This car was made for the personal use of Mr. Henry M. Leland, General Manager of Cadillac Motor Car Company. Mr. Leland was also president of the Leland & Faulconer Manufacturing Co., which produced engines for Olds and later Cadillac. Its body was made under the supervision of Fred Fisher, and is the first fully enclosed car built by Cadillac.
Mr. Leland had it constructed to explore the idea of a vehicle closed to the weather. He enjoyed it so much it remained his personal runabout for years, and was named “Osceola” to honor a Florida Seminole chief he admired after reading the poem “The Seminole’s Defiance” by G.W. Patten. Naming autos, boats, and even race horses after Native Americans was popular at this time. Notably, due to its unusual appearance, the rest of his family called it the “Old Plug Hat.”
The car has a dark blue body with black hood and underframe and is an all-wood 2-Door vehicle with wood artillery wheels. It has a one-cylinder engine that was one of the first to be produced with all interchangeable parts, and was known for its reliability. It burns only white gas.
The Cadillac Motor Car Company was created out of Henry Ford’s second attempt at automobile manufacturing, the failed Detroit Automobile Company. Ford’s investors led by William H. Murphy of Penobscot Building fame approached Leland to liquidate the company. Leland suggested manufacturing the car Ford left behind, using his L&F engine. The company was named after Cadillac, Detroit’s French founder.
The “Osceola” was shown at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933 and 1934, and at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. In 1953 it was returned to Detroit, put in running order, and donated to the Detroit Historical Museum by Miss Miriam Woodbridge, Mr. Leland’s grandaughter. At that time the Cadillac Co. restored the body.