The Use of “American Individualism” in Popular Culture

Cadillac radiator badge, ca. 1922 National Museum of American History #TR.325528.261.

Three months after the publication of Herbert Hoover’s American Individualism, Herbert Howard Rice, president and general manager of the Cadillac Motor Car Company, dedicated a plaque in honor of the Le Sieur Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac. Born March 5, 1658, and founder of the City of Detroit, Rice wanted to honor Cadillac on the anniversary of his birth. His dedication remarks concluded citing a passage from American Individualism and Rice wanted Hoover to know how his essay served as inspiration. Rice enclosed his remarks to Hoover the following day on March 6, 1923:

…It would be interesting to compare with what is now actually here the vision Cadillac had when in the name of flag and church he founded the City of Detroit. Could he have seen 222 years ahead he would have been even more amazed than the old man in a little village of Southern France who inquired about his own name on a tourist’s car. His delight was too great for expression to learn of the City of Detroit in America with its one million people and its great automobile factories sending back to France thousands of automobiles, among them some bearing his own name.

Cadillac too would have wondered to see the automobiles, trucks, and ambulances marked ‘made in Detroit’ leaving here for service in his native land where descendants of those who had fought for the possession of this country two centuries before now fought side by side against a common foe.

In my office hangs a painting of a village street of Northern France. A Cadillac car is coming along the road between groups of women and old men, for the young men are at the front. Little children retreat before it strewing flowers in its path—symbolic of their gratitude for America’s entrance into the war.

This fall I was in France with our engineers and we took a Cadillac car out through the battlefields. There as we stopped in the villages for luncheon or for ‘essence’ the children gathered round and said to each other, almost in awe, ‘Cadiyac, Cadiyac.’ The tears came to my eyes and I thought of the picture at home, which now I shall cherish as I did not before.

We are glad Mr. Leland named the car of his creation Cadillac. It is typical of Detroit and of Mr. Leland himself for Cadillac was ‘one who dared’ to do things. Cadillac dared to raise his standard in the wilderness, while we indeed are living safely in a great city. But as Mr. Hoover has said in his recent essay on American Individualism — THERE WILL ALWAYS BE A FRONTIER TO CONQUER OR TO HOLD AS LONG AS MEN THINK, PLAN, AND DARE”

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