Walter Paepcke

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Person.png Walter Paepcke   PowerbaseRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Walter Paepcke.png
BornJune 29, 1896
DiedApril 13, 1960 (Age 63)
Alma materLatin School of Chicago
SpouseElizabeth Paepcke
Founder ofAspen Institute
RelativesPaul Nitze
Founder of Aspen Institute

Walter Paepcke was a U.S. industrialist and philanthropist prominent in the mid-20th century. A longtime executive of the Chicago-based Container Corporation of America, Paepcke is best noted for his founding of the Aspen Institute and the Aspen Skiing Company in the early 1950s, both of which helped transform the town of Aspen, Colorado into an international resort destination and popularize the sport of skiing in the United States.


Walter was born to Hermann, an immigrant from Mecklenburg, and Paula (Wagner) Paepcke, the daughter of German immigrants, in Chicago, Illinois.[1] Hermann owned a lumber mill and box-making company, and young Paepcke grew up in an upper-middle class home. He was a 1913 graduate of the Latin School of Chicago. He then began working for his father, and eventually took over the company, the Chicago Mill & Lumber, Co. After his father's death in 1922, Paepcke began producing cardboard containers and paper.[1]

After acquiring several other manufacturing and box companies, Paepcke formed the Container Corporation of America in 1926.[1] The company was highly successful and made boxes for Procter & Gamble, Sears Roebuck, and General Electric, among others.[1] CCA emphasized quality products and artistry, making their boxes stand out.

Paepcke's wife, Elizabeth Paepcke, was the sister of American diplomatic figure Paul Nitze.

Involvement with Aspen

In 1949 Paepcke made Aspen the site for a celebration of the 200th birthday of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Albert Schweitzer, José Ortega y Gasset, Thornton Wilder, and Artur Rubinstein all attended the celebration. The next year, Paepcke created what is now the Aspen Institute. Walter and Elizabeth founded the Aspen Music Festival and School in 1949, and Walter served as the festival's director until 1954 when he appointed baritone Mack Harrell to take over.[2]

Paepcke hired Bauhaus designer Herbert Bayer and brought him to Aspen to promote the project through poster design and other design work; Paepcke was also the patron of fellow Bauhaus figure László Moholy-Nagy by financing the rebirth of the American New Bauhaus in Chicago in 1939. The New Bauhaus also had links to the Armour Institute of Technology.


  1. a b c d Ruth, Greg. "Walter Paul Paepcke." In Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present, vol. 4, edited by Jeffrey Fear. German Historical Institute. Last modified May 27, 2014.
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