The Packard Plant #23
Packard was founded by James Ward Packard (Lehigh University Class of 1884), his brother William Doud Packard and their partner, George Lewis Weiss, in the city of Warren, Ohio. James Ward Packard believed that they could build a better horseless carriage than the Winton cars owned by Weiss (an important Winton stockholder) and, being himself a mechanical engineer, had some ideas for improvement on the designs of current automobiles.
Packard was not completely satisfied with the Winton car he had recently purchased. He wrote Alexander Winton with his complaints and suggestions; however Mr. Winton, offended by Packard's criticism, challenged Packard to build a better car. Packard responded by doing so, his marque outlasting Winton's by many decades. Packard runs his first automobile in Warren, Ohio on November 6, 1899.
In September, 1900, the "Ohio Automobile Company" was founded as the manufacturer, while the cars were always sold as Packards. Since these automobiles quickly gained an excellent reputation, and there were more automobile makers that produced — or at least planned to — under the label "Ohio", the name was soon changed. On October 13, 1902, it became the Packard Motor Car Company.
From the very beginning, Packard automobiles introduced a number of innovations in its designs, including the modern steering wheel and, years later, the first production 12-cylinder engine and the first air-conditioning in a passenger car. All Packards had a single-cylinder engine until 1903.
While the Cole 30 and Cole Runabout were US$1,500, the high-volume Oldsmobile Runabout went for $650, Western's Gale Model A roadster was $500, and the Black went as low as $375, the Packards concentrated on cars with prices starting at $2,600. Packard automobiles developed a following among wealthy purchasers both in the United States and abroad.
Henry Bourne Joy, a member of one of Detroit's oldest and wealthiest families, bought a Packard. Impressed by its reliability, he visited the Packards and soon enlisted a group of investors—including Truman Handy Newberry and Russell A. Alger Jr. On October 2, 1902, this group refinanced and renamed the New York and Ohio Automobile Company as "Packard Motor Car Company", with James as president. Alger later served as vice-president, Packard moved its automobile operation to Detroit soon after, and Joy became general manager, later to be chairman of the board. An original Packard, reputedly the first manufactured, was donated by a grateful James Packard to his alma mater, Lehigh University, and is preserved there in the Packard Laboratory. Another is on display at the Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio.
The 3,500,000-square-foot (325,000 m2) Packard plant on East Grand Boulevard in Detroit is located on over 40 acres (0.142 km2) of land. It was designed by Albert Kahn, and included the first use of reinforced concrete for industrial construction in Detroit. When opened in 1903, it was considered the most modern automobile manufacturing facility in the world, and its skilled craftsmen practised over eighty trades. The dilapidated plant still stands, despite repeated fires. Architect Kahn also designed the Packard Proving Grounds at Utica, Michigan.
Packard also made large aeronautical and marine engines. Chief engineer Jesse G. Vincent developed a V12 airplane engine called the "Liberty engine" that was used widely in entente air corps during World War I. Packard powered boats and airplanes set several records during the 1920s. For Packard's production of military and navy engines, the Merlin engine and PT Boats contributed to the Allied victory in World War II. Packard also developed a jet propulsion engine for the US Air Force, one of the reasons for the Curtiss-Wright take-over in 1956, as they wanted to sell their own jet