History of the Cadillac Emblem

by Kim Kenney

Cadillac was named for a real person, Antoine Laumet De Lamothe-Cadillac who founded the city of Detroit in 1701. While his lineage to ancient French nobility has not been proven, the name Cadillac certainly means a classy car today. The emblem's design is based on a coat of arms probably designed by Cadillac himself. It incorporates many common heraldry symbols. The Cadillac emblem has evolved over time, but every version (until the 21st century) had incorporated the same shield design.


The 6-pointed crown represents the oldest known branches of French nobility. Each set of 3 birds, known as merlettes or martins, represents the Holy Trinity. The colored bands in the other sections each have a specific meaning--red represents boldness; silver, purity; and blue, valor.

Early Years

From 1905 through the 1920s, the Cadillac emblem usually appeared inside a circle. It was either shown alone or inside an octagon.

Art Deco

In the late 1920s and 1930s, the emblem was placed in the center of a set of Art Deco wings. The Art Deco aesthetic was based on geometric designs and Egyptian-inspired motifs.

Post World War II

The "V," which stood for V-8, was added after World War II. The "V" disappeared in the 1970s.


The wreath design was introduced in 1963 and first appeared on the Eldorado.

Modern Era

In 2000, Cadillac redesigned the emblem. It is now an abstract version of the detailed crest that was used throughout the 20th century.

About the Author

I have been a professional historian, museum curator, and author for more than a decade. I have served as the Museums Editor at BellaOnline since 2004. I am qualified to serve as an expert in a variety of historical topics. My expertise includes the Victorian Age and McKinley's presidency, the Roaring Twenties, the 1950s, the flu, museum studies, material culture, architecture, and more. I have a BA in history and an MA in history museum studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program. Please see my bio on my employer's website for more: http://www.mckinleymuseum.org/speakers_bureau/speaker/2

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