Some of the more intriguing radiator badges are the ones that feature portraits such as the one of Teddy Roosevelt found on the Marmon Roosevelt and this one, found on the LaFayette:

In October of 1919, it was announced that a motor company was being formed to start manufacturing a new automobile in Indianapolis. It was called LaFayette Motors Co. and Charles Nash was the president.

1919 LaFayette Advertisement

The new automobile was named for the Marquis de Lafayette, the French aristocrat who fought with American colonists against the British during the American Revolutionary War. Lafayette was a tremendous asset during the fight for American independence, providing tactical leadership and securing vital aid from France including troops and supplies. Lafayette spent that terrible winter at Valley Forge with George Washington, and they formed a lasting friendship. The Marquis even named his only son Georges Washington de Lafayette and famously said, “I gave my heart to the Americans and thought of nothing else but raising my banner and adding my colors to theirs.”

1921 LaFayette Advertisment

In light of the Marquis’ relationship with America, it is no surprise that someone in the automobile industry saw fit to honor his memory. One 1920 story states that the engineers and designers of the new automobile studied the memoirs of the “liberty-loving marquis” and that several refinements and appointments of the new V8-powered luxury car had a historic conception. The choice of materials such as silver and walnut woodwork were influenced by French art of the period. The radiator badge, like the one seen above, was a cameo of Lafayette. It featured onyx framed in silver and was said to resemble something made by 18th century craftsmen. The gracefully scrolled monogram used by Lafayette on his private stationary was used on the hub caps and hood ornament.

1936 LaFayette

The company moved to Wisconsin to cut costs but still struggled to make a profit and stopped production altogether in 1924. The name was revived by Nash during the ’30s, but no longer as a luxury car. It is a shame that the automobile didn’t experience greater success, because Lafayette certainly deserved the tribute.

When the government violates the people’s rights, insurrection is, for the people and for each portion of the people, the most sacred of the rights and the most indispensible of duties.

– Marquis de Lafayette

1924 LaFayette Advertisement

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