Cadillac Logo Meaning and History: Ford, GM and French Connection

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Cadillac is a premium car brand that operates as a division of General Motors (GM). It is among the oldest automotive brands and has an interesting French connection through Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac who is considered the founder of Detroit, Michigan. It is easy to see that the automaker’s logo is a shield based on the French explorer’s coat of arms. However, there is more to Cadillac logo meaning and history as you will read in this article.

Cadillac Information

Founded1902
FounderWilliam Murphy
Lemuel Bowen
Henry M Leland
Logo creatorAntoine de la Mothe Cadillac
HeadquartersWarren, Michigan, United States
Official websitewww.cadillac.com
OwnerGeneral Motors

Cadillac History and Evolution

Cadillac has a fascinating history and its roots are inexplicably tied to Henry Ford who decided to walk out of his own company ‘Henry Ford Company’ following a dispute with his financial backers. The investors were forced to bring in Henry Martyn Leland – an established engineer by that time – to help with the liquidation of plant and machinery. Instead, Leland persuaded William Murphy and Lemuel Bowen to produce cars using the engine he developed. Subsequently, the company was renamed Cadillac Automobile Company, paying homage to the founder of Detroit.

Given Henry Ford’s involvement, it is no wonder that the first Cadillac cars were almost identical to Ford’s Model A. Their paths crossed again as Ford acquired Leland’s Lincoln marquee!

Cadillac quickly positioned itself as a manufacturer of stylish and reliable cars and it helped the company immensely in selling the vehicle at high price points. Cadillac guarded these credentials well by introducing fully enclosed car in 1906. In 1912, the company also became first manufacturer to incorporate an electrical starting system and doing away with the hand crank.

Cadillac was acquired by GM in 1909 and it sat on top of the automaker’s lineup, surpassing other brands including Chevrolet, Oakland, Oldsmobile, and Buick.  

Cadillac Logo Meaning: Royalty or no Royalty?

As mentioned above, Cadillac emblem is taken from Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac’s coat of arms. Through the coat of arms, Cadillac established himself as a descendant of French royalty although this claim is disputed. Contrary to his claim of the coat of arms being quite old, it is understood that he designed it himself.

Whatever be the truth, this coat of arms became the face of the brand for the next century with several changes. Just like the automaker, Cadillac logo history is quite old. It was first used on Cadillac cars in 1905 and was registered as a trademark in the next year. In the last century, Cadillac logo has been redesigned 40 times.

Cadillac Text Logo

Cadillac Logo Evolution: Focus on Simplification  

The first versions of Cadillac insignia were quite elaborate and featured the following design elements:

  • A crown – symbolized France’s six ancient courts, although the number of pearls kept changing.
  • Shield – four-quarter shield represented the family’s courageous origins. Two of the quarters featured Merlettes or ducks – mythical birds without feet and continuously on the wing, symbolizing continuous effort.
  • A laurel wreath – a reference to aristocracy and victory.
Cadillac Logo 1902

The colors of the shield signify different values. Most important of these is black against gold which symbolizes riches and wisdom and is believed to have been awarded for crusader service. Red (boldness), silver (purity), and blue (knightly valor) are other important colors in the shield. 

Cadillac Logo 1999 640X335

In subsequent years, Cadillac car logo saw experiments with crown, wings, and even tulip-shaped flowerets. In 1947, a post-war logo was introduced which incorporated a “V” below the crest.

Among the more recent and radical changes are the removal of the crown, the birds and in the latest iteration, the laurel wreath as well. Despite such radical simplifications, the logo retains several of its original elements and is instantly recognizable.

Cadillac Emblem on Hood

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