|Walter P. Chrysler portrait|
Chrysler was born in Wamego, Kansas, the son of Anna Maria (née Breymann) and Henry Chrysler.He grew up in Ellis, Kansas, where today his boyhood home is a museum. His father was born in Chatham, Ontario in 1850 and immigrated to the United States after 1858. A Freemason, Chrysler began his career as a machinist and railroad mechanic in Ellis. He took correspondence courses from International Correspondence Schools in Scranton, Pennsylvania, earning a mechanical degree from the correspondence program.
Chrysler's automotive career began in 1911 when he received a summons to meet with James J. Storrow, a banker who was a director of ALCO and also an executive at General Motors. Storrow asked him if he had given any thought to automobile manufacture. Chrysler had been an auto enthusiast for over five years by then, and was very interested. Storrow arranged a meeting with Charles W. Nash, then president of the Buick Motor Company, who was looking for a smart production chief. Chrysler, who had resigned from many railroading jobs over the years, made his final resignation from railroading to become works manager (in charge of production) at Buick in Flint, Michigan. He found many ways to reduce the costs of production, such as putting an end to finishing automobile undercarriages with the same luxurious quality of finish that the body warranted.
In 1916, William C. Durant, who founded General Motors in 1908, had retaken GM from bankers who had taken over the company. Chrysler, who was closely tied to the bankers, submitted his resignation to Durant, then based in New York City.
Chrysler was named Time magazine's Man of the Year for 1928 and was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1967.