Behind the Badge: Where Cadillac Got Its Crest (and Ducks)
Discover the history of Cadillac's coat of arms logo as we study car brand emblems!
The luxury Cadillac brand has existed for over a century, and in the 110+ years of its existence, its logo has endured nearly 40 distinct reinventions. Following the company’s Art & Science design philosophy, each new badge continues to remain modern.
Since the company’s establishment by Henry Martyn Leland in 1902 and acquisition by General Motors in 1909, certain design elements have remained consistent in the company’s emblem.
But where did the Cadillac crest come from and what does it mean? Find out the emblem’s noble history.
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The Shocking Origin and History of the Cadillac Emblem
The Cadillac emblem as we know is began as the family crest of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the founder of the city of Detroit. The man asserted that the lineage was tied to old French royalty, thus meaning the Cadillac coat of arms was designed ceturies before America was discovered, but many believe Antoine designed the crest himself when he married in 1687, taking its looks from his neighbor Baron Sylvester of Esparbes de Lussan. In reality, it’s possible Antoine invented much of his noble ancestry…
The first automotive Cadillac emblem featured the following design elements:
- The Couronne (Crown): The six ancient counts of France, with the pearls being descendancy from the royal counts of Tolouse.
- The Merlettes: Commonly known as “the ducks,” these birds appear in trios to symbolize the Holy Trinity, with three on one side representing the nobility of the mother’s lineage and the others representing the father’s noble lineage. The use of the birds comes from the time of the Crusades.
- Color Stripes: Black (superiority), gold (riches), red (boldness), silver (virtue), and blue (valor). The black stripe itself is indicative of an award for Crusader service.
- The Laurel Wreath: A symbol of aristocracy and victory.
At the turn of the century, a new “Wreath & Crest” logo was introduced at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The biggest changes were the removal of the crown and the birds, while the wreath was sharpened into a modern form.
The current crest was introduced on the the Elmiraj concept and began appearing on production models later in 2014. The most noticable changes are the extreme widening of the crest and the complete absence of the wreath (which was considered outdated).
The current logo, inspired by European geometric painter Piet Mondrian, keeps its heritage and shape but is modernly streamlined. According to Andrew Smith, Cadillac’s executive design director, “The Crest remains a consistent symbol of Cadillac and our core values…Our goal was to evolve the emblem design to integrate with the new vehicle form while maintaining the core graphic elements that preserve its strong brand recognition.”
Enjoy learning about the Cadillac logo? Check out the rest of The News Wheel’s “Behind the Badge” series to learn about other auto brands.
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Aaron is unashamed to be a native Clevelander and the proud driver of a Hyundai Veloster Turbo (which recently replaced his 1995 Saturn SC-2). He gleefully utilizes his background in theater, literature, and communication to dramatically recite his own articles to nearby youth. Mr. Widmar happily resides in Dayton, Ohio with his magnificent wife, Vicki, but is often on the road with her exploring new destinations. Aaron has high aspirations for his writing career but often gets distracted pondering the profound nature of the human condition and forgets what he was writing… See more articles by Aaron.