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Cadillac, 1903

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Cadillac, 1903
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution, Negative #: 44002 B


This object appears in the following sections:

Making Sense of "Failed" Car Technology — Famous Makes

Smithsonian Automobile Collection — Car collection, 1900-1909

Cadillac advertisement from The Horseless Age, January 7, 1903
Cadillac advertisement from The Horseless Age, January 7, 1903

Cadillac radiator emblem

Balzer automobile

Oldsmobile automobile

Cadillac automobile
Catalog #: 308,217, Accession #: 71,005
In collection
From the Smithsonian Collection

This Model A Cadillac was built in Detroit during the Cadillac Automobile Company's first year of production. It originally sold for $850. The car was offered to the Smithsonian by the company and was acquired for the collection in 1923. Baskets were added to the car in the 1930s, the vehicle's tires and tubes were replaced in 1954, and the car's exterior was repainted and the seats reupholstered in 1955.

Physical Description
Artifact. This gasoline-powered touring car has a rear-entrance tonneau and a one-cylinder, water-cooled engine. The engine was built by the Leland and Faulconer Manufacturing Co. The automobile was started using a hand crank, and the gas tank is under the drivers' seat on the right. It has a planetary transmission. The engine in this 1903 body is not the original-it dates from about 1906. The car has two seats and holds four people. The car's wheelbase is 70 inches; its tread is 53 inches; and its wooden-spoke wheels, fitted with ball bearings, carry 30-by-3 1/2 inch clincher tiers. The vehicle weighs about 1,350 pounds.
Date Made:
Gift of Cadillac Motor Car Company

The Cadillac Automobile Company was one the United States' early auto manufacturers. It was founded in 1902 out of the ashes of one of Henry Ford's early ventures in automobile making. Henry M. Leland was one of the driving forces behind Cadillac in its early years. He was a precision machinist and a prolific innovator, and he became president and general manager of the company in 1904. Cadillac was one of the early proponents of making cars with interchangeable parts, helping streamline the manufacturing and production processes. Cadillac introduced the self-starter as standard equipment in 1912, making their automobiles easier to start for everyone. In 1909, Cadillac became associated with General Motors. The company became a GM operating division in 1917.

Related People, Places, and Events
Cadillac Automobile Company

One of the founders of Cadillac
Henry M. Leland (1843 - 1932)
Vermont-born Henry Martyn Leland was a master precision machinist who cut his teeth in the armory business. Leland worked at the US. Armory in Springfield, Mass., during the Civil War. He also worked at Brown and Sharp in Providence, R. I. where he supervised the sewing-machine division. In 1890, he moved to Detroit, where he set up the Leland and Faulconer Manufacturing Co. Leland was a driving force behind the Cadillac Automobile Co.: there from the company’s founding, he worked with Cadillac until 1917, when he resigned and started the Lincoln Motor Co. When Leland died in 1932, he was described in the Washington Post as “one of the automobile industry's immortals.” (March 27, 1932)

Place of Manufacture
Detroit, Michigan

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