James Ward Packard was 30 years old when he began to make automobiles. Before that he had experimented with electrical devices and organized two companies to manufacture them. In 1893, having studied the motor plans of Daimler and Benz and the body-building methods of Levasseur, he had drawn the plans for the first Packard; the financial depression of the next few years prevented him from manufacturing cars for the several years afterward. It was not until 1899 that the first Packard rolled out upon the roads, a high, sloping car, followed by children and stared at by scornful farmers. ...
  8. ^ a b "James W. Packard, Auto Pioneer, Dies; Founder of Manufacturing Concern Bearing His Name. Gave $1,000,000 to Lehigh, His Alma Mater". New York Times. March 21, 1928. Retrieved October 9, 2010. James W. Packard of Warren, Ohio, founder, first President and later directing head of the Packard Automobile Company, died today at the age of 64 in the Cleveland Clinic Hospital. He had been in ill health for three years and underwent an operation two years ago for a malignant growth.
  9. ^ Staff report (January 15, 1927). J.W. Packard Gives $1,000,000 to Lehigh To Provide 'Finest' Engineering Laboratory. New York Times
  10. ^ Staff report (June 7, 1929). Lehigh Laboratory Ready; Gift of James W. Packard Will Be Used for Alumni Homecoming. New York Times

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