Willys, John N.

Willys, John N. (North)

(1873–1935) industrialist; born in Canandaigua, N.Y. He attempted law, but preferred business, and in 1897 bought a factory in Elmira, N.Y., where he specialized in bicycles. Successful, he organized a car sales company and in 1907 bought out the Overland Company in Indiana and moved it to an abandoned factory in Toledo, Ohio; by 1910 he had produced and sold 18,200 Willys-Overland cars. In 1919 he organized the Willys Corporation, a short-lived holding company; financial troubles in the car business forced its liquidation in 1921. Having sold his Willys-Overland Company stock for $25 million in 1929, he became U.S. ambassador to Poland (1930–32). In 1933 his financially-troubled car company went into receivership with Willys as receiver and president; he died suddenly without resolving the company's finances.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.