The Life of Walter Chrysler

Portrait of Walter Chrysler.

When Walter Percy Chrysler bought his first car, he spent time tinkering with the mechanics instead of learning how to drive it. This anecdote shows just how passionate Chrysler was about mechanics and automobiles.

Walter P. Chrysler was one of the last private automobile manufacturers to enter the car industry in the United States.

By the time he founded the Chrysler Corporation, General Motors and Ford Motor Corporation were already more than 15 years ahead in the industry.

However, with time, hard work, and planning, his company quickly became one of the three major automakers in America.

The Life Story of Walter Percy Chrysler

When you hear the name Chrysler, you most likely associate the name with the car.

Not many of us know the man behind the brand. Join us as we recount the life story of this American entrepreneur, engineer, and industrialist.

Childhood and Early Life

Walter Chrysler was born in Wamego, Kansas, on April 2, 1875. He was the third child out of four.

His father, Henry Chrysler, worked as a machinist and railroad engineer for Kansas Pacific Railroad. Not much is known about his mother, Anna Marie Chrysler.

Chrysler grew up in Ellis, Kansas. His family moved to this location when he turned three. Today, Chrysler’s childhood home is a museum.


Walter Chrysler attended elementary, middle, and high school but defied college. He wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps to become a locomotive engineer.

Chrysler was so passionate about mechanics that he, against his father’s wishes, took up a four-year apprenticeship program at a railroad machine shop.

He was 17, and his pay was 5 cents an hour. During the apprenticeship, Chrysler studied air brakes and steam engines.

Adulthood and Career

Chrysler relocated to Wellington, Kansas, and got a job at Santa Fe Railroads. In just two weeks, he earned 27.5 cents an hour, which was the top pay.

Over the next 20 years, Chrysler worked his way up the railroad industry. He was a master mechanic and railroad engineer in multiple railroad companies, including the Chicago Great Western Railway.

In 1905, Chrysler worked at the Fort Worth and Denver Railway in West Texas but later moved to the Chicago Great Western Railway.

The peak of his locomotive engineering career was when he worked as a manager at the American Locomotive Company (Alco). This role was Chrysler’s final one before switching to the automotive industry.

Switching to the Automotive Industry

Walter Chrysler moved to the automotive industry in 1911 after getting a job at General Motors in the Buick plant in Flint, Michigan. By this time, he had already purchased his first car.

Chrysler bought his first automobile, the Locomobile, in 1908, using $700 in savings and a $4,300 loan. He was so fascinated with the car’s mechanical system that he took it apart instead of first learning to drive.

Chrysler’s entry into the automobile industry occurred when he met Charles Nash, the president of General Motors.

Nash knew of Chrysler’s diligence and passion for the automobile industry. He persuaded him to become the manager of General Motors’ Buick plant, which Chrysler agreed to and even received a salary cut for.

Chrysler would later improve the plant’s manufacturing process and introduce the assembly line concept, thus increasing production rates.

In 1915, William Durant, the founder of General Motors, took note of Chrysler’s achievements at the Buick plant and promoted him to become the president of Buick.

Chrysler later led Buick to become the most successful unit of General Motors.

In 1919, Chrysler resigned from General Motors after clashing with Durant. Although the two were friends, they did not see eye to eye on matters of operations.

Chrysler wanted to keep operations lean while focusing on hard work and better strategies. Durant, by contrast, believed one should spend money to achieve growth.

Due to their different philosophies, Durant and Chrysler argued over the company’s budget and expenditure. Chrysler later resigned since he couldn’t be the one with the final say.

Founding Chrysler Corporation

Shortly after resigning from General Motors, Walter Chrysler got a job to head the Maxwell Motor Company. His first task was to save the company from debt and bankruptcy.

Chrysler set to revive Maxwell Motor Company by designing and launching a new automobile model, the Chrysler Six. This car was not only stylish but also affordable at $2,000. Maxwell Motor Company sold more than 32,000 units between 1924 and 1925.

In 1925, following the success of the Chrysler Six, Walter Chrysler reorganized the Maxwell Motor Company to become the Chrysler Corporation.

He became the company’s president. In 1928, he purchased Dodge Brothers, thus acquiring this company’s distribution system and trucking business. Chrysler also introduced the Plymouth and Desoto automobile brands and the Airflow model in 1934.

Under Chrysler’s leadership, Chrysler Corporation became one of the big three well-known automakers in the United States.

In 1928, Chrysler also constructed the Chrysler Building, which was 77 stories high. The skyscraper ranked as the tallest in the world until the completion of the Empire State Building in 1931.

Walter Chrysler retired as president of Chrysler Corporation in 1935 but remained board chairman until his demise. He published his life story in a series of articles, which later formed his autobiography, Life of an American Workman (1950).

Personal Life

Walter Chrysler married his childhood friend, Della Forker, in 1901. The two had stayed engaged for almost five years before tying the knot.

They relocated to Salt Lake City and had four children, Jack, Bernice, Walter Jr., and Thelma.

The Death of Walter Chrysler

Walter Chrysler passed away in 1940 due to a stroke. He was buried at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Tarrytown, New York, next to his wife, who passed away in 1938.

Frequently Asked Questions

The information in this post answers many of the questions about Walter Chrysler. This section provides a summary and any additional information.

1. What was Walter Chrysler famous for?

Walter Chrysler is famous for being the founder of the Chrysler Corporation.

2. What was the first vehicle sold by Walter P. Chrysler?

The first car sold by Walter Chrysler was the Chrysler six, launched in 1924.

3. What company did Walter Chrysler buy?

Walter Chrysler acquired the Dodge Brothers in 1928. This acquisition enabled Chrysler Corporation to control Dodge’s trucking business and dealer/distribution system.

4. How much did Walter Chrysler pay for the Dodge Brothers?

Walter Chrysler purchased Dodge Brothers for $170 million from an investment bank. This purchase made the Chrysler Corporation the third-largest automaker in the world at the time.

5. What was Walter Chrysler’s net worth?

Walter Chrysler had an estimated net worth of $1.5 million at the time of his death. Equivalent to over 30 million dollars today.

6. When did Walter Chrysler die?

Walter Percy Chrysler passed away on August 18, 1940.


Timeline: Walter Percy Chrysler


Walter Chrysler is born in Wamego, Kansas.


Chrysler and his family relocate to Ellis, Kansas.


Chrysler enrolls in a four-year apprentice program at a railroad machine shop in Kansas.


Chrysler marries Della Forker, his childhood friend.


Chrysler gets a job at Fort Worth and Denver Railway in West Texas.


Chrysler gets a job as the manager of American Locomotive Company (Alco).


Chrysler buys his first car, the Locomobile.


Chrysler joins the automobile industry with a job at the Buick division of General Motors.


Walter Chrysler gets promoted to president of the Buick division of General Motors.


Chrysler resigns from General Motors and gets a job to head the Maxwell Motor Company.


Walter Chrysler designs and introduces his first car, the Chrysler Six.


Walter Chrysler reorganizes Maxwell Motor Company to become the Chrysler Corporation.


Walter Chrysler gets featured as Man of the Year in TIME Magazine. His company also acquires Dodge Brothers for $170 million.


Walter Chrysler introduces Chrysler Airflow.


Walter Chrysler steps down as president of Chrysler Corporation but remains board chairman.


Walter Chrysler publishes his life story in a series of articles.


Walter Chrysler passes away after suffering a stroke.

More About Walter Chrysler

You can learn more about Walter Chrysler’s life from the links that lead to search results offering the latest and most popular information anytime you visit this post.

Facts About Walter Chrysler

Below is a summary of a few facts related to Walter Chrysler, in addition, you can view more from the link below.

  • At one time, Walter Chrysler worked as a janitor in Kansas, earning 10 cents per hour.
  • Walter Chrysler wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps as a locomotive engineer.
  • At a railroad machine shop, Chrysler undertook a four-year apprenticeship program.
  • Chrysler’s childhood home is now a museum.
  • Chrysler worked as a master mechanic and railroad engineer in multiple railroad companies.
  • Walter Chrysler moved to the automotive industry in 1911 after getting a job at General Motors in the Buick plant in Flint, Michigan.
  • Instead of learning to drive, Walter took his first car apart because he was fascinated by its mechanical system.
  • Charles Nash, the president of General Motors, persuaded him to become the manager of General Motors’ Buick plant.
  • Chrysler once served as Buick’s president.
  • Buick became General Motors’ most successful unit under Chrysler.
  • Dodge Brothers was purchased by Walter Chrysler in 1928.
  • Chrysler Corporation became one of the big three well-known automakers under Chrysler’s leadership.
  • Chrysler also built the Chrysler Building, a 77-story skyscraper that was the tallest in the world until the Empire State Building was completed in 1931.
  • Walter Chrysler was named TIME Magazine’s Man of the Year in 1929.

Search Results – Facts about Walter Chrysler.

Successes & Lifetime Achievements

His career began in the railroad industry and he was known for his problem-solving abilities. After that, he focused on the automotive industry.

You can learn about the many successes and lifetime achievements of Walter Chrysler, which include being named Time magazine’s “Man of the Year” in 1929. Plus, his name was placed on New York’s tallest skyscraper.

You can go through the link below to publications discussing this topic; naturally, you won’t find the whole story in one article, so there are many to choose from.

Search Results – Successes & Lifetime Achievements of Walter Chrysler.


We all have failed and what’s important is not to dwell on the failure but on how we overcame it.

Walter Chrysler is no exception. You can look at Watler’s failures, how he handled them, and what he learned from them.

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Character Traits

As a visionary, philanthropist, and humanitarian, he was known for his intelligence, perseverance, and daring.

To explore the character traits of Walter Chrysler, see the search results from the link below.

Search Results – Walter Chrysler Character Traits.

Management Style

Walter was known as the master of plant efficiency. He was an excellent

leader and was demanding of his employees. Being a visionary, he could plan for the future and did what it took to fulfill his vision.

From the link below, you can explore the management style of Walter Chrysler and what can be learned from him.

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Lessons Learned

Many lessons from Walter Chrysler can be applied in today’s business world.

Will all the lessons make sense to you? Not necessarily, but for those that do can turn out to be valuable.

If you’re interested, you learn more from the link below.

Search Results – Lessons Learned From Walter Chrysler.


You can explore the many quotes from Walter Chrysler from the link below. I have included a few for you to look at.

  • “The reason so many people never get anywhere in life is because, when opportunity knocks, they are out in the backyard looking for four-leaf clovers.”
  • “When railroad engineers come to a mountain they do not always go through it; sometimes it is best to go around it.”
  • “I am concerned first of all with executives because if their principles are not right it is useless to look for results from the men.”
  • “I do not believe in idle machines or idle men.”
  • “I never want to get to the place where I so dominate the job that no one under me dares to make suggestions.”

Search Results – Walter Chrysler quotes.


There are books available to learn more about the life of Walter Chrysler listed on amazon that you can look into.

View the most recent books related to Walter Chrysler on Amazon.


Even though Walter Passed away many years ago, there are still stories in the news related to him or his legacy. Using Google news allows you to see the latest and archived stories.

You can view what the media is currently covering from the link below.

See Google’s news search results related to Walter Chrysler.


YouTube has a lot of videos related to Walter Chrysler and the Chrysler corporation. Also, see the latest videos and those containing historical shots you may find interesting.

See the most recent videos related to Walter Chrysler.