Canaday Center

The History of Ward M. Canaday and the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections

Ward M. Canaday, 1932Ward Murphey Canaday, often known as the "father of the Jeep," was a longtime member of the Toledo community and a benefactor for the University of Toledo.  Canaday, who was educated at Harvard University, began his career revolutionizing the kitchen cabinet industry, and created payment plans for cabinet purchases that he would later model his automobile credit plans after.

Canaday began his Willys Overland Company career in 1916, assuming the position of Advertising Director for the young, up- and-coming automobile company.  Canaday would spend most of the next half century with Willys, helping the company establish the first automobile credit company and, later, rising to become Chairman of the Board and President of the company, in addition to resurrecting Willys Overland from bankruptcy in the early 1930's.  One of the most important successes of Canaday’s reign at Willys was the creation of the Willys MB, the vehicle that would later gain the moniker of Jeep.  Canaday and Willys did their part in the World War II effort, designing and manufacturing the vehicle that would be called "America's greatest contribution to modern warfare" by General George C. Marshall.

Canaday also branched out into government service, serving as the Assistant Administrator and Director of Public Relations for the United States Federal Housing Administration from 1933 to 1935 and playing an active role in the passage of the National Housing Act of 1933.  Canaday would also go on to serve as the Co-Chairman of the Caribbean Commission from 1948 through 1952.  Internationally, Canaday received the Grand Cross, Order of the Phoenix from the Greek government; was named an honorary citizen of the city of Athens; and served as the Chairman of the Board for the American School of Classical Studies in Greece. 

Canaday was also active locally, serving as a member of the Toledo Club, a Trustee for the Toledo Art Museum, a member of the Board of Directors of the Toledo Area Medical College and Foundation, the Chairman of the Board of the University of Toledo Foundation, a member of the Board of Directors of the University of Toledo from 1953-1967, and the President of the Friends of the University of Toledo Libraries for four decades.

Manuscript materials were first collected at the University of Toledo (then Toledo University) under the direction of Lucille Emch, Associate Director for Rare Books, Special Collections and Archives, in 1929. These materials were included in the original materials to be placed in the newly christened Ward M. Canaday Center for Research and Use of Rare Books and Special Collections,  which is located on the fifth floor of the William S. Carlson Library.  The Center, which was dedicated on September 28, 1979, was made possible by a gift from Doreen Canaday Spitzer, the daughter of Ward M. Canaday.  The dedication ceremonies included an address from Bill Moyers, noted journalist and former Lyndon Johnson Press Secretary.



Last Updated: 6/9/16