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Walter Chrysler : biography

April 2, 1875 - August 18, 1940

Walter Percy Chrysler (April 2, 1875 – August 18, 1940) was an American automotive industry executive and founder of the Chrysler Corporation.

Early life

Chrysler was born in Wamego, Kansas, the son of Anna Maria (née Breymann) and Henry Chrysler.http://www.wargs.com/political/dole.html He grew up in Ellis, Kansas. A Freemason,. Chrysler began his career as a machinist and railroad mechanic. He took correspondance courses from International Correspondence Schools headquartered in Scranton, PA (presently operating as an online school called "Penn Foster Education"), earning a mechanical degree from the correspondance program.

Automotive career

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 and also an executive at General Motors. Storrow asked him if he had given any thought to automobile manufacture. Chrysler had been an auto enthusiast for over 5 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$165,000 in today's dollars) a month for 3 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 several 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.

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 got, a salary of US$1 million a year for 2 years, an astonishing amount at that time. When Chrysler left Willys in 1921 after an unsuccessful attempt to wrest 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. 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. (This was the first cover of Time to be published in full color.)

Railroad career

Chrysler apprenticed in the railroad shops at Ellis as a machinist and railroad mechanic. He then spent a period of years roaming the west, working for various railroads as a roundhouse mechanic with a reputation of being good at valve-setting jobs. Some of his moves were due to restlessness and a too-quick temper, but his roaming was also a way to become more well-rounded in his railroad knowledge. He worked his way up through positions such as foreman, superintendent, division master mechanic, and general master mechanic.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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