Packard produced American luxury cars—and grand pianos
The joke made me chuckle, and then think. It had to be wrong, right? Twitter user Karl Hess posted, “In my opinion Yamaha is probably the best grand piano/motorcycle company out there,” which sent me into a spiral while I wracked my brain to come up with a contradicting opinion. Nothing was coming to mind.
Then I watched the latest episode of Barn Find Hunter, where amongst a hoard of classic cars sat a Packard piano. It only got a passing mention in the episode, but in light of this popular Yamaha joke I figured it was worth countering that Packard, in fact, is beyond any shred of a doubt the best company to produced both grand pianos and automobiles. Definitively.
Sadly, there was a catch. The Packard name is the same in the companies’ crests, and they have similar high-end build characteristics—but the two manufacturers have near nothing to do with each other.
Yes, I spoiled my own discovery. The Packard company that produced automobiles was founded by James Ward Packard and William Doud Packard in Warren, Ohio. The Packard Organ Company was founded by Isaac Packard in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Organ Company branched out to pianos in 1894, just as the Packard automotive outfit was starting up and transitioning from its roots as an electric company to producing cars.
The companies were indeed separate, but their logos were starkly similar. How did that happen? I dove into multiple large publications by the wonderful Beverly Rae Kimes, hunting for a link between the two companies. It never materialized. If you know, please reach out, so I can finally sleep again.
The Packard companies did have one thing in common—both were purchased by competitors before their eventual demise. The Packard Motor Car Company was absorbed by Studebaker and had its name on cars until 1954, while Packard Piano and Organ Company was purchased in 1938 by Story and Clark. Each left a lasting legacy of quality, with select Packard cars commanding sums well into six figures. Compared to the cars the pianos are affordable, but with asking prices for restored examples approaching $20,000, that’s not exactly chum change.
Once again, pesky facts get in the way of my attempts at humor. Anyone out there have something to one-up Hess’ joke? If so, post about it in the Hagerty Forums comments below.