Thursday 29th July 1909
The Buick Motor Company acquired the Cadillac Motor Company on behalf of General Motors for $4.5 million. Cadillac was born from the ashes of the Henry Ford Company, a business organized by William Murphy to produce a car by Henry Ford. Murphy had been one of the original backers of the Detroit Automobile Company, which had dissolved in 1901 after Ford had failed to build a car he was willing to put to market. Such faith did Murphy have in Ford that he gave him another chance in the Henry Ford Company, opting to use Ford’s name due to the recognition he had received from his recent racing ventures. Ford was so wrapped up in racing that he again failed to produce, and Murphy fired him. He then asked Henry Leland, a partner in Detroit’s successful Leland and Faulconer Machine shop, to appraise the business before he sold it. Leland persuaded Murphy and his partners to stay in business, promising them that he could design a car successful enough to make it profitable. In August 1902, they formed the Cadillac Car Company. Leland gradually took control of Cadillac’s daily operations, and by the end of 1903 2,500 Cadillacs had been produced. The founding of Cadillac helped solidify Detroit’s position as the centre of the automobile industry, and in 1904 Leland became president and general manager of Cadillac and agreed to merge Cadillac with Faulconer and Leland. Sales continued to rise and Cadillac established a reputation for exacting quality under Leland’s detail-oriented supervision. In a triumphant demonstration of the interchangeability of Cadillac’s parts, in 1908 three Cadillacs were disassembled by the Royal Automobile Club in England, reassembled at random, and driven away by the mechanics. In November 1908, Benjamin Briscoe made a bid for Cadillac, but he was unable to generate enough backing to carry the deal. William Durant seized the opportunity to add the valuable brand to his newly formed General Motors Corporation, and arranged a deal of stock transfer with the Lelands, but the Lelands ultimately refused it–they wanted cash. Finally, Durant got the cash together and purchased Cadillac, through Buick, on behalf of General Motors. Durant kept the Lelands on as management, saying, “I want you to continue to run Cadillac exactly as though it were still your own. You will receive no directions from anyone.”. Henry M. Leland and his son, Wilfred, continued operating Cadillac until 1917, when they left to form the Lincoln Motor Company.