When this photo in the PPG Vault collection caught my eye, it triggered a childhood memory. I’m sure I had seen this wondrous building, or something like it, many decades ago in one of my illustrated children’s books called One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. That book featured amazing stories and paintings of magic carpets and genies in lamps, of characters with strange names like Aladdin and Ali Baba, of sultans and princesses wearing unusual garments and living in exotic palaces like this one in the photo. What was this building and what does it have to do with Packard?
Anthony was a man of many interests and accomplishments. He was a philanthropist and a playwright. He developed the modern gasoline service station. He brought major league baseball to Los Angeles. But in the world of American automobiles, Earle C. Anthony is best known as the man who brought the Packard marque to prominence on the West Coast.
A car lover from early on, Anthony built his own electric car at age 17 in 1897. This vehicle is on display at the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. When he first started selling cars, Anthony offered a variety of brands, but soon settled on Packards exclusively. From 1915 through the 1950s, Anthony was the primary Packard distributor for all of California.
Anthony was a master at marketing. He built eye-catching and elegant Packard showrooms in Los Angeles and San Francisco similar to this unique, architecturally eclectic building in Oakland. He arranged for Packards to be featured in parades, garden shows, social events, and various advertising media. He catered to Hollywood movie stars, offering them custom-designed Packards, and then featuring them in his advertising campaigns.
In 1923, Anthony became the first car dealer to install neon signs at one of his showrooms. The year prior, he founded his own radio station, KFI AM, in Los Angeles, which he used to advertise and promote the Packard brand. The radio station is still in operation today.
According to some sources, Anthony was the California Packard dealer who persuaded the leaders of the Packard Motor Car Company to offer a limited edition 1954 Pacific with an amethyst-colored body. Only a few of these cars were produced and the PPG has one its collection (below). Truly a rare gem!
After Packard went out of business, Anthony shifted to selling other cars such as the Ford Edsel. He continued to be active in all his endeavors until his death in 1961. The Persian palace in Oakland was used as a Buick dealership until it was torn down in 1973.