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Packard, Sir Edward (1843–1932), fertilizer manufacturer, was born on 28 September 1843 at Saxmundham, Suffolk, one of at least two sons of Edward Packard, druggist, and his wife, Mary Woods. His father had begun making superphosphate at the outset of the industry in the 1840s. Trained in chemistry at King's College, London, and in agriculture at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, Packard joined his father in business in 1863 at Bramford, near Ipswich. With his brother Henry he became a partner in August 1866 and immediately opened a London office. On 23 May 1867 he married Ellen (1846/7–1927), daughter of Walton Turner, a merchant; they had four sons and six daughters. In his early years he was an enthusiastic yachtsman and played a part in improving racing rules.

In 1872 Packard patented a method for making highly concentrated superphosphate for the export market and the following year set up a new works at Wetzlar, near Koblenz, in Germany. At the end of the decade he helped to promote the Irish Farmers' Gazette, to provide publicity for the firm's products, and began building a phosphoric acid plant to make fertilizer for sugar plantations. By 1881 the firm was in difficulties because of the decline in demand, as British agriculture suffered in the face of foreign competition. Packard became senior partner and in 1888 was appointed the eastern counties' representative on a subcommittee of the Chemical Manure Manufacturers' Association, set up to investigate ways of improving trading conditions. The committee recommended a quota scheme for production by each member. The scheme failed and some businesses collapsed, including Henry Chapman & Co. of Ipswich, whose goodwill Packard acquired.

By the late 1880s Packard was totally committed to rationalizing production by joint action through the association. In 1888 he had also spearheaded the industry's response to a Board of Trade inquiry into the proposed increases in railway freight charges. Two years later Packard was the association's leading witness in negotiations with the Board of Agriculture over proposed legislation to impose stiff standards of quality on fertilizers. His advice was adopted in the Fertiliser and Feeding Stuffs Act of 1893. In an effort to reduce costs he also financed exploration for sources of mineral phosphate in various parts of the world and invested in several abortive ventures in North America and west Africa. When the association's price agreement collapsed in 1897, he developed overseas markets in Russia, Japan, and the West Indies. By 1902 his firm was again in difficulties because of price cutting by competitors. After very fraught negotiations the Eastern Counties' Chemical Manure Manufacturers' Centre came to a price fixing arrangement. This proved difficult to sustain and Packard's problems were magnified by the eruption of a volcano on Martinique which devastated the properties of many customers.

Despite these set-backs Packard remained committed to industry action, representing the association in a review of the working of the Fertiliser and Feeding Stuffs Act, in 1903. He wrote a pamphlet on the benefits of fertilizing autumn crops, of which the association distributed 60,000 copies. In 1906 he was elected president of the association, which shortly before had been renamed the Fertiliser Manufacturers' Association; and the following year he led the eastern counties' centre in buying and closing the works of John Evison at Ramsey in Huntingdonshire. However, his hopes that the association could form a national cartel failed. It was only possible with difficulty to maintain local understandings. Even Packard himself began to take unilateral action to close competing firms by acquiring their goodwill. During the First World War, all the firm's plant was controlled by the Ministry of Munitions. In 1917 Packard was appointed to the phosphate and potash distribution committee as the industry's representative, and he joined the executive committee of the newly formed National Sulphuric Acid Association.

All these duties told on Packard's health. He became seriously ill in the autumn of 1917 and his place was taken by his son Walter. However, he was fit enough to take part in the negotiations in early 1919 which led to the merger of Edward Packard & Co. and James Fison (Thetford) Ltd, of which he became chairman. He was knighted in 1922 for his services to the industry. Sir Edward Packard died on 11 April 1932 at his home, The Grove, Bramford, Suffolk. He was mourned for his public service in a galaxy of activities, ranging from those arranged by Ipswich town council and the town's fine art club, to those of the local Conservative Party, the Bramford school management committee, and the Harwich Harbour Board.

Michael S. Moss

Sources  

M. S. Moss, ‘From fertilisers to pharmaceuticals — history of Fisons plc’, Suffolk RO, Fisons plc company papers · private information (2004) [Sir George Burton; family] · Suffolk RO, Fisons plc company archives · International Fertiliser Manufacturers' Association, Paris, Fertiliser Manufacturers' Association records · E. Gaskell, Suffolk leaders (1910) · Cox's county who's who series: Norfolk, Suffolk, and Cambridgeshire (1912) · WWW · b. cert. · m. cert. · d. cert. · CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1932)

Archives  

International Fertiliser Manufacturers' Association, Paris, Fertiliser Manufacturers' Association records · Suffolk RO, Ipswich, Fison MSS


Wealth at death  

£28,252 3s. 3d.: resworn probate, 11 July 1932, CGPLA Eng. & Wales