Studebaker drove change in the auto industry

The news around Glendale early in 1917 was that war with Germany was looming. In response to that, an auxiliary to the Los Angeles Red Cross was formed at a meeting at the high school, and later in the year a local chapter began.

Also that year, two local churches dedicated new structures: the First Lutheran on Easter Sunday, April 8, and the First Methodist Episcopal on June 9. And the Knights of Columbus Council No. 1920 was instituted.

In 1917, Tropico had not yet been annexed to Glendale; there was no district council for the Boy Scouts, and the police and fire departments were still one unit.

However, the Pacific Electric cars had been traveling from downtown Los Angeles to Glendale since 1904, providing commuters with a convenient way to get to work. There were quite a few cars on the roads by then and the need for cars was growing, so when news spread that 17 brand-new, 1917 model year Studebakers had arrived at the new Packer & Roman dealership on Brand, it created a sensation.

Studebaker had entered the automotive business in 1902 with an electric car and in 1904 with gasoline cars. Before that, they had built wagons that were used by everyone from farmers, miners and the military to presidents. (In 1888, President Benjamin Harrison ordered one for the White House, according to

In 1910 Studebaker purchased a large automotive manufacturing company and, within five years, nearly 2,000 dealers from coast to coast were handling Studebakers.

However, as World War I neared, most of the automobile manufacturers, including Studebaker, joined the war effort. Half of the Studebaker plant was used to produce gun mounts and other components for the artillery pieces that were to be used in France by General Pershing. The buildup to war reduced the production of Studebakers to a little more than 43,000 cars in 1917, as opposed to nearly 70,000 vehicles produced the year before, according to So there were headlines in local papers when Packer & Roman opened their new dealership with 17 new cars. It was the only Studebaker dealer in this area at the time.

Stephen C. Packer soon bought out his partner and eventually brought in his son, Don, to run the dealership, which rode the ups and downs of the Great Depression and World War II with Studebaker.

After World War II ended, the American economy was strong and demand for cars was high. By 1949, Studebaker was the fourth largest car company in America, behind Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler, according to The company's best year was 1950, but soon after, the company began failing, leading to a merger with Packard in 1954. In an effort to stay afloat, Studebaker began manufacturing farm tractors, home appliances, and aircraft missile parts. The last domestic factory closed its doors in December, 1963, although several models of cars were still built at a plant in Canada, again, according to In 1966, the Studebaker company finally dissolved. And, here in Glendale, the Packer dealership closed its doors after many decades on Brand.

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