World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Henry M. Leland

Henry M. Leland
Born (1843-02-16)February 16, 1843
Died March 26, 1932(1932-03-26) (aged 89)
Detroit, Michigan
Nationality American
Known for Founder 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]


  • Early years 1
  • Cadillac 2
  • Lincoln 3
  • Politics 4
  • Personal life 5
  • Footnotes 6
  • Bibliography 7
  • External links 8

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.

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.


Leland created the 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]

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.


Leland founded 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.


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, and is buried there in Woodmere Cemetery.


  1. ^ Borth, Christy. Masters of Mass Production, pp. 137, 175, Bobbs-Merrill Co., Indianapolis, IN, 1945.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "H.M. Leland Dead; Motor Car Pioneer". New York Times. 27 March 1932. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  4. ^ Cadillac
  5. ^
  6. ^  
  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.
  11. ^ History of the Cadillac Motor Car Retrieved April 29, 2014.
  12. ^ Cadillac Model 30, 1912 Model 30 at
  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.


  • Bak, Richard. Henry and Edsel : The Creation of the Ford Empire. Wiley.  
  • Lacey, Robert (1986). Ford: The Men and the Machine. Boston: Little, Brown & Company. .  
  • Roe, Joseph Wickham (1916), English and American Tool Builders, New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press,  27-24075); and by Lindsay Publications, Inc., Bradley, Illinois, (ISBN 978-0-917914-73-7). LCCN. Reprinted by McGraw-Hill, New York and London, 1926 ( 

External links

Short biography page by a relative
Detroit News retrospective
Olds history with a bit on Leland
Historical article
Vermont historical marker
Article about the Lincoln Continental
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.