Cadillac Radiator Emblem

This Cadillac radiator emblem belonged to an automobile that was manufactured by the Cadillac Automobile Company between 1920 and 1925. When Henry Ford left the Henry Ford Company in 1902, the financial backers William Murphy and Lemuel Bowen asked engineer Henry M. Leland to appraise their factory for liquidation. Instead, Leland persuaded them to produce his single-cylinder engine automobile. This car was named the Cadillac after Antoine Laumet de Lamothe Cadillac, the French explorer who helped founded Detroit in 1701. The Cadillac Automobile Company adopted Antoine Laumet de Lamothe Cadillac's coat of arms as their logo in 1905, and registered it as a trademark in 1906. By using a coat of arms, the company suggested their car was connected to luxury, elegance, and an aristocratic tradition. In actuality, Antoine Laumet was not of noble berth and had no “real” heraldry to speak of. Instead, he appropriated the three black martlets of the Lord of Lamothe in his first and fourth quarters, while creating his own second and third quarters.
Radiator emblems are small, colorful metal plates bearing an automobile manufacturer's name or logo that attached to the radiators grilles of early automobiles. Varying in shape and size, the emblems served as a small branding device, sometimes indicating the type of engine, place of manufacturing, or using an iconic image or catchy slogan to advertise their cars make and model. This emblem is part of the collection that was donated by Hubert G. Larson in 1964.
Currently not on view
Object Name
emblem, radiator
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Radiator Emblems
Road Transportation
See more items in
Work and Industry: Transportation, Road
Radiator Emblems
Road Transportation
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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