1701: Founder of the City of Detroit

1701: Founder of the City of Detroit
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons/ Statue of Antoine de Cadillac in Detroit („DSCN4750 sieurdecadillaclanding e“. Lizenziert unter CC BY-SA 3.0 über Wikimedia Commons)

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 24 July 1701
  • Antoine de Cadillac was a French explorer who is known as the founder of the American city of Detroit. The word "Detroit" means "strait" in French, and this is the name of the short river that connects Lake St. Clair and Erie (today, this river is exactly on the border between the United States and Canada).

On this day in 1701, the famous American city of Detroit was founded.

Interestingly, the founder of Detroit was the French explorer Antoine de Cadillac. The famous American car brand Cadillac, owned by General Motors, was named after him (the mentioned company is headquartered in Detroit). Cadillac was founded in Detroit in 1902.

There are historical controversies regarding Antoine de Cadillac and his life. In fact, his real name was Antoine Laumen and he was born in the small French village of Saint-Nicolas-de-la-Grave, near the Garonne River.

He was a member of a Protestant (Huguenot) family. It seems that Antoine had financial and other problems, and moved to North America in 1683 (he moved to today’s Canada, which was under French rule at the time).

In North America, Antoine used his new name, and even his new title. He became “Antoine de Lamothe, Sieur de Cadillac” because he allegedly wanted to hide his previous identity.

The title of “Sieur de Cadillac” (literally, “Master of the Cadillac”), is “inspired” by Cadillac in France, which also lies on the Garonne River, but more than 100 kilometers downstream, in the famous wine region around the city of Bordeaux.

Antoine even became governor of Louisiana (the large area in the interior of North America, from today’s Canada to the Gulf of Mexico). On this day, Cadillac founded Fort Pontchartrain du Detroit (Fort Pontchartrain at Detroit River), which later became Detroit.

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