Henry M. Leland

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Henry M. Leland
Henry Leland.jpg
Born(1843-02-16)February 16, 1843
Vermont, U.S.
DiedMarch 26, 1932(1932-03-26) (aged 89)
Known forFounder of Cadillac and Lincoln

Henry Martyn Leland (February 16, 1843 – March 26, 1932) was an American machinist, inventor, engineer and automotive entrepreneur. He founded the two premier American luxury automotive marques, Cadillac and Lincoln. [1]

Cadillac Division of the U.S.-based General Motors

Cadillac is a division of the American automobile manufacturer General Motors (GM) that designs and builds luxury vehicles. Its major markets are the United States, Canada, and China. Cadillac vehicles are distributed in 34 additional markets worldwide. Cadillac automobiles are at the top of the luxury field within the United States. In 2017, Cadillac's U.S. sales were 156,440 vehicles and its global sales were 356,467 vehicles.


Early years

Henry M. Leland was born to Leander and Zilpha, the youngest of 8, in Vermont in 1843. Sources differ on the town of his birth (Danville versus Barton); he grew up in Barton. [2] [3] [4] [5] He learned engineering and precision machining in the Brown & Sharpe plant at Providence, Rhode Island. [6] He subsequently worked in the firearms industry, including at Colt. These experiences in toolmaking, metrology, and manufacturing steeped him in the 19th-century zeitgeist of interchangeability.

Vermont U.S. state in the United States

Vermont is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It borders the U.S. states of Massachusetts to the south, New Hampshire to the east, New York to the west, and the Canadian province of Quebec to the north. Vermont is the second-smallest by population and the sixth-smallest by area of the 50 U.S. states. The state capital is Montpelier, the least populous state capital in the United States. The most populous city, Burlington, is the least populous city to be the most populous city in a state. As of 2019, Vermont was the leading producer of maple syrup in the United States. In crime statistics, it has ranked since 2016 as the safest state in the country.

Danville, Vermont Town in Vermont, United States

Danville is a town in Caledonia County, Vermont, United States. The population was 2,196 at the 2010 census. The primary settlement in town is recorded as the Danville census-designated place (CDP) and had a population of 383 at the 2010 census.

Barton, Vermont Town in Vermont, United States

Barton is a town in Orleans County, Vermont, United States. The population was 2,780 at the 2000 census. The town includes two incorporated villages, Barton and Orleans. Approximately 30% of the town's population lived in the village of Orleans, 27% in the village of Barton, and 43% outside the villages. Only four other towns in the state contain two incorporated villages.

He applied this expertise to the nascent motor industry as early as 1870 as a principal in the machine shop Leland & Faulconer, and later was a supplier of engines to Ransom E. Olds's Olds Motor Vehicle Company, later to be known as Oldsmobile. He also invented the electric barber clippers, and for a short time produced a unique toy train, the Leland-Detroit Monorail.

Ransom E. Olds American businessman

Ransom Eli Olds was a pioneer of the American automotive industry, after whom the Oldsmobile and REO brands were named. He claimed to have built his first steam car as early as 1887 and his first gasoline-powered car in 1896. The modern assembly line and its basic concept is credited to Olds, who used it to build the first mass-produced automobile, the Oldsmobile Curved Dash, beginning in 1901.

Oldsmobile American car brand

Oldsmobile was a brand of American automobiles produced for most of its existence by General Motors. Olds Motor Vehicle Co. was founded by Ransom E. Olds in 1897. It produced over 35 million vehicles, including at least 14 million built at its Lansing, Michigan factory alone. During its time as a division of General Motors, it slotted into the middle of GM's five divisions, and was noted for its testing of groundbreaking technology and designs, most notably the "Rocket V8" engine. In 1985, over 1 million Oldsmobiles were sold, but by the 1990s the division was tasked with competing with import brands. When it was shut down in 2004, Oldsmobile was the oldest surviving American automobile marque, and one of the oldest in the world, after Peugeot, MAN, and Tatra.


Leland created the Cadillac automobile, later bought out by General Motors. In 1902, William Murphy and his partners at the Henry Ford Company hired Leland to appraise the company's factory and tooling prior to liquidation. Leland completed the appraisal, but he advised Murphy and his partners that they were making a mistake to liquidate, and suggested they instead reorganize, building a new car powered by a single-cylinder engine Leland had originally developed for Oldsmobile. The directors lost no time in renaming the company Cadillac. [7] At Cadillac, Leland applied many modern manufacturing principles to the fledgling automotive industry, including the use of interchangeable parts. Alfred P. Sloan, longtime president and chair of General Motors, considered Leland to be "one of those mainly responsible for bringing the technique of interchangeable parts into automobile manufacturing." [8]

General Motors American automotive manufacturing company

General Motors Company, commonly referred to as General Motors (GM), is an American multinational corporation headquartered in Detroit that designs, manufactures, markets, and distributes vehicles and vehicle parts, and sells financial services, with global headquarters in Detroit's Renaissance Center. It was originally founded by William C. Durant on September 16, 1908 as a holding company. The company is the largest American automobile manufacturer, and one of the world's largest. As of 2018, General Motors is ranked #10 on the Fortune 500 rankings of the largest United States corporations by total revenue. GM is incorporated in Delaware.

Henry Ford Company automobile manufacture

The Henry Ford Company was the second company for Henry Ford, founded November 1901. It resulted from the reorganization of the Detroit Automobile Company, his first unsuccessful attempt at automobile manufacture a year before. In March 1902, Ford left the company following a dispute with his financial backers, William Murphy and Lemuel Bowen, as Ford was devoting considerable time to the sport of auto racing and his Ford 999 race car. In a final settlement, Ford left with his name and US $900; he went on to start the Ford Motor Company in 1903 at the Ford Mack Avenue Plant.

Automotive industry Organizations involved with motor vehicles

The automotive industry comprises a wide range of companies and organizations involved in the design, development, manufacturing, marketing, and selling of motor vehicles. It is one of the world's largest economic sectors by revenue. The automotive industry does not include industries dedicated to the maintenance of automobiles following delivery to the end-user, such as automobile repair shops and motor fuel filling stations.

The Cadillac won the Dewar Trophy for 1908. [9] [10]

Leland sold Cadillac to General Motors on July 29, 1909 for $4.5 million, but remained as an executive until 1917. With Charles Kettering, he developed a self-starter for the Cadillac, which won its second Dewar Trophy in 1913 as a result. [11] He prodded Kettering to design a workable electric starter after a Cadillac engineer was hit in the head and killed by a starting crank when the engine backfired. [12]

He left General Motors in a dispute with company founder William C. Durant over producing materiel during World War I. Cadillac had been asked to build Liberty aircraft engines but Durant was a pacifist.

William C. Durant American businessman

William Crapo "Billy" Durant was a leading pioneer of the United States automobile industry, who created a system in which a company held multiple marques - each seemingly independent, with different automobile lines - bound under a unified corporate holding company. Durant, along with Frederic L. Smith, co-founded General Motors, as well as Chevrolet with Louis Chevrolet. He also founded Frigidaire.

Materiel Military technology and supplies in military and commercial supply chain management

Materiel refers to supplies, equipment, and weapons in military supply chain management, and typically supplies and equipment only in a commercial supply chain context.

World War I 1914–1918 global war starting in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War, the Great War, the Seminal Catastrophe, and initially in North America as the European War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the resulting 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.


Leland founded Lincoln. Leland formed the Lincoln Motor Company, got a $10,000,000 contract and started building the V12 Liberty engine. After the war, the company was reorganized, and the Lincoln Motor Company Plant was retooled to manufacture luxury automobiles. The V8 engine used in the first Lincoln automobiles is said to be influenced by the Liberty engine's design.

In 1922, Lincoln became insolvent and was bought out by Henry Ford's Ford Motor Company. Ford's bid of $8 million was the only bid at a receivers sale. Ford had first offered $5 million, but the judge would not accept it for a well-equipped company whose assets were conservatively estimated at $16 million. [13] Ford deliberately low-balled his offer as revenge against Leland's role in the creation of Cadillac. [14]

After the sale, Leland and his son Wilfred continued to run the company, believing they would still have full control to run the company as they saw fit. Ford assigned a number of their people to Lincoln, they said to learn. However, it soon became clear they were there to streamline their production and stop the loss of money that had bankrupted Lincoln. Relations between the Henry Ford and Leland workers continued to deteriorate.

On June 10, 1922, Ford executive Ernest Liebold arrived at Lincoln to ask for the resignation of Wilfred Leland. When it became clear that Liebold had the full authority of Henry Ford, Henry Leland resigned as well. That afternoon both men were shown out of the factory they had created. [15]

The Lincoln continues to be part of the luxury line of Ford to the present. Leland had no connection to the Lincoln Motor Car Works, a marque sold by Sears-Roebuck from 1905-1915.

Henry Leland house, in the Indian Village district of east Detroit. 1052-seminole-detroit-michigan-henry-leland.JPG
Henry Leland house, in the Indian Village district of east Detroit.


Progressivism in Detroit was energized by upper middle class men and women who felt a civic duty to uplift society by freeing it from the tyranny of corrupt politicians who worked hand in hand with unscrupulous saloonkeepers. Leland was an important leader, with his base in the Detroit Citizens League. Supported by Detroit's business, professional, and Protestant religious communities, the League campaigned for a new city charter in 1918, an anti-saloon ordinance, and the open shop whereby a worker could get a job even if he did not belong to a labor union. [16]

Personal life

Leland was the son of Leander Leland and Zilpha Tifft. He married Ellen Rhoda Hull b. 04/24/1846 - 01/15/1914 (daughter of Elias Hull). They had three children: Martha Gertrude b.1868 - ?; Wilfred Chester b. 11/07/1869 - 1958; and Miriam Edith b. 1872 - 1894. They were all born in Millbury, Massachusetts.

Henry M. Leland died in Detroit on March 26, 1932. [17] He is buried there in Woodmere Cemetery.


  1. Borth, Christy. Masters of Mass Production, pp. 137, 175, Bobbs-Merrill Co., Indianapolis, IN, 1945.
  2. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-08-05. Retrieved 2011-11-25.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. "H.M. Leland Dead; Motor Car Pioneer". New York Times. 27 March 1932. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
  4. Jones, Mike. "History of the Cadillac Motor Car (1)". www.modifiedcadillac.org. Retrieved 2018-03-21.
  5. "Early Days of Henry Leland". www.theautopartsshop.com. Retrieved 2018-03-21.
  6. Roe 1916
  7. Lacey 1986 , pp. 60–61.
  8. Sloan 1964 , pp. 20–21.
  9. The award was actually presented in 1909.
  10. The birth of a company: CADILLAC. Archived 2007-09-29 at the Wayback Machine
  11. History of the Cadillac Motor Car Retrieved April 29, 2014.
  12. "1912 Cadillac Model 30 Pictures, History, Value, Research, News - conceptcarz.com". conceptcarz.com. Retrieved 2018-03-21.
  13. Lacey 1986 , p. 277.
  14. Bak p. 135.
  15. Lacey 1986 , p. 280.
  16. Jack D. Elenbaas, "The Boss of the Better Class: Henry Leland and the Detroit Citizens League, 1912-1924," Michigan History (1974) 58#2 pp 131-150.
  17. "Leland, Auto Maker, Dies". The Pantagraph - p. 1. Bloomington, Illinois. March 27, 1932 via Newspapers.com Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg .


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