The “French Henry Ford” born - HISTORY
Year
1878

The “French Henry Ford” born

On this day in 1878, Andre Citroen, later referred to as the Henry Ford of France for developing his country’s first mass-produced automobiles, is born in Paris. Citroen revolutionized the European auto industry by making vehicles that were affordable to average citizens.

Before entering the auto business, Citroen studied engineering and later operated a gear manufacturing company. During World War I, he ran a munitions factory where he successfully implemented mass-production technology. Following the war, Citroen, who was inspired by the assembly-line innovations at Henry Ford’s American auto plants, converted his munitions factory into a facility to make low-cost vehicles. At the time, only the wealthy in Europe had been able to afford automobiles. Citroen’s first car, the Type A, debuted in 1919. The four-door, 10-horsepower vehicle featured an electric starter, lights and a spare tire and was capable of speeds of 40 mph. The Type A was a success, due in part to Citroen’s talent as an innovative marketer. He allowed potential customers to take his vehicles for a test drive—then a new concept—and also let people buy on credit. He put the Citroen name in lights on the Eiffel Tower, launched skywriting ads to promote his products and masterminded attention-getting expeditions to Africa and Asia using Citroen vehicles.

In 1934, Citroen launched the Traction Avant, the first mass-produced passenger car to feature front-wheel drive. The car proved enormously popular, and more than 750,000 were built during the 23-year production run. At the time of the Traction Avant’s release, however, the Citroen company was on the verge of bankruptcy due to Andre Citroen’s heavy investments in new concepts and technology, as well as his alleged gambling debts. In 1935, Citroen was taken over by its largest creditor, the Michelin Tire Company. Andre Citroen, who had been forced out of the business he founded, became ill and died on July 3, 1935.

Citroen remained part of Michelin until the 1970s, when it was sold to the French automaker Peugeot. Today, Peugeot Citroen is one of Europe’s leading auto manufacturers.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Battle of Dabney’s Mill (Hatcher’s Run)

On this day in 1865, at the Battle of Dabney’s Mill (also known as Hatcher’s Run), Union and Confederate forces around Petersburg, Virginia, begin a three-day battle that produces 3,000 casualties but ends with no significant advantage for either side.Dabney’s Mill was another ...read more

Roger Williams arrives in America

Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island and an important American religious leader, arrives in Boston in the Massachusetts Bay Colony from England. Williams, a Puritan, worked as a teacher before serving briefly as a colorful pastor at Plymouth and then at Salem. Within a few ...read more

Mexican constitution proclaimed

After seven years of revolution and civil upheaval, Mexican President Venustiano Carranza proclaims the modern Mexican constitution, which promises the restoration of lands to native peoples, the separation of church and state, and dramatic economic and educational reforms. The ...read more

Beckwith convicted of killing Medgar Evers

On this day in 1994, white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith is convicted in the murder of African-American civil rights leader Medgar Evers, over 30 years after the crime occurred. Evers was gunned down in the driveway of his Jackson, Mississippi, home on June 12, 1963, while his ...read more

Hitler to Mussolini: Fight harder!

On this day in 1941, Adolf Hitler scolds his Axis partner, Benito Mussolini, for his troops’ retreat in the face of British advances in Libya, demanding that the Duce command his forces to resist.Since 1912, Italy had occupied Libya because of purely economic “expansion” motives. ...read more

South Vietnam requests more support

The South Vietnamese government requests that Washington double U.S. Military Assistance and Advisory Group (MAAG-Vietnam) strength from 342 to 685. The advisory group was formed on November 1, 1955 to provide military assistance to South Vietnam. It had replaced U.S. Military ...read more

Hank Aaron is born

On this day in 1934, Henry Louis Aaron Jr., the baseball slugger who broke Babe Ruth’s legendary record of 714 homers, is born in Mobile, Alabama.Aaron began his professional baseball career in 1952 in the Negro League and joined the Milwaukee Braves of the major league in 1954, ...read more

Millard Fillmore marries Abigail Powers

On this day in 1826, Millard Fillmore, who later becomes the 13th president of the United States, marries Abigail Powers, a New York native and a preacher’s daughter. As a youngster, Abigail’s mother encouraged her daughter’s interest in reading and urged her to take advantage ...read more

Andrew Greeley is born

On this day, Catholic priest and novelist Andrew Greeley is born in Oak Park, Illinois.Greeley was raised in an Irish Catholic community in Chicago and became a priest in 1954, at age 26. He took a doctorate at the University of Chicago, where he later taught sociology. A ...read more

United Artists created

By 1919, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith were all heavyweights in the rapidly growing motion-picture industry. Chaplin was a British actor and former vaudeville performer whose “Little Tramp” persona had made him one of the biggest stars of ...read more

Earthquake devastates southern Italy

The estimated 7.5 to 8.0-magnitude quake struck at about 1 p.m. in the Calabria province. Within a minute, over 100 villages were leveled throughout the region. In several cases, communities were literally wiped away with no survivors or standing structures remaining. The quake ...read more