Walter Percy Chrysler (April 2, 1875 – August 18, 1940) was an American machinist, railroad mechanic and manager, automotive industry executive, Freemason, and founder of the Chrysler Corporation.
He was born in Wamego, Kansas and grew up in Ellis, Kansas.
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.
From 1905-1906, Chrysler worked for the Fort Worth and Denver Railway in Childress, a West Texas city considered the "Gateway to the Texas Panhandle." He later lived and worked in Oelwein, Iowa, where there is a small park dedicated to him.
The pinnacle of his railroading career came at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he became works manager of the Allegheny locomotive erecting shops of the American Locomotive Company (ALCO).
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.
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