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Antoine Laumet
( aka Antoine De Lamothe-Cadillac )

and the Cadillac "Family Crest"

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(le résumé en français se trouve en bas de page)


The [not quite true] Story of
Antoine "de la Mothe Cadillac"


I would fail in my duty of due diligence if I were not to include an opening statement, here, regarding the elaborate works of Canadian historian, Suzanne Boivin Sommerville, and in particular her scrupulous research into the history of New France, in particular as it relates to le Sieur de Lamothe-Cadillac's stay in the area from around 1683 to 1710.

Suzanne contacted me in September, 2008, pointing out that some of the statements included on this page - particularly in the table, below, entitled "Historical Landmarks in the Life of Antoine de Lamothe-Cadillac" - which I had translated from a French version published earlier by French historian Jean Boutonnet - were verbatim quotes from her own published works. 

Apololgies to Suzanne, therefore, for my failing (until now) to give her due credit for her work. Some of the Internet sites that reflect Suzanne's work are listed below, towards the end of the page, at the paragraph headed: Other Web sites of interest to the historian.

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Now the story
[as told by the company in its 25th anniversary brochure in 1927]
...and the true history:


[ my comments in square brackets and non-italicized, blue font ]

Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac after whom the Cadillac car was named, possessed a pioneering, roving spirit.

He was born at Toulouse in 1657 [in fact, he was born Antoine Laumet on March 5, 1658 at St. Nicolas-de-la-Grave, a small market town just a few miles west of Castelsarrasin, about 40 miles from Toulouse, in France's Tarn & Garonne Department].  At the age of sixteen he entered the army, and saw several years of service in France [guesswork - in fact, little is known about Laumet's childhood, his adolescence or his means of existence up to 1687]. Stories he heard of the New World appealed to his adventurous nature and eventually drew him to these shores.

He came over in 1683 and settled at Port Royal in Nova Scotia. In 1684 the King granted him six square miles of land at what is now Bar Harbor, Maine, and also Mount Desert Island off the Maine coast [Laumet-Cadillac had requested a concession in 1687; it was granted in 1688].   As commandant of Michilimackinac, a post he obtained in 1694, he distinguished himself.

But the event for which he is chiefly noted was the founding of the city of Detroit. This occurred in July, 1701, exactly 225 years ago [remember, this was written in 1927 - also, it was not until 1706 and 1707 that the French crown acknowledged that a colony had indeed developed in Detroit]

Canoeing down the Detroit river  as far as Grosse Isle, he turned upstream and carefully surveying the shore, selected a point near what is now the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Shelby Street, for the erection of Fort Ponchartrain.

Little did the French pioneer think that he was founding a settlement that two and a quarter centuries later would have grown not only to be the fourth largest city in the United States with a million and a half population [again, in 1927], but also the greatest and largest automobile manufacturing city in the whole world.

Still more impossible would it have been to vision that the name of Cadillac, by reason of its adoption by the Cadillac Motor Car Company of Detroit, should have become a name known throughout the world as emblematic of all that is highest in automobile design and construction.

The name of Cadillac, the man, outside the United States and France would probably have been confined alone to students of history, but the motor car bearing his crest has carried the name to all four corners of the Globe.

With a keen eye to business, Cadillac attracted to him during the first winter in Detroit 6000 Indians and established trade with them.  Cadillac was recalled to France in 1710 [in fact, he was asked to report to Louisiana but refused and instead set sail for France in 1711, of his own free will, with his wife and children; he returned to the American continent (Louisiana) only in June 1713] and was subsequently made Governor of Louisiana, the largest amount of land ever ruled by any governor in America.

In 1716 political troubles beset him.  He was deposed, tried, and sentenced to the Bastile [read "the Bastille"] whence he emerged  in 1718 [reading this, you might think that Laumet-Cadillac spent up to to two years in Paris' infamous Bastille prison; in fact, he was there only from October 1717 to early February 1718, i.e. about five months]. His last years were spent as Governor of Castelsarrasin, in Southern France [he was appointed to that office in 1722], and there he died on October 15, 1730, in his home at Place du Château.

Just as the history of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac stands for all that is significant in pioneering, so does the Cadillac car symbolize actual pioneering effort in the motor world.

The Cadillac car was also a pioneer in many respects, for in its inception it was built but a single cylinder car - though even then it was preeminent in its field.  But slowly the craftsman's instinct of Cadillac effected improvement after improvement in engineering design until ultimately the first V-type eight-cylinder engine in America was evolved  [too early (1927) for any reference to the later sixteen and twelve-cylinder engines of 1930].

There follows an explanation of the Cadillac crest which the copy writer affirms was designed four centuries before Columbus discovered America and that Laumet-Cadillac was descended from the old counts of Toulouse, who were affiliated with the Royal French stock. 

Well, it does make for a good story! But history tells another tale. In fact, many sources agree that Laumet-Cadillac probably designed the crest himself, around the time of his marriage in 1687, borrowing heavily on the authentic coat of arms of an old neighbor of his, Baron Sylvester of Esparbes [or Esparbès] de Lussan, lord of Lamothe-Bardigues, a small township near Toulouse, France.

More on that topic later.

By the way, other sources I have found on the Internet also publish  "fanciful facts" about the history of Detroit's founder.  Considering the amount of accurate information available to researchers today, this defies logic.  One site that I visited in March 2009, that publishes on the Internet an "Antiques Digest" of "Lost Knowledge from the Past", had this to say:

ON THE BANKS of the Gironde River in southwest France stand the ruins of a fourteenth-century  fortress, which once dominated the people of the valley and controlled the river traffic. In its time the castle was a symbol of the prestige and power wielded by the medieval aristocracy. It was called Cadillac. The men of the  family were military leaders through the centuries, but historical fame came chiefly to Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, who led a French army into the Great Lakes region and founded the city of Detroit in 1701.

Cadillac is a commune (township) in the Gironde department of Aquitaine, in southwestern France. It was founded in 1280 by Jean the first of Grailly to serve as a river port.  What the writer refers to as a fourteenth-century  fortress was in fact a fortification (the Château Benauges) built simultaneously with the founding of the township of Cadillac. It was all but destroyed in successive wars in the 14th and 15th centuries.

Jean Louis de Nogaret de La Valette (1554-1642), first Duke of Epernon, , a favorite of Henry III, got the ruins of the original Château in his wedding basket, in 1587, when he wed Marguerite de Foix-Candale of the Barony of Castelnau, in the Médoc; as she had no male siblings, her new husband, the Duke, got all her family's estates. On these ruins the Duke erected a new and more imposing structure: the Château (de) Cadillac. Work was completed around 1615. It was converted for use as a prison for women (1820 - 1952). Overlooking the Garonne river, the castle is a prime example of early 17th century architecture; in its heyday, it rivaled royal properties. Today, all that remains is the main building with its two wings at right angles, the courtyard and the garden (the latter is open to the public). A visit to the chateau will reveal both the splendor of the seventeenth century (the French fireplaces, painted and decorated ceilings) as well as the harsh reality of the prison that it was for 130 years.

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Three  two views of Château de Cadillac that was  built on the ruins of Château Benauges

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Left: historical sketch the Château Benauges, on the ruins of which the Château de Cadillac was built (aerial view, right)


The "French army" that Cadillac is reported (above) to have led into the Great Lakes region, consisted in fact of just 50 soldiers and an equal number of civilians.  It is also incorrect to assert that he "founded the city of Detroit in 1701". It would be more accurate to say that  in 1701 he set up a small settlement, mainly for fur trading with France, on the site where now stands the bustling city of Detroit.

The first Duke of Epernon was indeed a military man; he was active in government until around 1618; in 1617, he participated in the persecution and murder of the Huguenots (Protestants) in Guienne (now Aquitaine). He was made military governor of Guienne (Aquitaine) in 1622 and lived a quiet life there, in the Château Cadillac. Interestingly, Alexandre Dumas based his swashbuckling hero, d'Artagnan, of the Three Musketeers, on the Duke. The well-known actress, Audrey Hepburn, also is descended from him.

This interesting little snippet came from the a book entitled Cadillac Participation in the War
[the Great War of 1914-18], published by the company in 1919!  I have visited this castle on more than one
 occasion but never saw the "Cadueai" [spelling] coat of arms purported to be the same as mounted on Cadillac radiators


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The [true] Story of Antoine Laumet
[ alias Antoine de Lamothe-Cadillac ]

Much of the factual information herein comes from translations of historical documents in the Burton Collection, Detroit, others from the archives of the French navy in Paris and of those of Quebec Province. The are consistent with the stories told in a number of historic novels about the man, including Karen Elizabeth Bush's First Lady of Detroit, published by Wayne State University Press in 2001.


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With only a few gray areas, historians have been able to piece together the saga of le Sieur Antoine de Lamothe-Cadillac, founder, in 1701, of a small trading settlement on the site where now towers mighty Detroit, motor capital of the world and home to the aptly named Cadillac automobile. But history reveals that he was, nonetheless, a bit of a scoundrel who had but his own interests at heart!

Born Antoine Laumet on March 5, 1658 at St. Nicolas-de-la-Grave, a small market town just a few miles west of Castelsarrasin in France's Tarn & Garonne Department, the self-styled Lamothe-Cadillac was in fact the son of one Jean Laumet, an assistant magistrate in the local court.  His mother, a modest home-maker, was born Jeanne Pechagut.  

French nobility were not usually housed in the smallest dwelling in the village. They had large estates and châteaux.  

What Antoine had not counted on was that one day he would sail to the New World, in search of adventure, and found a tiny settlement there that would become Detroit, the automobile capital of the world.  It was natural that the future residents of that huge metropolis would, one day, want to find out the origins of their founder. When you start digging, you never know what you are going to unearth!


The Laumet home at St. Nicolas-de-la-Grave, France

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Left: Bird's eye view of the township of St. Nicolas-de-la-Grave
in France's département (county) of Tarn and Garonne

Right: the modest Laumet home, set between two larger dwellings
[ Photos above and right, below: © 2006 and courtesy John Nicholls, a local resident]

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Left: The leaning sign at the right reads Musée Lamothe-Cadillac [Museum]
Right: the townspeople have affixed this commemorative plaque on the house


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The plaque on the wall of the Laumet house at
St. Nicolas-de-la- Grave reads as follows:

In memory of Antoine Laumet de Lamothe Cadillac,
born in this house on March 5, 1658 who colonized
Canada and Louisiana.  Founder of Detroit and
Governor of Castelsarrasin
where he died in 1730 



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Would a nobleman of the (claimed) stature of Lamothe-Cadillac have lived in
this tiny house, nestled between two much larger ones, up a side street in
St.  Nicolas-de-la-Grave? I don't think so!  I'm sure he would have preferred
to live in the "Château de Bardigues", the stately home of his neighbor,
Baron Sylvestre de Lamothe-Bardigues ...and that's exactly where he got the
idea of changing his name, his social standing and designing his coat of arms!

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The Château de Bardigues, with the familiar trio
of "Cadillac" merlettes above the entrance gates


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This Michigan Historic Site marker is located many miles from Detroit; you can see it in the courtyard of the house where Cadillac was born, in St. Nicolas-de-la-Grave.  The obverse is inscribed in French, the reverse in English. The text reads:

CADILLAC MUSEUM.  In this house was born Antoine Laumet on March 5, 1658.  Laumet became le Sieur de la Mothe Cadillac
1.  On July 24, 1701, he founded the small village which later was to become Detroit, Michigan, in the United States of America.  With a company of 100 men of the French Marine corps, and as many Indians, Cadillac claimed Detroit for King Louis XIV of France.  The King had assigned to him the task of setting up  a series of forts joining up Quebec to New Orleans.  Cadillac brought his family to America and they remained there until 1710.  In 1717, after serving as Governor of Louisiana, he returned to France.  He died at Castelsarrasin in 1730.  In 1972 the Detroit Historic Society donated $20,000.00 towards the purchase of this house so that it might serve as a Museum.
To date, no explanation has been given how Laumet suddenly "became" de Lamothe-Cadillac; we know he used that pseudonym (for the first time ?) when he wed Marie-Thérèse Guyon, on June 25, 1687.  Had he been honest about his more modest origins, like the Scotsman, David Dunbar Buick, we collectors might, today, be driving  Laumet V16s,  Laumet Coupe de Villes, or  even Laumet Eldorado Biarritzes!  Doesn't have the same ring, does it?



Little is known about Laumet's childhood, his adolescence or his means of livelihood up to 1687, when he reached the age of 29 and got married.  It has been surmised, nonetheless, that he was well educated - probably at the University of Toulouse, a city not too far from his home near Castelsarrasin. The style of his letters denotes this, as do his written Statements to the Minister, which reveal also his vast knowledge of British New World territories. 

Cadsigna.jpg (3373 bytes)
Lamothe-Cadillac was consistent in signing his name this way
[ could this be the origin of the famous Cadillac script? ]


In 1682, at the age of 24, while allegedly serving in the military at Thionville in north-eastern France2, where he also allegedly earned a commission, he began to call himself Cadillac3.  It was customary in those days, for aspiring young officers to adopt a so-called nom de guerre (name of war); the name "Cadillac" had a good military "ring" to it.

2 Jean Cadilhac, who also has researched the family history of Antoine Laumet, alias de Lamothe-Cadillac, suggests that Laumet may even have borrowed for himself the military records of an older brother
3 Cadillac is the name
of a hamlet near Montech, not far from Laumet's birthplace, St. Nicolas-de-la-Grave (it is also the name of a large, market town near Bordeaux, Gironde)


In 1683, at the age of 25, Laumet set sail for the New World, in search of adventure. On June 25, 1687, in Quebec (which was New France at that time), he married Marie-Thérèse Guyon, niece of French-Canadian privateer, François Guyon.  It is rumored that they met at the Governors ball at Quebec's Château St. Louis. She was just seventeen [...you know what I mean, and the way she looked was way beyond compare... (Beatles)]


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C.W. Jeffreys, Château St. Louis - from the National Archives of Canada



The banns were published on June 22 and 24 [three publications were required at that time but the couple was exempted from a third posting by the Bishop of Quebec]. In the registry of marriages, Laumet gave his name as Antoine de Lamothe, Sieur de Cadillac.  He signed the register: Lamothe Launay.  He claimed noble descent through both his father and mother. He asserted that Laumet Sr. was actually named Jean de La Mothe, sieur de [sire of] Cadillac, Launay et Le Moutet  [the names of a town and a couple of hamlets around his birth place], Counselor to the Parliament in Toulouse. 

In fact, Tony's dad was a modest assistant-magistrate at the local court in St. Nicolas-de-la-Grave.  He named his mother, ironically, Jeanne de Malenfant; the French particle, de, suggests noble birth.  Taken separately, however, the French words de mal enfant, literally mean of (or with) the evil child. Was Tony being wryly humorous by this veiled admission that, in fact, he was just Mommy's bad boy?

This concise history of  the French "bad boy" is from the Virtual Museum of New France :

Born on March 5, 1658 in Laumont [or "Les Laumets"?], a village near Saint-Nicolas-de- la-Grave in Gascony, Antoine Laumet de Lamothe Cadillac was the son of simple middle-class parents. Upon his marriage in Quebec City on June 25, 1687, he glorified his origins [my emphasis], claiming his title was "Antoine de la Mothe, squire, Sieur de Cadillac, aged about 26 years, son of Jean de la Mothe, Seigneur of Cadillac, Launay and Moutet, consultant [counselor] to the parliament of Toulouse and of Jeanne de Malenfant." His parents, however, were commoners. A simple magistrate, his father was called Jean Laumet; he was no Seigneur [squire].

This was far from being the last of the lies told by Antoine Laumet de Lamothe Cadillac, founder of Detroit, whose sojourn in New France began in Acadia around 1683. Without giving any proof, and contradicting himself on many occasions, he claimed to be an experienced soldier. No one knows where he studied, but the briefs he produced for Minister Ponchartrain indicated that he did have a certain level of education and culture.

The following are excerpts from from the Web site of Jean Cadilhac [© 2000], a distant relative of Antoine Laumet-Cadillac (?). The English translations [blue text] of the French originals [dark green text] are my own and are not, therefore, legally binding! Primarily, the French author suggests (and I would agree 100%) that, for the student of history:

Il est plus sérieux de consulter les documents rassemblés au musée Cadillac à St Nicolas de la Grave, ou présentés à la société d'archéologie du Tarn et Garonne ou publiés par la Detroit Historical Society, en particulier pour la commémoration  du cent soixante quinzième anniversaire de la fondation de Detroit (Wayne State University Press, Detroit 1976)

The serious researcher should consult the documents collected at the Cadillac Museum in St. Nicolas-de-la-Grave [which I have visited a number of times], or presented to the Archeological Society of Tarn and Garonne, or those published by the Detroit Historical Society, and particularly those relating to the 175th anniversary of the founding of Detroit (Wayne State University Press, Detroit 1976).

Après la mort de ses parents en 1677, il dit avoir été cadet au régiment de Dampierre-Lorraine puis lieutenant au régiment de Clairambault, mais aucune preuve n'en existe et il est possible qu'il ait emprunté les états de service de son frère aîné.

Following the death of his parents in 1677 (i.e. 10 years before he ever wed Miss Guyon), (Laumet) claims to have been a cadet in the Dampierre-Lorraine regiment then lieutenant in the Clairambault regiment. There is no proof of these assertions; it is even quite possible that he borrowed the service records of his older brother.

Mr. Cadilhac goes on to assert, as I do too, that Laumet decided to change his name and to borrow also the family crest (coat of arms) of a noble neighbor:

A peine débarqué à Port Royal, capitale de l'Acadie, en 1683, il change de nom et se fait appeler "Lamothe", nom d'un seigneur de sa région, de Lamothe-Bardigues, conseiller au parlement de Toulouse. Il lui emprunte aussi ses armes qu'il avait eu l'occasion de voir au portail de sa propriété proche de St Nicolas.

Hardly had he disembarked at Port Royal, Capital of Acadia, in 1683, than he changed his name and began calling himself Lamothe, the name of a nobleman of his home region (de Lamothe-Bardigues), a counselor to the Toulouse parliament. He also borrowed the latter's coat of arms [crest] that he had seen on the gates of the Bardigues property near St. Nicolas [photos of the Lamothe estate gates may be seen on his page]


" Rogue's Gallery "

Here are some excerpts from  First Lady of Detroit,  pp. 55-56:

Antoine's parents died in 1677 ... Antoine's name used to be just 'Antoine Laumet'... Antoine has Spanish blood ... that is when he went into the army ... He can be a wild one ... He was still in the army - a proud member of the Clairambault regiment - when he came to Nouvelle France three years ago [1683] ... where did the 'de Lamothe Cadillac' come from? ... Antoine needed to sound as if he already was somebody ... He needed a title.  So he made one up ...Lamothe comes from 'la motte' - the hill.  There was a hill near his village ... Besides, he is distantly related to the de LaMothe family [ ??? ] ... He uses the de LaMothe coat of arms ... He has colored parts of it differently, but it is the same coat of arms ...


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Here is a "rogues gallery" of the French adventurer. The medallion (top, left) shows Cadillac's date of is birth as 1656; in fact, he was born two years later,
in 1658. To the right of it is the illustration from a philatelic first-day cover issued in Detroit in 1951 to commemorate the 250th anniversary of his founding
of the city. Immediately above are two artist's impressions of "Mr. Cadillac"; the one on the left, by Charles A. Barker, I believe is to be found in the Detroit
Public Library
in the National Automotive History Collection (NAHC).  On the right (and based on the latter)  is my own impression of  one Tony LaMotta,
aka Cadillac Tony LaMotta, not-so-great  great-great-great-great-grandson of the French adventurer.  Born in Detroit on the 200th anniversary of
the city's founding, he came to an untimely end in 1930 when his brand new, armor-plated Cadillac V-16 roadster collided with a tree that had
run directly across his path; Tony was thrown over the windshield and died, impaled on the Heron hood ornament...

...Aw, c'mon guys, I'm only kidding!


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No contemporary portrait of Cadillac is known to exist; this artist's color portrait is,
I believe, from the early fifties; it is excerpted from a colored poster issued together
with a 3c postage stamp commemorating the landing of Cadillac at Detroit, in 1701
[ document:  © Postal Commemorative Society ]

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Cadillac bust
[ source unknown ]

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There are two known statues of the French adventurer: one occupies a niche at City Hall, Detroit (above left and center),
the other, by Julius Melchers, stands on the campus of Wayne State University (above, right)
[ Photos left and detail, center:  Burton Historical Collection, Detroit ]
[ Photo, right:  Wayne State University ]



It was relatively common for adventurous Frenchmen emigrating to the New World in those days to usurp the noble title and armorial bearings of true, blue-blooded noblemen back home who - it was assumed - would never find out about it [there was no Internet in those days!].  Laumet was no exception; he borrowed the name Lamothe,  possibly on account of its consonance with Laumet.  He took over also the noble ancestry associated with the Lamothe name. In fact, he "purloined" the name, title AND coat of arms of Baron Sylvester of Esparbes [or Esparbès] de Lussan, lord of Lamothe [formerly La Motte] Bardigues, a feudal manor located near Toulouse, France4

The land on which that manor stands was owned in the 14th century by Bernard De La Motte. He sold it in 1315 to  Raymond Arnaud de Goth, Lord of Rouillac; his son, Gaillard de Goth took the title of Lord of La Motte, at Bardigues. The manor was rebuilt in the 18th century for the Esparbès de Lussan family. Declared a historic site, it is not open for public viewing. Nevertheless, in 1989, special arrangements were made to access the grounds of the estate for participants in the First International Cadillac Meet held in the region where Laumet-Cadillac was born. That meeting and subsequent ones were organized by my friend Jacques Delbosc, a Castelsarrasin dentist.

The Esparbès de Lussan family shield is shown below; it comes from this Web site.
4  On p.176 of the novel, First Lady of Detroit, the author asserts, Modern historians recently have found evidence that Antoine may have had every right to both the Lamothe and Cadillac names and actually may have been the son of one of the younger Cadillacs.  I would like to know who these modern historians are and where they found their "evidence".  I'd also like to know who those "younger Cadillacs" might be !

Full arms of
Esparbès de Lussan

Henri Joseph d'Esparbes de Lussan (1714-1788)
Marquis of Aubeterre, Maréchal of France
Knight of the Holy Ghost (from 2 Feb. 1757)

Shield of Esparbès de Lussan

Esparbes.jpg (3563 bytes)
Three black merlettes astride a
red fess on a silver shield;

Look familiar ?


The Family Manor

chateau.jpg (9255 bytes)
The grounds were open in 1989 to participants
and their cars  at the International Cadillac Meet
organized there by Jacques Delbosc, President
of  the Tarn & Garonne Vintage Car Club)


Louis Charles de La Mothe-Houdancourt (1687-1755)
Marquis de La Mothe-Houdancourt


Baron Sylvester was a counselor to the Parliament in Toulouse. As we know, Cadillac claimed that his own father had held that office; was he implying, therefore, that he might have been fathered by the Baron? 

There was indeed a Malenfant family in the region of Toulouse from around the 16th century. First in the lineage was Jacques de Malenfant, a nobleman from Pressac, born circa 1550. He wed one Martha de Poitiers; his occupation was Maître de requêtes [magistrate in charge of claims].  His son, Etienne de Malenfant de Gentien et Pressac was a magistrate for the Parliament in Toulouse. He was followed by Jean de Malenfant et Gentien, who was trésorier du Domaine du Roi en Rouergue [Treasurer of the King's Estate at Rouergue]. The Malenfant lineage ended with Anne, daughter of Jean, who wed Baron Sylvester of Esparbes [or Esparbès] de Lussan in 1659, i.e. one year after the birth of Antoine Laumet5.
A couple of the preceding paragraphs were modified in September 2000, based on information received from Jerôme Malenfant, a descendant of the Malenfant family that has been thoroughly researched by the late Arthur V. Mellefont of Killarney Vale, published in 1983 in Malenfant Families.   Excerpts were previously published, in French, on the Web, but at this writing the site is no longer operational: http://www.cafe.rapidus.net/hmalen/galles.htm.  So Laumet’s choice of the pseudonym Malenfant, for his mother, Jeanne Pechagut, may not have been accidental or ruefully cynical after all.  It is highly plausible that when Laumet was in his early twenties he too thoroughly researched the family history of the noble Baron Sylvester,  before deciding to fabricate his own (alleged) noble ancestry.

It is not enough for a man to claim noble descent. That man must have also the character, the bearing and the noble spirit and deportment that personifies nobility.  Laumet had it all.  When he wrote to the Minister, to register a land claim in the Etroits - that is the straits or narrows between lakes Erie and St. Clair, later to become Detroit - he declared boldly, I am the only nobleman (!) in these parts.

Laumet-Cadillac disembarked in the New World in what was then New France, at Port Royal of Acady. He had served for some time in the French navy, rising quickly to the rank of naval sub-lieutenant (footnote 2, above).  It was in that capacity, in 1694, that he was given command of Fort Michillimakinak or Michillimakinac [also spelled MissilimaKina in old records], and of all western outposts.


Cadconcn.jpg (5757 bytes)
Cadillac gets a Seigneurie (concession of land)
in New France at the hands of King Louis XIV

[ Document:  courtesy Common Council, Detroit ]



Under Cadillac's command, things appear to have got out of control at the fort. In a long letter by Jesuit father Etienne Carheil to a former pupil, he said: Our missions are reduced to such extremity that we can no longer maintain them against the infinity of disorder, brutality, violence, injustice, impiety, impurity, insolence, scorn, and insult, which the deplorable and infamous traffic in brandy has spread universally among the Indians of these parts.... In the despair in which we are plunged, nothing remains for us but to abandon them to the brandy sellers as a domain of drunkenness and debauchery. He complains bitterly of the officers in command of the fort, who, he says, far from repressing disorders, encourage them by their example, and are even worse than their subordinates, insomuch that all our Indian villages are so many taverns for drunkenness and Sodoms for iniquity, which we shall be forced to leave to the just wrath and vengeance of God. He insists that the garrisons are entirely useless, as they have only four occupations: first, to keep open liquor shops for crowds of drunken Indians; secondly, to roam from place to place, carrying goods and brandy under the orders of the commandant (Cadillac), who shares their profits; thirdly, to gamble day and night; fourthly, to turn the fort into a place which I am ashamed to call by its right name. He goes on to describe in much detail the swarms of Indian girls who are hired to make it their resort, ending thus: Such, monseigneur, are the only employments of the soldiers maintained here so many years.

Nonetheless, Cadillac's many exploratory missions to the Northern territories of New France, combined with his daily contacts with the indigenous population, convinced him of the need to build a trading post.  By concentrating the fur trade at one location, he knew that the British influence in the area would suffer.

It took all of two years and frequent trips back and forth to France to convince the Court of Louis XIV that his plan was a sound one.  Having obtained the royal green light, he set forth from Montreal on June 5, 1701. He left Lachine  with 25 canoes, 100 men (of which 50 soldiers and 50 voyageurs [passengers]) and supplies for three months. He was accompanied by his lieutenants, Alphonse de Tonty, Baron de Palaudy, Pierre Dugué (aka Boisbriand), Chacornac (or Chacornacle), Baron de Joannès, a Catholic priest (Father Constantin Delhalle) and a Jesuit priest (Father Vaillant de Gueslis).

They reached a spot in the straits, between the lakes, that he had selected for his trading post.  He landed there on July 24, 1701.  He immediately took possession of the surrounding lands and built a fort as well as some houses for the future military garrison.  He named the fort Ponchartrain in honor of the then French Minister for Colonies.

[Nota: in December 2001, The French Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan erected a statue and bi-lingual plaque to commemorate the voyage undertaken by Cadillac and his men. Here is a link to the site where you can view both the commemorative plaque and the statue.]



Cadillac lands at Detroit

Landing.jpg (12153 bytes)
Cadillac landing at the place now called Detroit;
The upper painting is not identified
The lower one is by John S. Coppin

Cadpaint.jpg (12455 bytes)
[ Image: Burton Historical Collection, Detroit ]

Hist10.jpg (12449 bytes)
This is the cover design of the program of the 6th International Cadillac Meet held at Castelsarrasin, near Cadillac's birthplace, in 1997.   It shows a 1931 Cadillac convertible coupe against a 
background painting depicting the landing of Lamothe-Cadillac at Etroits in 1701
[ Document:  courtesy Jacques Delbosc, CAVE 82 ]




Fort Ponchartrain

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Two different views (etchings) of Fort Ponchartrain in the 17th century

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Plan the fortifications, as supplied by Cadillac to the French court

Fortpon.jpg (18449 bytes)
Sketch by Raymond McCoy

Fortpon2.jpg (8330 bytes)   Fortpon3.jpg (7648 bytes)



On account of its topographical location, the tiny settlement was called Ville d'Etroits - or town on the straits (narrows).  The spot chosen by Laumet  is quite near the corner of Detroit's Jefferson Avenue and Shelby Street. There was no doubt in Laumet's mind that the future Detroit was strategically located and that it's growth rested on increasing trade and a concurrent growth in the population.  But our man lost favor with the local Jesuit missionaries and fur traders; they accused him of being motivated only by personal greed.  Gradually too, he lost the support of the French Minister and the Royal Court.  On May 13, 1710, by Royal decree, he was appointed Governor of Louisiana ...just to get him out of the Detroit area.

In Louisiana, once again, he did not see eye to eye with the local authorities.  He was on bad terms with his own officers and men, with the Crozat Company, that he had convinced to invest in the new territories ...and even with his friends, the Indians.  The King relieved him of his duties on March 3, 1715.  Cadillac wheeled and "dealed" for a while until he returned to France in October, 1717.

He was immediately arrested there and thrown in jail, in Paris'  ill-famed Bastille prison. He was suspected of some unlawful dealings at La Coruña, in Spain, where his boat had accosted, temporarily, before proceeding to its final port of call in France.  However, in the absence of any tangible evidence of the suspected evil-doings, and with help from his wife, Marie-Thérèse, Laumet-Cadillac was released five months later, in 1718, and busied himself, thereafter, trying to clear his good (?) name and to recover his former rights to the town of Detroit. 

So obstinate was he that he succeeded in obtaining from the French government payment in arrears of his stipend as Governor of Louisiana.  He even was awarded the Cross of Saint Louis (Knight's Military Order)!

No sooner had he been recognized full and rightful ownership of Detroit than he sold those rights to the Canadian, Jacques Baudry de Lamarche, in order to buy for himself the position of Governor and Mayor of Castelsarrasin, in December, 1722.


Cad_hon2.jpg (9309 bytes)    Cad_honr.jpg (6305 bytes)
Cadillac is regularly remembered by the townspeople of Castelsarrasin,
as reflected in this 1918 photo taken on the 200th anniversary of his return



It was in that city that Lamothe-Cadillac died on October 15, 1730, around the midnight hour, at the age of 72.  He is buried in an unmarked grave in one of the chapels of the Church of Carmelite Fathers at Castelsarrasin, the next big town, a  few miles from where he lived.


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Cadillac's home in Castelsarrasin, from 1718 until his death in 1730
Left: as it looked in the twenties [ Photo: courtesy Lenox Library, NY ]
Right: in the nineties [ Photo:  courtesy CAVE 82 ]

Hist11.jpg (11343 bytes)
The photo at upper right  was taken on the occasion of the first International Cadillac Meet at
Castelsarrasin, France, in July, 1991; in the foreground, a restored 1930 V8 roadster; behind it
a mid-seventies Eldorado convertible.  Behind the old Cadillac cars is the house  where Cadillac
spent his final years, a commemorative plaque on the wall reads: Antoine Laumet,

De La Mothe Cadillac [he had been knighted by King Louis XIV]
born at St.Nicolas-de-la-Grave on March 5, 1658, lived in this house from1718
until his death on October 15, 1750
[in fact he died 20 years earlier, in 1730].  He was
Governor of Louisiana, founder of Detroit, USA and Governor of Castelsarrasin



It would be another 172 years and one week, to the day, before the first automobile to bear the Cadillac name rumbled out of the Leland & Falconer  workshops on Trombly avenue, into the glorious fall sunshine, in the booming big city of Detroit...


Any Lamothe-Cadillac Left ?

It is of historical significance that Cadillac had a reported thirteen children by his only wife, Marie-Thérèse. My initial research revealed only twelve names and some dates of birth and death:

No. Sex Year/Date of Birth Place of Birth First Name Year/Date of Death Place of Death Notes
1 F 1689 ? Judith [ became a nun]
2 F ? ? Madeleine or Magdelene ? ? Also became a nun
3 M 04/26/1692 ? Antoine 1730? ? Same year of death as his father?
4 M 03/16/1695 ? Jacques ? ?
5 M 06/13/1699 ? Pierre-Denis [12 months later] ? 5
6 F 1701 ? Marie-Anne or Marianne 1701 [2 days late] ? 5
7 M [1702] ?


? ? This child survived; he is #7 in the Boivin-Sommerville listing, below
8 F 02/02/1704 ? Marie-Therese 2/1753 ?
9 M 01/19/1707 ? Jean-Antoine 1709 ? 5
10 F 12/28/1707 ? Marie-Agathe ? ?
11 M 03/27/1709 ? Francois [after 1730] ?
12 M 03/17/1710 ? Rene-Louis [4 years later] ? 5


? ? Joseph ? ? [see child #7, above]

For those with a special interest in the Cadillac family and offspring,  I recommend you consult the in-depth study of the subject by Ms. Suzanne Boivin Sommerville who kindly sent the following revised table listing the male and female Cadillac family members; as you will see her sources offer more detail than mine:

No. Sex Year/Date of Birth Place of Birth First Name Year/Date of Death Place of Death Notes
1 F After 1687 Acadia? Judith No further record after enrolling with the Ursuline nuns in 1711 as a permanent boarder
2 F By 1690 Acadia? Marie-Madeleine After 1723? France Became a nun in the  monastery of St. Sernin, in Toulouse, in 1723
3 M 04/25/1692 Quebec Antoine 08/23/1721 W. Indies
4 M 03/15/1695 Quebec Jacques ? ?
5 M 06/12/1699 Quebec Pierre-Denis 07/041700 Quebec
6 F 06/05/1701 Quebec Marie-Anne 06/09/1701 Quebec This child died within days
7 M [1702] Fort Pontchartrain Joseph [after 1742] France?
8 F 02/02/1704 Fort Pontchartrain Marie-Therese ? ?
9 M 01/19/1707 Fort Pontchartrain Jean-Antoine 04/09/1709 Fort Pontchartrain Died aged 2 yrs+
10 F 12/29/1707 Fort Pontchartrain Marie-Agathe ? ?
11 M 03/28/1709 Fort Pontchartrain Francois [after 1733] France?
12 M 03/17/1710 Fort Pontchartrain Rene-Louis 10/06/1714 Quebec Died aged 4 yrs+

Only four of the preceding births were officially registered.

Of the two male children who made it to adulthood (Joseph and Jacques), neither of them had any male offspring6.  Joseph, the eldest son had a daughter, Marie-Thérèse; in the latter part of the 18th century, she laid claim (unsuccessfully) to part of her grandfather's estate in Massachusetts.

Nota: Part of the Cadillac lineage may be viewed on this Canadian Web site: http://membres.lycos.fr/stephanecardinal1/dat122.htm
(search for Guyon, Marie-Thérèse ( born April 19, 1671)

5 These children all died very young [at or before the age of four]
6a  In February 2000 I got an e-Mail from one Christi Miller, a school-age American girl who claimed to be descended from the Lamothe-Cadillac family.  She wrote:  ...Cadillac had at least one male heir [in fact he had two] from whom we are descended. They kept the LaMothe name, not Laumet. Proof was readily available till the family home in Alton, Ill. was destroyed in the 1800's or thereabouts.  Your site was very informative and I will pass it on to the rest of the clan, we did know there was NOT a family name of Cadillac-Lamothe.  As it was told to us, an officer switched his name accidentally while introducing him to a superior officer and the name stuck. We are aware that he was NO Lamothe.  However,  the children kept the [Lamothe] name. I can offer more info when I get home for spring break  [I never heard from Christi again].
6b I had a further communication in Nov.  2006 from enthusiast Don Teeter.  Don believes that he too is descended from Laumet-Cadillac; his information was compiled decades ago; it seems that Antoine's unnamed son (mentioned above) had a son, Joseph, from whose daughter, Marguerite, Don may be descended.  He adds: I guess this may be incorrect; it may be an erroneous generation was inserted, or that the unnamed son was really a daughter and the surname somehow was maintained. Someday I hope to be able to clear it up.


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Historical Landmarks in the
Life of Antoine de Lamothe-Cadillac

[translated and adapted from French by Yann Saunders]

In the table below are recorded the principal dates, places and events that marked Cadillac's colorful existence. We are grateful to Jean Boutonnet, the noted French historian7, and to Ms. Annick Hibert-Carthew, a French writer and historian who has lived in Detroit for more than 30 years, for their invaluable work on this interesting facet of Cadillac history.  I had the pleasure and honor of meeting them both when I attended an International Cadillac Meet in Castelsarrasin, near Toulouse, France, in July 1995;  I had been invited there to give a talk on Cadillac advertising themes. 
7  In 2001, Mr. Boutonnet published the 340-page book, Lamothe-Cadillac [in French], with a preface by Jean-Michel Baylet, mayor of Castelsarrasin, and an introduction by French-Canadian historienne, Annick Hivert-Carthew (publisher: Guénégaud, 2001)

1658 St. Nicolas-
de-la- Grave (F)
Birth of Antoine LAUMET, son of Jean LAUMET, clerk-bailiff to St. Nicolas' Court Judge, and of Jeanne PECHAGUT, a housewife Christening records, Mar. 10, 1658, parish of  St. Nicolas-de-la- Grave
1675 Charleroi (F) LAUMET is a cadet in the DAMPIERRE military Regiment His own records
1682 Thionville (F) Officer in the ALBRET Regiment (he was in the CLEREMBAULT Regiment in 1679). In line with military tradition of the time, LAUMET begins to use the name "CADILLAC" as his "nom de guerre" or alias (id.)
1683 Port Royal
(New France)
LAUMET-CADILLAC sets foot on the New Continent (id.)
1683-1687 [New Continent] He explores Acadia, New England and New Holland, going as far south as Carolina Memo from Cadillac to the Minister in 1689
Jun. 25, 1687 Quebec (NF) Under the name "de LAMOTHE", he marries Marie-Therese GUYON, niece of French Privateer, François GUYON.  He registers as the son of "Jean de LAMOTHE", Counselor to the Parliament of Toulouse, and of "Jeanne de MALENFANT" Quebec family records
Jul. 23, 1687 (id.) CADILLAC requests a concession [land claim] Quebec archives
1688 Port-Royal (NF) Governor DENONVILLE grants the request. De LAMOTHE takes over "Les DOUAQUES", an estate which he immediately renames "LAMOTHE" (id.)
1689 (id.) CADILLAC plots against the Governor, who is enraged Governor's report
1689 (id.) CADILLAC seeks the position of court clerk and notary official offered by the new judge at Port Royal ...against the Governor's wishes Governor's report on Sept. 7
Dec. 1689 (id.) CADILLAC boards the vessel "EMBUSCADE" [Ambush] to explore the English-American coastline, in preparation for an attack on the British... Memo from Cadillac to the Minister in 1689
(id.) Rochefort (F) ...but gale-force winds force him back to France (id.)
1690 Paris (F) CADILLAC is able to get close to the Minister and to persuade the administration that he is perfectly familiar with the topography of British possessions in New England and the Northern Territories.  He is able also to mitigate the complaints of Governor MENEVAL about his conduct in New France. He gains the Minister's support as well as that of a number Ministry officials. He is appointed officer in charge of naval forces. Memo from a clerk to the Minister, Jan. 1690
Jul. 1691 Port-Royal (NF) In CADILLAC's absence, British expeditionary forces destroy the "De LAMOTHE" estate in Acadia. Immediately on his return CADILLAC sends his family back to France but the boat is attacked by a Boston privateer and all the remaining De LAMOTHE family possessions are stolen. Letter from the Governor to the Minister on Oct. 20, 1691
Winter 1691 Quebec (NF) Governor FRONTENAC, acting on "the King's wishes", grants CADILLAC a commission as lieutenant in the Canadian army Letter from the Minister, Dec. 1691
1692 Quebec (NF) The services of Sieur de LAMOTHE-CADILLAC, nobleman and lieutenant are deemed to be "essential" to prepare an attack on the British coast of New England. CADILLAC is assigned the task of drawing up the maps and reporting personally in Paris Letter from the Minister to the Governor on Sep. 16, 1692
(id.) St. Martin-de-Re (F) The naval mission begins in March 1692; CADILLAC returns to France in August that year; he proceeds immediately to Paris where he hands over the maps and a memorandum to the Ministry 1692 Memorandum
1693 Paris (F) CADILLAC is paid a gratuity of  1500 pounds; the royal Court is very pleased with his work as well as with his proposals Letter from the Minister to the Governor
July 1693 Quebec (NF) CADILLAC is sent back to New France to explain his project to the Canadian authorities and to make some final observations (with FRANQUELIN). The Governor promotes him to the rank of captain Letter from the Governor to the Minister on
Nov. 4, 1693
1694 Quebec (NF) CADILLAC is promoted to naval sub-lieutenant. The Governor puts him in charge of all outposts in the Northern Territories, including MICHILLIMAKINAK Royal ordinance of Apr. 4, 1694 and annual letter from the Governor in November
1695 [various] CADILLAC departs from Montreal on Sep. 28. During his stay he explores the area, draws up maps, studies the habits of the "savages" [Indians] Letters to LATOUCHE and LAGNY
(id.) (id.) The Jesuits accuse him of trafficking with the Indians to get rich. Despite the many complaints against him, CADILLAC is able to justify his conduct and to retain the confidence of the Governor Letter from the Governor to the Minister in Sep. 1695
1696 (id.) On a number of occasions CADILLAC asks for authority to "come to France". With a view to curbing the difficulties encountered in the fur-trade, the King decides to close down the majority of outposts in the north, including MICHILLIMAKINAK Letter to LAGNY and Royal Decree of March 21
1697 Montreal (NF) At the end of August, CADILLAC travels to Montreal with 300 Indians to protect Quebec from a British attack. He is relieved of his command and authorized to return to France. The Governor recommends a promotion to lieutenant-commander Letter from the governor to the Minister on Oct. 5, 1697
Dec. 1698 Paris (F) On arrival, CADILLAC presents to the Minister his project for an outpost on the Straits [les Etroits] that would compete with the English traders and limit fur production Memo from CADILLAC, in the archives
1699 (id.) The colonial Minister, PONTCHARTRAIN, explains the project to the King who approves the general outlines Letter from the Governor,
May 27, 1699
(id.) Quebec (NF) CADILLAC tries to convince the Canadian authorities and other high-ranking officials but meets with severe opposition. The Governor, while admitting that the project is a good one, recommends re-opening of the former outposts Letter from the Governor to the Minister (Nov.)
(id.) Paris (F) Back in France, CADILLAC is held accountable for the defeat in Quebec. Immediately he drafts a further memorandum Letter from CADILLAC
1700 Quebec (NF) The King authorizes the founding of an outpost on the straits; he puts CADILLAC in command and orders the Governor to help the project by all means at his disposal Council decree and letter from the Minister to the Governor, Mar. 1700
(id.) (id.) CADILLAC receives active support from the governor to prepare the expedition; however, setting up a "center for commerce" worries the settlers. The Governor suggests offering CADILLAC another promotion ...just to get him out of the area Letters from the Governor to the Minister in
Aug. and Nov.
1701 Detroit (NF) CADILLAC departs from Quebec on May 8, arrives in Montreal on May 12, departs again on June 5 with 100 men in two canoes. Construction of fort Ponchartrain [named after the Colonial Minister] and some homes begins on July 24. The spouses De LAMOTHE and De TONTY join up with their husbands there in September. Cadillac wrote this from Quebec on September  25, 1702: Last year, my wife and Mme. Tonty set out on the 10th of Sept. with our families to come and join us there. Their resolution in undertaking so long and laborious a journey seemed very extraordinary. Letter from the Governor to the Minister on
Oct. 5, 1701
(id.) (id.) First difficulties encountered with the Jesuit missionaries who refuse to bring Indian tribes to Detroit; difficulties also with the Company of  Merchants Letter from the Governor to the Minister on Oct. 10, 1701
1702 Detroit (NF) CADILLAC applies for the title of Governor of Detroit and Major of Quebec. Letter from CADILLAC in September
(id.) Quebec (NF) CADILLAC travels to Quebec in July to seek the trading monopoly (in place of the Company of Merchants) as well as the transfer of the Indian tribes to Detroit. The negotiations are successful; the Jesuits are ordered to cooperate and Cadillac becomes a stockholder in the Company Letter from the Governor to the minister in Nov.
1703 Detroit (NF) CADILLAC complains of  the Jesuits' refusal to abide by the agreements; in turn, the Jesuits accuse CADILLAC of trafficking in alcohol and beaver skins Letter from CADILLAC to the Minister on Aug. 31 and letter from the Governor in June
1704 Detroit (NF) CADILLAC is granted full powers in Detroit, and a limitation of trading opportunities. The news causes some strong reactions in New France Letter from the Minister and letter from the Governor to the Minister on Oct. 18
1705 (id.) The King confirms CADILLAC's powers despite the numerous accusations against him from all parts Letter to the Governor on June 4
1706 Quebec (NF) CADILLAC meets with the Governor to justify his conduct; he asks for an effort to be made to populate the Detroit area; he returns to his post and drafts a letter on August 26 Address to the Governor on Mar. 18
1706 Detroit (NF) This letter of  August 27, 1706, with annotations by Vaudreuil,  AC C11A, Vol. 24 (1706), NAC F-24, is in  Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collection, Volume 33, 1903. Vaudreuil had become increasingly careful to have Cadillac put everything in writing by this time and to supplement anything Cadillac might send to France with his own understanding of events. He had seen the effect of Cadillac's earlier exaggerated or absolutely false correspondence. Thus he made a copy of this Cadillac letter to him, annotated it, and sent it with the annotations to Ponchartrain. Letter to the Marquis of Vaudreuil, copied by him to the Minister of Colonies, Ponchartrain [this information is provided here courtesy of Suzanne Boivin Sommerville, historian]=
1707 Detroit (NF) Increasing number of accusations made against CADILLAC; a commissioner is appointed to investigate them Governor's report and letter to the Minister in November
1708 (id.) Commissioner DAIGREMONT drafts an indictment against CADILLAC, who has already been replaced on the authority of the Governor Letter from the Minister on June 6 and Commissioner's report in November
1709 (id.) The provincial administrator accuses CADILLAC of having launched an Indian attack on Detroit, motivated by his greed Letter to the Minister
on Nov. 12
(id.) (id.) CADILLAC alleges that he is "doing the very best he can" Letter to the Minister
(id.) (id.) The troops stationed at Detroit are ordered back to Montreal Royal Council memo to the Governor in July
1710 (id.) The garrison leaves Detroit in May. Cadillac is informed that the King has appointed him Governor of Louisiana where he is to report immediately Official dispatch of May 13
1711 (id.) CADILLAC refuses to obey, alleging that winter has set in. In fact he wants to "settle his affairs". He makes an inventory of his Detroit possessions before going to Quebec in August and boarding a ship bound for France with his family Letter from the Governor to the Minister
1712 Paris (F) The Minister puts CADILLAC in charger of convincing the Toulouse banker, Antoine CROZAT, to invest in Louisiana; the negotiations are successful. CADILLAC has shares in the company that will enjoy the trade monopoly there Minutes addressed to the Minister on Apr. 14, and contract dated Oct. 14
1713 Port-Louis [Louisiana] The CADILLAC family arrives in Louisiana on June 5, after a difficult crossing, begun in January. The local population live in misery; the new Governor distributes food gratuitously. Letter to the Minster and from Company Commissioner
1714 New Orleans [Louisiana] Whereas CROZAT [the banker] wants to build "shops" along the Mississippi basin and trade with Indians in the north, CADILLAC recommends fortifying the delta and trading with the neighboring Spanish colonies Letter to the Minister in August
1715 (id.) CROZAT relieves CADILLAC of any authority he has in the Company Letter to the Commissioner
in Feb.
(id.) Paris (F) CROZAT asks that CADILLAC be relieved of his appointment Petition to the Naval Council on Feb. 8
(id.) (id.) CADILLAC is relieved of his command Royal decree, March 3
1717 (id.) De LESPINAY, the new Governor arrives on March 11. CADILLAC and his family depart from Louisiana on May 22 and arrive at Ile d'Aix, in France, on Aug. 29, after a stopover at La Coruña, Spain Letter to the Minister on Aug. 21
(id.) Ile d'Aix (F) CADILLAC requests permission to go to Paris and asks that the Government show benevolence towards him and his family (id.)
(id.) Paris (F) The Governor of Paris offers Cadillac the free choice to remain at La Rochelle or to come to Paris Governor's letter of Sept. 7
(id.) (id.) CADILLAC chooses to go to Paris with his son. They are arrested on arrival and jailed in La Bastille prison Order under the King's private seal in October
1718 (id.) Nothing comes of the inquest regarding the reported and mysterious stopover in La Coruña when the CADILLAC family sailed back to Europe. CADILLAC and his son are released from jail on Feb. 8, without explanation Minister's report in January
(id.) (id.) CADILLAC succeeds in getting the Governor to approve payment in arrears of his stipend as Governor of Louisiana, from May 5, 1710 up to Sept. 30, 1718 Finance Ministry receipt
(id) St. Nicolas-
de-la- Grave (F)
CADILLAC moves his family into the paternal home and deals with his parents' estate Notarized deed
of Dec. 4
(id.) Paris (F) CADILLAC travels frequently to (and spends considerable time in) Paris seeking recognition of his Detroit land claim. He sends many requests to the Governor and besieges the Ministry; his rights are finally restored in full on May 19, 1722 State Council decree
1722 (id.) CADILLAC immediately sells his "Domain of  Detroit" to the Canadian Jacques BAUDRY De LAMARCHE. Deed of June 25
(id.) (id.) CADILLAC is appointed Governor and Major of Castelsarrasin in SW France Funding letter, Castelsarrasin archives
1724 Castelsarrasin and Paris (F) CADILLAC spends most of his time in Paris looking after his interests and those of the Canadian buyer of his Detroit estate Notarized deeds
[unknown] Castelsarrasin (F) There is no record of the precise date when the CADILLAC family moved to Castelsarrasin [?]
1725 - [?] Paris (F) CADILLAC continues to spend much time in Paris. He is not present at his own daughter's wedding, on Feb. 16, 1729 St. Sauveur Parochial register, Castelsarrasin
1730 Castelsarrasin (F) Death of CADILLAC on Oct. 15, 1730 "around the midnight hour", in his home at Place du Château. He is buried in a Chapel of the "Peres Carmes" church in Castelsarrasin. He was 72 years old. (id.)


crst2000.jpg (4819 bytes)


The Story of the Cadillac Crest
[ used on the motor cars of the same name ]


Build-up and evolution
of the "Cadillac" coat of arms

[ my comments in square brackets and blue font ]

Coatarm0.jpg (10293 bytes)
This is the authentic coat of arms of  Baron Sylvester of Esparbes [or Esparbès] de Lussan,
lord of Lamothe, at Bardigues, a hamlet in France's Tarn & Garonne region
It would appear that Antoine Laumet, alias Antoine de Lamothe-Cadillac,
"borrowed" it for the 1st and 4th quarterings of his own, alleged family crest (below)

Coatar3.jpg (2343 bytes)
The first and fourth quarterings of the "Cadillac" family 
crest clearly replicate the shield of Baron Sylvester

crst46x.JPG (2249 bytes)    crst200x.JPG (2298 bytes)
Left: these merlettes (birds) were used on the crest of

Cadillac automobiles until the dawn of the New Millennium
Right: the cleaned up Cadillac crest used on Cadillac  cars since 2002

Coatar0a.jpg (19499 bytes)
From the authentic coat of arms of  France's noble Lamothe family, of Bardigues [left], originated the first and fourth quarterings of the renowned Cadillac crest [center and right]
that was duly registered as the trade-mark of the Cadillac Automobile Company in Detroit, on August 7, 1906 under  #54,981.  Derived from the crest of the genuinely noble
Lamothe family, the "made-up" Cadillac family  crest was duly recorded in Quebec province, in 1687,  by the self-styled Antoine de Lamothe-Cadillac,  born Antoine Laumet

Hist3.jpg (8067 bytes)
The authentic Lamothe coat of arms is still displayed over the gates to the Lamothe estate in the hamlet of  Bardigues,
near Castelsarrasin in SW France, not far from the village of St. Nicolas-la-Grave where "Cadillac" was  born "Laumet";
the Lamothe family coat of arms belongs still to
the descendants of Baron Sylvester of Esparbes [or Esparbès] de Lussan
[ Photos: © 1989, Yann Saunders ]

Rarecrst.jpg (8863 bytes)
Large ceramic crest (circa 48" dia.)  on display
at the factory's Historical Collection in Detroit
[ Photo: © 2002, J. Scott Harris ]



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Left: radiator emblem used from 1916-1917 [ with swans in lieu of merlettes ]
Center:  radiator emblem from 1918-1919 [ again featuring swans ]

Right: radiator emblem from 1942-1946 Cadillacs

Emb53.jpg (6150 bytes)    Emb70.jpg (6248 bytes)    crst2000.jpg (4819 bytes)
Left: 1953, Center: 1970, Right: the New Millennium crest first used on the
100th Anniversary models in 2002; gone are the merlettes of France's reigning Lamothe family



But first, here's an amusing explanation of the Cadillac coat of arms, I found on this French Web site while surfing, in November, 2004:

Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, founder of Detroit, and the descendants of the Earl of Toulouse are not only immortalized by their names, but also by their coat of arms that can be found in the Cadillac blazon [shield]. The blazon has been updated about thirty times. The first logo, registered on August, 18th [actually August 7] 1906, consisted of a decorated crown symbolizing the French Royalty topped [encircled?] by a bouquet of tulipped leaves. The coat of arms were [were?] completed with a picture of a female blackbird [no doubt the author is referring to the six "merlettes" belonging to the martin family!!!] which is often found on the blazon, and taken from the coat of arms of la Mothe Cadillac.

The "home-made" coat of arms of Sieur Antoine de Lamothe-Cadillac  was registered as the firm's trade-mark on August 7, 1906 under  #54,981.  Heraldic explanations of the composite parts of the shield are given in a small booklet, published by Cadillac in 1918, then again in 1919, 1922, 1927, 1931, 1943 and 1960. I have four of these booklets in my collection.  On pp. 10-11 of the Self-Starter issue dated January, 1994, is reproduced the 1931 edition owned by Ansel Sackett.  In the first part of this section, above, is the text from the 1927 version. The Cadillac crest was described also in an advertising flyer published by Cadillac in 1962.

As explained above, Tony Laumet, alias Antoine de Lamothe-Cadillac, was no French nobleman, nor did he marry into any noble family [his "uncle-in-law" was François Guyon, a French-Canadian privateer]; this is historical fact. The Cadillac coat of arms probably was designed by the man himself. This notwithstanding, the crest was well devised and stands up to heraldic scrutiny and interpretation. In addition it was recorded officially by the heraldic authorities of Quebec (formerly New France, now Canada) in 1687, the year of Laumet-Cadillac's marriage. This fact appears to have been corroborated at one time by Canada's Institut généalogique Drouin (I.G.D.).  A similar (but not identical) description of the crest appears also in the Armorial Universel, by Koller & Schillings and an International Committee [of heraldic experts?]; that book on family crests was published in Belgium in 1951. The latter differs from the actual crest used on Cadillac motor cars in that the merlettes (birds) in the first and fourth quarterings are said to be overlaid on a silver background rather than a gold one.

In the 1918 and 1919 editions of the Cadillac-published booklet, it was remarked that the family records of le Sieur Antoine de la Mothe [Lamothe] Cadillac are burned and that just when or where he was born we shall never know

Later, however,  in the 1943 and 1960 editions, the Cadillac Motor Car Co. said  it is fairly certain [i.e. the writer was still not 100% sure] that he [Laumet-Cadillac] was born on March 5, 1658, in a little town in Gascony [St. Nicolas-de-la-Grave].  It appears, therefore, that some additional research was done by the firm between 1919 and 1943!

It was asserted also, blatantly in error, that the armorial bearings [the crest] of the Cadillac family were older by four centuries than the coming of Columbus, suggesting that they go back to around 1092; yet it was not before the 13th century that heraldic rules and terminology started to form. As may be seen above, however, the truth is more prosaic. 

In all these merchandising booklets the Cadillac company asserted also that in all France there are few families more ancient than the Cadillacs. Again a bold statement considering the historical facts. The late Harry Pulfer, who researched the Cadillac coat of arms in America, in the early seventies, was not so emphatic. He said that its origins were less known although he did assert, again in error, that the armorial bearings of the Cadillac family had been set down in French heraldry. We must assume he was referring to the records of Canada's Drouin Institute of genealogy.  In reality, however, thorough research conducted in France has not turned up any ancient, noble Cadillac family to which Antoine Laumet might be connected, nor any crest like the one used on Cadillac motor cars since 1906. The closest such crest is that described above, that belongs to the Lamothe family and estate at Bardigues, a hamlet in France's Tarn and Garonne region.

As has been shown above, there never was a noble Lamothe-Cadillac family in France until Antoine Laumet  himself created it for his own ends around the turn of the 17th century. The Cadillac coat of arms is an assemblage, or montage, of bits and pieces of authentic heraldry that Laumet put together to achieve his own purpose.

It is the confirmed opinion of many writers and historians that the Cadillac family crest is a fake, even though it was duly and officially registered and recorded, circa 1687, by the heraldic authorities of Quebec in New France (now Canada). By "fake" crest, I mean an authentic family coat of arms that has been falsified by appropriate alterations such as to impart to it a false character or appearance.  The only authentic parts of the Cadillac crest are the first and fourth quarterings; these feature legless birds (or hen-blackbirds); in heraldry they are known as martlets 7a, 7b, 7c, 7d [merlettes in French].  They are the heraldic adaptation of the martin8

Laumet "borrowed" the authentic family crest of Baron Sylvester of Esparbes [or Esparbès] de Lussan (see above), Lord of Lamothe, a baronial estate located at Bardigues, in Tarn & Garonne (that family's coat of arms still graces the imposing wrought-iron gates of the Château de Bardigues, near Castelsarrasin, where international Cadillac meets have been held regularly for many years); he merely changed the colors. The parts and the configuration of the shield remain the same but he added [in the 2nd and 3rd quarters] the additional coat of arms of either Virès, in France's Languedoc region, or Albret in Gascony  [source: Report on Canadian Archives, Ottawa, 1911].   We know that Antoine Laumet was an officer in the Albret regiment while stationed at Thionville in 1682; that is the time he began to use the name "CADILLAC" as his "nom de guerre" or alias.
7a  MerlettePetit oiseau stylisé, posé de profil, sans bec ni griffe [i.e. small, stylized bird, viewed in profile, with neither beak
      nor claws]
.  Also, martlet, merlion.  In heraldry, a representation of a bird without feet.
7b  Martlet  [Cf. F. merlette] (Her.) A bird without beak or feet;  generally assumed to represent a martin. As a mark of
      cadency it denotes the fourth son.
7c  Martlet  The word martlet is used in English translation of similar birds (footless) that appear in French, Dutch and
     German arms, and the equivalents in those languages are frequently used for the English bird. The French term merlette
     actually indicates a footless duckling, not a martin or swallow, as in the case of the English bird.  Merlettes (in the duckling
     form) appear frequently in Dutch heraldry.
7d The martlet is another example of an apparent mistake by heraldic artists. Martlets are traditionally drawn without legs
       but tufts of feathers. The real reason for this apparent mistake is unclear, but some say legless birds like these were found
      in the Holy Land at the time of the Crusades, others say that the birds like these followed ships endlessly for scraps of food
      and as they never seemed to land, they had no legs. Whatever, the real reason, it matters not as martlets are always correctly
      drawn without legs, even as the mark of cadency for a fourth son.



Esparbes.jpg (3563 bytes)
Shield of the Esparbes
(or Esparbès) family


 White swans replaced the traditional black merlettes  on Type 53, 55 and 57 Cadillacs of 1916 through 1919; the reason for the latter change is given in the magazine Antique Automobile for November-December 1993, as also in the CLC's Self Starter magazine for  February, 2001.  The writer, Mr. Ed Jacobowicz of Connecticut, explains that, to the best of his knowledge, this was a gesture of gratitude towards a Mr. Amos [Albert?] C. Swan, former co-owner of Smith & Swan, a company that had given Cadillac precious help following the disastrous plant fire of April 1904 when it had not been possible for Cadillac to build any cars for some three months. The firm reverted to the black merlettes in 1920. 


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Description of the Cadillac Coat of Arms
[ as published by the motor car company of that name ]

The following descriptions are drawn from the merchandising booklets published a number of times between 1918 and 1960 by the former Cadillac Motor Car Company, subsequently the Cadillac Motor Car Division of General Motors Corporation. There was also a piece entitled The Cadillac Crest on p. 46 of The Cadillac Serviceman for August 1960 to encourage Cadillac employees to take pride in their work; it said, inter alia, Both the crest and the slogan [Craftsmanship a Creed, Accuracy a Law] stand as our constant reminder that leadership in any field is won and held only through deeds well done."

Again, the additional explanations and comments in blue, between square brackets, are my own.

The Couronne or Coronet [above the crest] is that borne by the six ancient counts of France8a and is emblematic of descent from the old counts of Toulouse, who were affiliated with the royal French stock. The seven pearls in the couronne indicate the nobleman's descent from these royal counts [we know for sure that Antoine de Lamothe-Cadillac  was born Antoine Laumet, the son of an assistant magistrate at the local court and a modest home-maker].


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8a  France's oldest (non-ecclesiastical)  peers were (1) the Duke of Burgundy, (2) the Duke of Normandy, (3) the Duke of Aquitaine,
      (4) the Count of Flanders, (5) the Count of Champagne and (6) the Count of Toulouse


The Shield: is significant of the heroic origin of the Cadillac arms. This is the form in which the coat of arms of the Cadillac family was first displayed by some ancient Holy Crusader [in-depth research in France, by Jean Boutonnet and Jean Cadilhac has uncovered no noble de Lamothe-Cadillac family in that country, nor any such coat of arms].


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The First and Fourth Quarterings [the only authentic part of the de Lamothe-Cadillac coat of arms]. These quarterings are strictly the arms of the Mothe family [in fact de Lamothe, not la Mothe and - yes - these arms belong strictly to the de Lamothe estate at Bardigues, France]Gold 9, a fess [bar], sable [black] between three merlettes of the same [i.e martlets or martins (birds)   of the same color] posed two in chief  [i.e. two of them placed above the black bar] and one in base [i.e. below the bar]. The birds or "merlettes", legless and without beaks, are a heraldic adaptation of the martin. Appearing in threes they have a holy significance, being considered sacred to the Trinity. They were granted to Knights by the ancient School of Heralds, together with the "fess" for valiant conduct in the Crusades. The birds shown in black against a gold background in this section [or "quartering"] of the Cadillac coat of arms denote wisdom [yes, there is no doubting that Laumet-Cadillac was one smart guy], riches [Cadillac did get rich, trading with the Indians around what became Detroit], and cleverness of mind [yes, indeed!], ideal qualities for the adventurous and zealous Christian Knight [and for an equally zealous and adventurous soldier of fortune, Antoine Laumet!]

Of the merlette, Guillaume, an ancient historian, says: "This bird is given for a difference, to younger brothers to put them in mind that in order to raise themselves they are to look to the wings of virtue and merit, and not to the legs, having but little land to set their feet on" [the Laumet family, it is known, were not landed gentry]10. Of the "fess", he says: "This is a military girdle of honor," and signifies that the bearer "must always be in readiness to undergo the business of the public weal" [i.e to work for the general wellbeing of the people - ...Laumet appears to have been working mainly for his own wellbeing].
9    In Koller & Schillings Armorial Universel, silver (argent) is shown in lieu of gold (or)
Guillim [on the martlet]  - "they have not such use of their feet, as other birds have.  And if perchance they
       fall upon the ground, they cannot raise themselves upon their feet, as others do, and prepare themselves to
       flight.  For this cause they are accustomed to make their nests among rocks and other high places, from
      whence they may easily take their flight."



Coatar3.jpg (2343 bytes)



The Second and Third Quarterings [sometimes described as the "flags"] were probably adopted [the writer is admitting he doesn't really know, for sure] by some fortunate intermarriage in time long ago, another "Seigneurie" [a domain or large tract of land] was added to their possessions.  In these quarters the colors used denote that the marriage added to the fame of the family de la Mothe [de Lamothe], something besides broad acres  - "marked prowess and boldness in action" for the red; "purity, charity, virtue and plenty" for the silver. The repetition of the cross bar or "fess" [the blue band on the silver base] indicates more knightly prowess in the far fields of the Crusades [in Laumet-Cadillac's case it probably indicated more "nightly prowess" in the bed of Guyon's 17-year-old niece... Nevertheless, according to the Report on Canadian Archives, Ottawa, 1911, these arms could be those of either Virès, in France's Languedoc region, or Albret in Gascony]


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Here is a similar shield (although the colors
are inverted); this one belongs to
France's 5th Hussards regiment



Apart from the purely heraldic aspect of a coat of arms is its historic aspect. Every crest is linked with a history in which is enfolded the origin, genealogy, deeds, services, honors and alliances of the family bearing it. In all France, there are few families more ancient than the Cadillacs [as previously stated, in-depth research into French genealogy has uncovered not a single, noble Cadillac family from which Laumet-Cadillac might be descended]. In both dignity of design and significance of detail, the Cadillac coat of arms speaks volumes in courage and honor for the forebears of the Father of Detroit."


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The "official" Lamothe-Cadillac Crest
as recorded in Quebec, in 1687, and published in the Armorial Universel

Here is the description of the de Lamothe-Cadillac coat of arms included at page 255 of the Belgian Armorial Universel by Koller & Schillings.  It differs slightly from the version found in the booklets mentioned earlier, that the Cadillac Motor Car Company published a number of times, starting in 1918:

écartelé, aux 1 et 4, d'argent à la fasce de sable, chargée de trois merlettes du même; aux 2 et 3, contre-écartelé : aux 1 et 4, de gueules et aux 2 et 3 , d'argent chargé de trois fasces d'azur.

This may be translated roughly as follows:

A shield divided into four sections; at 1 and 4 [i.e. in the fist and fourth quarterings] silver  with a sable [black] fess [bar], overlaid with three merlettes [martlets, or martins] of the same color; at 2 and 3 [i.e. in the second and third quarterings] counter quartered [i.e. another shield with diagonally opposed quarterings] : at 1 and 4, gules [red] and at 2 and 3 silver overlaid with three fesses [bars] of azure [blue].   

The version published by Cadillac reads slightly differently, as follows:

écartelé, aux 1 et 4, d'or [gold] à la fasce de sable accompagnée de trois merlettes de même, posées deux en chef et une en pointe; aux 2 et 3, de gueules, écartelé d'argent à trois d'azur.

This version mentions gold (or) in lieu of silver (argent) in the first and fourth quarterings; it also positions the merlettes precisely: two above the black bar and one below it. The description of the second and third quarterings is less precise than the Koller & Schillings version although the colors are the same. Could K & S have incorrectly transcribed the 1687 version they presumably got from I.G.D. in Canada? Or have we been using gold in lieu of silver, in error, on the Cadillac crest for a hundred years? 

The I.G.D. was acquired some years ago by Jean-Pierre Pepin, of Quebec. I contacted him in December, 2002. I wanted to find out if the Institute's description of the crest, entered in 1687, was the same as that published by the Cadillac Motor Car Company [i.e. merlettes on a GOLD background] or like the one in the Armorial Universel [i.e. merlettes on a SILVER background]. Unfortunately, Mr. Pepin was unable to provide that information.

A subsequent visit to the I.G.D. Web site revealed that anyone interested could acquire from the Institute [[ for a mere $15,000!]] document #CC-10, entitled  La Masculine, a directory of French-Canadian marriages in Quebec from 1760 - 1935; this consists of 61 bound volumes. Perhaps Cadillac's marriage to Ms. Guyon is included there! In any case I have found this genealogical Web site that lists that marital union.

As we have seen, the so-called Cadillac family crest is recognized by Canada's Institut généalogique Drouin [the Drouin Genealogical Institute].  The reason is that, as previously stated, said crest was duly recorded in Quebec by Cadillac himself.  As a result, there is also a heraldic description of what I shall call the "questionable" Cadillac crest in Tome 1 of the 1951 Belgian Armorial Universel, on p.255. The entry is cross-referenced "I.G.D." ( Institut généalogique Drouin).

There is no record in France of any Lamothe-Cadillac family or crest, other than the one "invented" by Antoine Laumet when he was in the New French Territories.

Again in my opinion, the renowned crest that has graced the radiator shrouds, front hoods, trunk lids and wheel covers of Cadillac automobiles for 100 years was "concocted" by Antoine Laumet himself, around 1687, the year of his marriage to Marie-Thérèse Guyon.  That is when he gave the registrar the alias Antoine de Lamothe-Cadillac.   He actually signed the registry: Lamothe Launay [which, in its pronunciation, closely resembles Laumet].

It is believed that he borrowed the name Cadillac from a small hamlet of the same name near Montech, in the vicinity of Laumet's birthplace, St. Nicolas-de-la-Grave. In France, names ending in "ac" have the distinct "ring" or "signature" of the people and places of Gascony.

At the time of his betrothal, Antoine not only knocked four years off his age (stating it to be 26 instead of 30) but also he invented for himself a noble ancestry. He asserted that his (late) father was one Jean de Lamothe, sieur de Cadillac, Launay et Semontel; he said that he (Jean) had been a Counselor to the Parliament in Toulouse. He identifies his mother as a noblewoman by the name of Jeanne de Malenfant. His official birth records establish, nevertheless, that his dad was called Jean Laumet; he was an assistant magistrate to the court in St. Nicolas-de-la-Grave, the small township where "Cadillac" was born. His mom was called Jeanne Pechagut; she was a modest home-maker.


Register of Births

Cad_born.jpg (6245 bytes)
Excerpt from the register in which is
recorded the birth of Antoine Laumet
to Jean Laumet and Jeanne Pechagut
[ Document: courtesy Lenox Library, NY ]



All this is historical fact. The Internet currently offers a number of Web sites [listed below] that  corroborate this writer's opinion and findings about Mr. Laumet, aka Lamothe-Cadillac. Further sources of reliable information about this adventurer include the following books and articles:

(1) Cadillac, a historical novel by Agnes C. Laut,  published in 1931

(2) New France and the West, 1701-1713
, history by Yves F. Zoltvany, from Canadian Historical Review 1965 46 (4): 301-322

(3) The Western Country in the Seventeenth Century: The Memoirs of Lamothe Cadillac and Pierre Liette (Chicago: Lakeside Press, 1947), from Modern Editions of Early Modern French Sources Translated into English compiled by Jeffrey Merrick and David A. Bell [http://jhunix.hcf.jhu.edu/~dabell/sources.html]; ed.: Milton Quaife

(4) La Mothe Cadillac: A Stormy Figure of New France, history by Sylvia C. Mitchell, from the Detroit Historical Society Bulletin, 1955 11 (10): 6-10

(5) The Problem of Western Policy under Philippe de Rigaud de Vaudreuil, 1703-1725, 1964, 9, Yves F. Zoltvany, from the Canadian Historical Association Index to Historical Papers, 1967-1994

(6)  Historama magazine, 1964 [which month?], related a slightly different version of the French adventurer's "colorful" past

(7) L'Homme qui fonda Detroit, a historical novel by Robert Pico

(8) Cadillac and the Dawn of Detroit, a historical novel by Annick Hivert Carthew,

(9) First Lady of Detroit, a historical novel about Marie-Thérèse Guyon, wife of Antoine de Lamothe-Cadillac) by Karen Elizabeth Bush

(10) One of Cadillac's letters to the Minister was reproduced on this Detroit Web site in 1999 (?): In 1947,the Lakeside Press,Chicago, published Milton Quaife, ed.,The Western Country in the Seventeenth Century: The Memoirs of Lamothe Cadillac and Pierre Liette
[this site was no longer current in 2004]; it showed Cadillac to be well-educated and knowledgeable about the area that was to become Detroit

(11)  This other Web page entitled The Explorers describes Cadillac's life and times (uploaded circa 1999?): http://www.civilization.ca/vmnf/explor/cadi_e2.html

(12) On the Web page, Family Tree Magazine, writer Allison Stacy also has a piece entitled False Start [2000?] in which she too refers to the colorful past of Detroit's founder: [http://www.familytreemagazine.com/articles/aug01/cadillac.html]

(13) In the Detroit Free Press for July 24, 2000, appeared an article entitled Despite local history lessons, city's founder was no hero.  It was written by Free Press writer Bill McGraw The substance is very similar to what you will find in these pages; however, I believe Mr. McGraw got the bulk of his facts from historian Yves Zoltvany: [http://www.freep.com/news/locway/caddy24_20000724.htm]

(14) Lamothe-Cadillac history [in French] by French historian, Jean Boutonnet to whom I am grateful for much of the information contained herein, published by Guénégaud [2001]

Other Web sites of interest to the historian:



http://www.leveillee.net/roots/index.html + http://www.leveillee.net/roots/indexmay.htm + http://www.leveillee.net/roots/authorindex.htm#suzanne

http://pages.infinit.net/lej/dictc.htm [click on letter "C", then "Cadillac"]








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Origins of the name Cadillac

We owe to Jean Cadilhac, a distant relative of the Cadillac (and related) French families, some interesting historical information that I have summarized here. Nothing in Jean's extensive research has turned up even a distant connection between Antoine Laumet De Lamothe-Cadillac and any Cadillac (or related) family in all of France.

The name Cadilhac or Cadillac has Latino-Celtic origins. It appears to have originated from the Roman family name Catilus or Catilius, or from the Celtic word catus, meaning battle or struggle. Combined with the Latin suffix -acus, the name Catilusacus means owned by or belonging to Catilus or Catilius. A person with that name would be considered to have a brave and battling spirit. Perhaps it was the name of a brave Roman legionnaire who settled in ancient Gaul.

Related names are found in the VIIth century (Cadolaicum and Cadolaico), in the IXth century (Cadolac and Cadelac), in the Xth and XIth centuries (Cadilo and Cadelo) and in the XIIIth century (Cadilha, Cadeillac and Cadiac). The names Cadilhac, Cadillac and (sometimes) Cazilhac are derived from these. Some distant Cadillac and Cadilhac families appear first in Brittany (north-western France) and in Rouergue (south-western France, between the plateaus of Larzac, to the east, and Ségala, to the west).

From family name to place name there was but a short step. Gradually the names Catilusacus or Catiliusacus came to signify the land or domain owned by Catilus or Catilius.  Here are a few, related place-names in France:

-  near Bordeaux, the market town of Cadillac (of which Antoine Laumet took the name as his own); a
   bastide or fortified village was first built there in 1280; all but destroyed in successive wars, the Duke
   of Epernon got the ruins of it in his wedding basket, in 1587; he decided to build a new castle there, in
   the renaissance style; work was completed around 1615.

-  in the north Dordogne area, Cadillac en Fronçadais, once home to the Cadilhac's of Aquitaine;

-  in Brittany, a site called Moulin de Cadillac [Cadillac mill], near Noyal-Muzillac in the Morbihan
    region, slightly off the beaten track between Nantes and Vannes;

-  near La Croix Barrez, in the same area, the tiny hamlet of Cadillac;

-  at Mur de Barrez, also in the Aveyron region, a renaissance home called Maison Cadillac that was
   declared a historic site in 1929.

-  in the parish of Paulhac, in the Lot & Garonne region, the small village of Cadilhac;

-  Near Rieupeyroux in the Aveyron region, a site known as Cadilats in the parish of Rivière [may
    be a relative of the name Cadillac];

-  back in the mid-seventies, aboard our 1960 Eldorado Seville, Gita and I drove through a tiny
    hamlet called Quédillac, in Brittany; is it too a distant cousin of Cadillac ?


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Gita (just 20 in those days) stands at the side of the sign motorists see
as they leave the village of Quedillac, in France's Cotes d'Armor (Britanny);
in the foreground, our (then pristine!)  1960 Cadillac Eldorado Seville



-  finally, at Muret, on the Garonne river, near Toulouse, in south-western France, the
   Château de Cadeilhac, built in 1560, destroyed around 1750 and replaced that year with an
   Italian-style palazzo; that castle was owned (circa 1999) by a Mr. Arcens who was attempting
   to restore it; this could be the Castle Cadillac   mentioned in a letter from a US serviceman
   of WW1, published by the Cadillac Motor Car Company, in 1919, in a book entitled
   Cadillac Participation in the World War. In March 2003, however, I got information about that
   castle from its present owner, Mr. Gilbert Arcens.  He sent me two Cadeilhac family crests, neither
   of which resembles the Cadillac (automobile) crest; Mr. Arcens opined that the WW1 soldier may
   have been referring to the castle of the Duke of Epernon, downstream from his own. However, he
   added, there is no such crest on that edifice.


In her historical novel, First Lady of Detroit, author Karen Elizabeth Bush asserts that ...Modern historians recently have found evidence that Antoine may have had every right to both the Lamothe and Cadillac names and actually may have been the son of one of the younger Cadillacs.  The only recorded instance of the family name Cadillac (other than in the alias Lamothe-Cadillac used by Antoine Laumet himself) is in a book on French heraldry (in French), of which an excerpt was sent to me kindly by Maurice Hendry of New Zealand, author of the definitive Cadillac - The Seventy-Five Year History.

On pp. 406-407 of that book are grouped together under a broad family lineage the names de Vassal, de Rignac, de Purecet, de Sineuil, de Cadillac, de la Barde and de Montviel; included also on the page is an illustration of the family crest, which bears no resemblance whatsoever to that of Lamothe- Cadillac as recorded by Antoine himself, in 1687, and subsequently registered as the trademark for Cadillac automobiles in 1906.

Four generations of de Cadillac are mentioned there:

-  the first, Léonard-Antoine, Baron de Cadillac was a direct descendant of Jean de Vassal, Lord of
   Rignac; 1772 (that is twenty-two years after self-styled Laumet-Cadillac had passed on!)
   Léonard-Antoine married Marie-Thérèse de Narbonne-Pelet;

-  the second, Armand, was the son of the preceding union; he was known as Baron de Vassal-Cadillac;
   in 1824 he married Marie-Zélima de la Faurie de Monbadon;

- the third, Maximilien, was son of that union; he too was known as Baron de Vassal-Cadillac;
   in 1849 he married Caroline de la Myre-Mory; their eldest male child died in 1871, leaving no heirs;
   the second son, Gérard had a girl child by Jeanne de Truchis de Laye;

-  the fourth, also a girl, Laurence de Vassal-Cadillac (of uncertain lineage), married her cousin
   Raoul in 1862; he was a descendant of the Marquis de Montviel.

Thus ended the Cadillac-Vassal lineage. History has shown that Antoine Lamothe-Cadillac (born Antoine Laumet) is unrelated to any of them. He started his own Cadillac family and lineage from scratch when, in 1687, he married Marie-Thérèse Guyon.


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This from Washington, DC, August 1999: Cadillac announced the first change in its shield-and-crest emblem since 1963. It will be used in ads, starting in 1999, and on Cadillac cars beginning in 2002. The emblem appears slightly wider and flatter; the crest remains but the crown over the shield is gone; the red-black-silver-gold-blue colors remain, but the merlettes are gone.

As an aside, there is a story in The Journal of the French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan, Vol. 18 #3, July 1997, by Roger Durand, entitled Why I’ll Drive an Oldsmobile but never a Cadillac. To the student of history it does provide some interesting insight into the life and times of Cadillac's illustrious (or notorious?) founder.

In conclusion, despite the man Cadillac's many recorded foibles, I for one will continue to admire and drive the great cars that have borne his name for more than a century.

In the words of writer-historian, Annick Hivert-Carthew, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in Castelsarrasin in 1989: 

Enveloped in a cloak of assumed identity and past ... Cadillac emerges victorious. He has accomplished
what many of his detractors have not: a lasting masterpiece -- the city of Detroit. He has achieved immortality.


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(court résumé en français)

Grâce aux recherches entreprises par l'historien français, Jean Boutonnet, on connaît maintenant l'histoire vraie du Sieur Antoine de LAMOTHE-CADILLAC", fondateur en 1701 d'une colonie française sur le site occupé aujourd'hui par Detroit, capitale mondiale de l'automobile.

Né Antoine Laumet, le 5 mars 1658 à St. Nicolas-de-la-Grave, bourgade située à quelques kilomètres à l'ouest de Castelsarrasin, dans le Tarn-et-Garonne, le futur "Cadillac" est en fait le fils de Jean Laumet et de Jeanne Pechagut, de simples roturiers.

On ne connaît pas grand chose de sa jeunesse sinon qu'il reçut une bonne éducation.  En 1682, alors qu'il se trouve militaire, pense-t-on, à Thionville, il prend le nom de guerre Cadillac. En 1683 il embarque pour le nouveau monde où quatre ans plus tard il épouse Marie-Thérèse Guyon, âgée alors de 17 ans, nièce du corsaire François Guyon. Il signe l'acte civil  Antoine de Lamothe, Sieur de Cadillac et se dit fils de Jean, conseiller au Parlement de Toulouse et de Jeanne de Malenfant ("mal enfant" = mauvais garçon?). 

[Dernière heure: 9/2000 - informations fournies par Jérôme Malenfant] Une famille Malenfant existe bel et bien dans la région de Toulouse, depuis le 16e siècle, commençant avec Jacques de Malenfant, gentilhomme de Pressac, pouvant être né vers 1550. Il épousa Martha de Poitiers de Terrasse. Il était “ Maître de requête ”, une éventuelle position de juriste. Son fils fut Etienne de Malenfant de Gentien et Pressac, un clerc à la cour du Parlement de Toulouse. Ensuite Jean de Malenfant, également de Gentien, connu comme trésorier du Domaine du Roi en Rouergue. La lignée se termine par Anne, fille de Jean, qui épousa en 1659 [un an après la naissance d'Antoine Laumet] le baron Sylvestre d’Esparbes [ou Esparbès] de Lussan, lui aussi Conseiller au Parlement de Toulouse.

Comme on peut le voir ci-dessus, les armoiries que prend Antoine Laumet pour siennes sont en majeure partie "empruntées" au Baron Sylvestre d'Esparbes [ou Esparbès]  de Lussan, Sieur de Lamothe à Bardigues.

Les passionnés d'histoire pourront en apprendre encore plus en visitant la page suivante :



Avant que ne soient publiés les travaux de l'historien Jean Boutonnet, seul un article paru dans "Historama" en 1964 avait prétendu relater la véritable histoire de:



Cet article, qui contenait de nombreuses informations fausses ou exagérées, m'avait inspiré le papier suivant, paru dans la revue "Bond" de l'ACCF.  Il m'avait attiré le courroux de Jacques Delbosc, Président du CAVE 82 (collectionneurs de véhicules d'exception du Tarn et Garonne), devenu depuis en très bon ami.  En voici les grandes lignes:

C'est vrai qu'il a une tronche de gangster (comparer les deux portraits ci-dessus). Et dire que c'est à lui que nous devons le nom de l'une des marques de voitures américaines les plus prestigieuses: la CADILLAC !

On ne sait pas grand chose de lui si ce n'est qu'il est né à St. Nicolas de la Grave, près de Castelsarrasin (Tarn-et-Garonne).

Notre "Sieur" Cadillac, Antoine de son prénom et self-made-particulé "de Lamothe" est né  Laumet le 5 mars,  1658.   Il aurait falsifié le nom de jeune fille de Madame sa mère pour justifier de la particule et de sa fausse noblesse.

En 1683 il débarque en Acadie, anciennement la Nouvelle-France et aujourd'hui la Nouvelle Ecosse. Il faut dire que les français ont déguerpi et l'ont abandonnée, terrorisés qu'ils furent à l'arrivée d'une bande d'individus hirsutes et velus, vêtus de jupettes, ne portant pas de slip et mordant chacun l'une des tentacules d'une sorte de pieuvre qu'ils tenaient coincée sous le bras1, lui arrachant des hurlements stridents...

Il aurait navigué trois ans aux côtés du corsaire franco-canadien, François Guyon et appris à connaître parfaitement les côtes de la Nouvelle Angleterre. L'année suivante, après avoir épousé la nièce du beau capitaine, il devient seigneur mais ne se fatigue pas à cultiver les 7000 hectares de bonne terre que sa fausse noblesse lui a valu.

Bien au contraire, s'acoquinant avec le commandant militaire de la place ainsi qu'avec le commissaire principal, il se lance dans la contrebande avec les indiens. Cependant, le gouverneur met des bâtons dans les roues du Cadillac (si, si, c'est parfaitement, grammaticalement exact!)

En 1716, à l'âge de 33 ans, il regagne sa France natale, criblé de dettes et précédé d'une fort mauvaise réputation. Ayant pourtant convaincu la cour qu'il connaîssait admirablement les côtes de la Nouvelle Angleterre, il est renvoyé là-bas en tant que lieutenant de marine avant d'obtenir le grade de capitaine de vaisseau et enfin celui de commandant du fort le plus important de toute la région. Sa solde est de 1080 livres.

Sitôt installé dans ses nouvelles fonctions, il recommence à trafiquer tant et si bien qu'au bout de trois ans il "vaut" environ quatre fois plus, en réalité, que les 30'000 livres qu'il ose déclarer au percepteur (il doit faire gaffe de ne pas s'attirer les polyvalents!)   Il faut dire qu'au 18ème siècle  [et même de nos jours]. l'alcool, les fourrures et les esclaves rapportaient autant que l'alcool, la schnouf et les péripatétiputes au temps de la prohibition.

Le roi l'autorise cependant à faire la nique aux anglais en établissant une petite colonie marchande sur un bras de terre (stratégique) qui sépare les lacs St. Clair et Erie. Il donne à cette petite colonie le nom de "Ville d'Etroit". Ce lieu deviendra plus tard Detroit, ville principale du Michigan et capital américaine de l'automobile.

Dès que son bon roi bien aimé a le dos tourné, Laumet (dit Cadillac), recommence de traficotter de plus belle. Devant ses frasques, on est obligé, enfin, de l'envoyer "au coin" et c'est comme cela qu'il se voit nommer gouverneur de la Louisiane. Crois-tu qu'il s'en tienne là? Pas du tout! Il recommence son manège, soutirant au passage 700'000 livres à Antoine Crozat, important financier de l'époque.

Il dépasse les bornes tant et si bien qu'en 1717 on le fait rapatrier en France ...pour l'embastiller !

Il n'a pas la patience d'attendre la révolution française pour être libéré. Aussi, grâce à une infime partie des fonds qu'il a su rapatrier des Amériques en loucédé, il parvient à acheter sa liberté.  Il obtient la charge de gouverneur de Castelsarrasin dans son Tarn-et Garonne natal.

Il mourra en 1730, par arrêt soudain de vivre, lorsqu'il décédera, tout en cassant sa pipe et en passant l'arme à gauche.

Ce n'est que bien plus tard, pour honorer la mémoire [et l'esprit d'entreprise et de capitalisme] de ce noble (???) Frenchman qui fut le fondateur, dois-je le rappeler, de la ville de Detroit, capitale de l'automobile américaine, qu'on baptisa du nom Cadillac la création conjointe de ces deux "Henry" de grande renomée: Ford pour l'idée et Leland pour la réalisation et la mise au point.

Et dire que s'il avait été plus honnête, ce voyou de Cadillac, certains d'entre nous seraient peut-être propriétaires, aujourd'hui, d'une Laumet de Ville, ou d'un cabriolet Laumet 1959 ou encore d'une Laumet Eldorado [elle dort, à dodo] Castelsarrasin.

Franchement, cela sonne beaucoup moins bien que Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz

1 Sans doute devait-il s'agir de la fameuse "cornemuse" écossaise



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© 1996, Yann Saunders and the Cadillac-La Salle Club, Inc.
Background image: Armorial bearings of the Lamothe family of Bardigues,  France ]

( courtesy CAVE   82, France )