- Automobile History
Packard Chauffeur School to WW 1 Airplanes + Recommendation Letters regarding My Grandfather
I never met my paternal grandfather because he died when my dad was only seven years old, so I have only heard stories about him from my grandmother when she was alive. She always spoke of him as being such a "fine man."
Recently due to some family history put together by a first cousin and his daughter on Ancestry.com I have come to learn more.
Between that and some photos and old typed as well as a hand written letter of recommendation I feel as though I am learning more about my grandfather.
Previously I have written about some handwritten letters to my grandfather from a Mr. Howard Rogers. One was dated 1920 and the other, 1921. They were safely tucked away in an old cigar box and related to friendly discourse about crops and such in Frisco, Texas. But they also had references to shared experiences they both had in World War 1 on those early airplanes in the 50th Aero Squadron which is obviously where they met and from which time they maintained a friendship.
The letters that will be shared here are earlier and pertain to what my grandfather had accomplished leading up to those days.
This first letter dated December eighth 1910 on Welch Bros. Motor Car Co. stationary also had a Packard emblem in the upper left corner, so obviously they were in some way affiliated with the luxury car manufacturer prior to selling out to the Packard Motor Car Company in November 4, 1911. The first Packard vehicles were built in 1899.
My grandfather grew up on a farm in Sullivan, Wisconsin. Whatever made him become interested in learning how to become a chauffeur I will probably never know for certain. Perhaps he liked tinkering with motors and engines? Perhaps he had some wanderlust?
The first Model T Fords were just being produced late in the year 1908 and the Wright brothers first lifted a man off of the ground and successfully flew for a short time in their flying machine called an airplane in December of 1903.
So these were times of change and big dreams of how people moved from one place to another. The entire world was about to transition from a slower paced society to one of more rapid developments in many ways yet unimagined.
Horses and carts were to be replaced by these new "horseless carriages" and flying machines would have people traveling further and faster than previously possible in past years.
These first two letters show that my grandfather went to Milwaukee which was about 30 miles or so from where he had been living and after learning what he did at the Packard factory (which was probably the one in Detroit, Michigan) he graduated from the Packard Chauffeurs's School in Milwaukee and successfully worked for Mr. Washington Becker, president of the Marine National Bank who then recommended his services as a trained and conscientious chauffeur.
Chauffeurs were trained not only to be courteous and respectful to their employers; be proficient with their driving skills, but they also had to keep the luxury automobiles in tip top shape which is where the mechanic training would have come into play.
Obviously only the wealthy people back in that day and age could afford chauffeurs which would have been a full time job for the chauffeur.
Today there are many companies that offer chauffeur driven limousines or other vehicles that can be hired just for special occasions.
Packard Chauffers' School Letter of Reference
Judging from the timeline of these letters and the recorded memories of my grandmother, my grandfather took his first chauffeur job (after his training and evaluation period) in Pasadena, California and worked for a Mr. Edward F. Robbins for over five years.
He loved to dance and did some dancing as a background character in some movies and earned a little money doing that. But apparently he earned enough money as a chauffeur that he had a home built in Pasadena which he later sold after marrying my grandmother to fund the building of their home on Okauchee Lake in Wisconsin as well as a string of cottages as an income investment.
Brewster & Co.
Let me just say that I am not a car aficionado and do not know that much about cars. If I cannot read the name of a car from an insignia attached to the outside, I rarely know the name of the cars on the streets today with few exceptions.
That was not always the case. When I was a child and my family would be taking road trips, one of our games was to identify the type of cars on the road. There were not that many different kinds back then and they had distinctive body styles and hood ornaments which identified them as to the car maker.
Seeing how many license plates from different states we could identify was another game. Even if there were radios in the cars, reception was not always good so we would talk, sing and interact with each other in these and other ways.
Thus seeing these next letters of reference on Brewster & Co. letterheads and learning about this high end automobile manufacturer in New York was an education for me.
Apparently my grandfather wished to enlarge his body of knowledge and worked as a mechanic learning even more than previously taught from the Packard school.
The most prestigious French car of the time was the Delaunay-Belleville which was imported by Brewster & Co. in 1905. They were also the sales agent in the United States for Rolls Royce and produced their own luxury car known as the Brewster Knight by 1915.
The auto plant producing these rare and expensive cars was located in Long Island City and that was my grandfather's next destination. People like the Vanderbilt's, Astor's and others even had their own special colors when their Brewster cars were produced and no one else could have the same color.
The next letters of reference refer to the work that my grandfather did while working at Brewster & Co.
After his time spent learning the mechanics of these luxury cars worked on at Brewster & Co. my grandfather once again worked as a chauffeur in New York City for around a year and a half for Mr. J.H. Eagle prior to enlisting as a soldier for World War 1.
J.H. & C.K. Eagle
The person for whom my grandfather worked as a personal chauffeur was J.H. Eagle.
J.H. Eagle and his brother, C.K. Eagle built and operated silk mills. They had facilities in six different places but had their main office in New York.
The raw silk was purchased in Asia, shipped to the United States where it was dyed and spun into thread and where the weaving took place.
When World War 1 broke out, my grandfather along with many other patriotic men joined the war effort. He became affiliated with the 50th Aero Squadron and became responsible for keeping those early biplanes functioning and air worthy.
Obviously according to this next letter, Mr. J.H. Eagle would have welcomed him back to work for him once again as a chauffeur after my grandfather's war service was ended.
This last letter also refers to my grandfather's expertise with regard to automobile engines which also (obviously) translated to knowing about those early airplane engines since that is the area in which he served during the first World War.
It is not dated and I do not know how or why my grandfather would have known the president of this company from Crystal City, Texas and for a seven year duration of time.
Mr. J.H. Eagle's letter makes reference to sending a letter to Texas. Perhaps he did some basic training in Texas?
According to my grandmother, my grandfather knew Charles Lindbergh. This photo of Charles Lindbergh was given to my grandfather.
When my grandmother was still alive I unfortunately never asked her how or why this connection had been made. Obviously both men were interested in motors and the early days of flight.
Of course Charles Lindbergh became instantly famous worldwide when he completed the first solo trans-Atlantic non-stop flight in his airplane named the Spirit of St. Louis when he piloted the plane from an airfield in Long Island New York to Paris, France in May of 1927.
After the war my grandfather returned to his hometown of Okauchee and got engaged and later married my grandmother. They had been corresponding with one another for many years.
I found this journey looking through these old letters and photos interesting not only because of learning more about my grandfather whom I never got to meet as he died when my dad was still a child but also for their historical references to some of those early luxury cars and the people whom my grandfather got to meet along the way.
© 2012 Peggy Woods