Born 1805 Died 1879
Asa Packer was born in Mystic, Connecticut, on the 29th of December 1805. In 1822 he became a carpenters apprentice at Brooklyn, Susquehanna county, Pennsylvania. He worked as a carpenter in New York City for a time and then in Springville, Pennsylvania, but in 1833 settled at Mauch Chunk, in the Lehigh Valley, where he became the owner of a canal-boat (carrying coal to Philadelphia), and then established the firm of A. & R. W. Packer, which built canal-boats and locks for the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company, probably the first through shippers to New York. He urged upon the Coal & Navigation Company the advantage of a steam railway as a coal carrier, but the project was not then considered feasible.
In 1851 the majority of the stock of the Delaware, Lehigh, Schuylkill & Susquehanna Railroad Company (incorporated in 1846), which became the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company in January 1853, came into his control, and between November 1852 and September 1855 a railway line was built for the Company, largely by Packer's personal credit, from Mauch Chunk to Easton. He built railways connecting the mainline with coal-mines in Luzerne and Schuylkill counties; and he planned and built the extension (completed in 1868) of the line into the Susquehanna Valley and thence into New York state to connect at Waverly with the Erie railway.
Packer also took an active part in politics. In 1841 and 1842 he was a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives; in 1843-1848 was county judge of Carbon county; in 1853-1857 was a Democratic member of the national House of Representatives; and in 1869 was the Democratic candidate for the governorship of Pennsylvania. In 1865 he gave $500,000 and 60 acres (afterwards increased to 115 acres) in South Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for a technical school for the professions represented in the development of the Lehigh Valley; Lehigh University was chartered in 1866, and its main building, Packer Hall, was completed in 1869; he erected a library building in 1877 as a memorial to his daughter, Mrs Lucy Packer Linderman; and his will bequeathed $1,500,000 as an endowment for the university and $500,000 to the university library, and gave the university an interest (nearly one third) in his estate when finally distributed.
He died in Philadelphia on the 17th of May 1879. The Packer Memorial Church (Protestant Episcopal) on the Lehigh University campus, given by his daughter, Mrs Mary Packer Cummings, was dedicated on the 13th of October 1887.
Being the entry for PACKER, ASA in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.