Henry Martyn Leland was a prominent machinest and engineer pioneer in the automobile industry. After the Civil War, Leland worked for the famous Brown and Sharp machine company in Providence, Rhode Island where he dramatically increased the productive capacity of precision metal work machines used in the construction of sewing machines. He was later the founder of the most prominent machine tool shop in Detroit, Leland & Faulconer.
In 1902, Henry Ford was the Chief Engineer of the Henry Ford Company, a company that bore his name, but did not suffer his command. His investors, who managed and controlled the Company grew disenchanted with Ford’s fixation on auto racing and disinterest in car production. Ford grabbed his race car drawings and $900 in cash and made a quick exit. Management then changed the name of the Company to the Cadillace Automobile Company and later Cadillac Motor Car Company. The Company drafted Henry Leland to produce the entire power train of the new Cadillac cars and made him a shareholder in the reorganized venture.
In 1903 the Cadillac output exceeded that of every other auto producer except Olds Motor Works. The first three Cadillacs ever made were constructed in the Leland & Faulconer shop. Leland agreed to assume the management of the Company in 1904 along with his son Wilfred. General Motors purchased the Company in 1909 and continued the Lelands on as managers.
In June of 1917, following a dispute in which William Durant, the President of General Motors, refused to allow Cadillac to switch from autos to wartime engine production, the Lelands resigned. In September of 1917, together with a number of initial investors in the Henry Ford Company, Henry Leland organized the Lincoln Motor Company, built a plant and began producing aircraft engines for the government. Leland unveiled the first actual Lincoln automobile on September 16, 1920, after the close of World War I.
In 1921, without the support of federal government funds, Lincoln ran into a cash crunch due to lackluster sales and the Company filed for reorganization in receivership. Henry Ford managed to buy the Company out of receivership ata bargain basement price, after promising the Lelands to pay off all of the creditors and the early shareholders, an agreement to which he later demurred.