Cadillac's history can be traced back to the beginning of the 18th century. Although coaches, horse riding or walking were the favorite means of locomotion during those times and no cars had been yet made, it's important to trace the brand to its origins. The genesis of Cadillac as it is widely known today began in 1701, when a group of French explorers led by Le Sieur Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac traveled to the northern parts of the US and established Ville d'Etroit. The settling would ultimately come to be known as Detroit, a flourishing industrial city, teeming with car plants and foundries.
However, Sir Cadillac would not have any connection to the future of the Cadillac car workshops. Its actual beginnings can be traced to the mid 19th century, when a boy named Henry Martyn Leland was born. Leland grew up on a farm near Barton, Vermont, where he received a solid working-education that taught him the importance of doing a job properly, regardless of its importance.
The farm-training he received, combined with his penchant for improving working methods, led to his growth as an engineer. However, Cadillac would not yet emerge as an automobile brand. By 1890, Leland had founded his own company in partnership with Robert C. Faulconer and Norton, after having convinced the former of the city's need for machine shops. The company's area of expertise was gear grinding and the development of special tools.
Soon after the company received general credit for the quality of the products it marketed and Leland had asserted himself as a talented engineer, the shift from steam-powered vehicles to gasoline-powered ones was made. Following the work of the visionary Daimler and Benz in Europe, a man named Ransom Eli Olds from Michigan teamed up with a group of investors under a firm called Olds Gasoline Engine Works. Their main objective was to build a gasoline-powered engine to be fitted on the chassis of a vehicle.
The project was a success but the resulting product was flawed: the gears in the transmission were too loud. Olds turned to Leland and Faulconer for help. The two entered a straight competition against the Dodge brothers who were also supplying engines for Olds. Although Leland's ultimately developed 10.25 Hp engine was better than that of Dodge, Olds turned it down due to the high car sales his company registered at the time. Basically, there was no need for a new engine.