History Corner

Welcome to the History Corner

Chrysler Corp, Dodge, and AMC/Jeep (Thanks to allpar.com)

The Movement

When was Chrysler really created?

Chrysler Corporation was created in 1925, but when was Chrysler really started, not as a legal fiction, but as an entity, regardless of name?

Walter P. Chrysler might have revolutionized Maxwell Motors, but Maxwell existed before he arrived; indeed, the first Chrysler cars were not made by Chrysler Motors, but by Maxwell, in 1924. If one can argue that the Chrysler Corporation of the 1980’s and the Chrysler Group of the 2010’s are the same basic entity, despite a bankruptcy and the transfer of “Old Carco’s” assets to the new Chrysler Group, L.L.C, then one can argue with perhaps more conviction that Maxwell-Chalmers of 1924, producer of Chrysler cars, was the same company as Chrysler Corporation of 1925, since all of Maxwell-Chalmers’ assets were transferred to the new Chrysler Corporation.

Chrysler’s Predecessors

Chrysler’s electric car roots: Electrobat and the Electric Vehicle Company

The first root of the Chrysler Corporation was not a gasoline powered car or a bicycle; it was the Electrobat, built in Philadelphia.

In the late 1800’s and even the early 1900’s, the world had not yet standardized on internal combustion. The first car, invented and built in France, had been steam powered, and steamers were still roaming the streets, but many thought they were a thing of the past, given the new sensation made popular by Thomas Edison: electricity, delivered to your home without the need for a lightning storm. While others had invented ways to generate electricity from burning hydrocarbons, Thomas Edison had invented the practical indoor electric lamp, and then revolutionized electrical generation with highly efficient (for the time) dynamos, parallel circuits, fuses, and all the infrastructure needed to bring electricity into businesses and homes without batteries.

Chrysler family tree Electricity was the wave of the future. Telegraphs had brought the nation a fast communications network even before the Civil War; generations were fascinated by the battery operated miracle machines. With Edison’s power plants, electric lighting and fans were sweeping the nation. Even Henry Ford was convinced, for a time, that electric cars were the future — though Edison’s own electric car design ended up in mass transit instead of personal use.

Chrysler Family Tree

Electricity was the wave of the future

While Jeffery created a very early 4×4, Jeep’s corporate roots start with the creation of Willys’-Overland. This company started as Overland in 1902; crack salesman John North Willys’ contracted for a year’s production, and in 1907, when he didn’t get the cars he’d been selling, he visited the plant and found a dying company. Willys’ invested in the plant, getting the production lines moving again, and then bought the Pope plant in Toledo, up for sale due to the 1907 recession. Overland officially became Willys’-Overland in 1908. Stearn, Marion, Edwards, and Pope Motors (Toledo) would be acquired by Willys’-Overland over the next decade.

A highly successful company for some time, the highly variable economy of the times nearly brought Willys-Overland down; another economic downturn in 1919 killed auto sales, just as John Willys had invested heavily in the company. Investors demanded that a turnaround artist, one Walter P. Chrysler, be put on the staff.

After the war, Kaiser Motors was started to take advantage of the post-war car boom. As sales fell lower and lower, with the end in clear sight, an unprofitable Kaiser took over the still-profitable Willys-Overland in 1953; that provided Kaiser with international sales and a niche with far less competition, and Kaiser cars disappeared shortly afterwards. Kiaser Motors became Kaiser Industries, a holding company, while Willys Motors survived until 1963, when it became Kaiser Jeep Corporation. Kaiser Jeep was purchased by AMC in 1970.

Jack Ratchett family tree

based on a banyan tree (chronology isn’t to scale)