his grandfather sold lemons

André-Gustave Citroën (1878 – 1935) was a French industrialist. He is remembered chiefly for the make of car named after him, but also for his application of double helical gears.

image found here

The Citroen family moved to Paris from Amsterdam in 1873. Upon arrival, the diaeresis was added to the name, changing Citroen to Citroën (a grandfather had sold lemons, and had changed the consequent name Limoenman “lime man” to Citroen (Dutch for “lemon”)). 

make a battery with a lemon, nail and penny here

Andre’s early childhood was comfortable but sadly due to some complex diamond dealings which went wrong, his father committed suicide in 1884 when Andre was only six.

Andre was a megalomaniac who loved making banquet speeches. Once he gave one in London in English, a language he did not speak; he had had his remarks translated and had memorized them. Nobody understood a word.

Another time he was about to read a speech that was to be broadcast all over France, and he said, “Oh let’s tell funny stories instead“. He was immediately taken off the air.

When he crossed the Spanish border on a motor trip, he was stopped by a customs officer, who asked “Name?” “Citroën,” he replied. “I didn’t ask the car’s name but yours,” said the officer. “Oh,” said the manufacturer, “I’m a Citroën, but it’s an Hispano.”

Hispano found here

He was a master of marketing. He promoted his plant to tourists as “the most beautiful in Europe.” When American pilot Charles Lindbergh landed in Paris in May 1927 after the first solo flight across the Atlantic, he threw a party at the plant. He rented the Eiffel Tower and had his name put up in 125,000 lights: “Citroen” shined over Paris. 

image found here

All that glitter came to an end in 1934. Citroen had amassed massive debts over the years. His largest creditor was the tire maker Michelin, and in 1934 Michelin took over the plant, cut costs and switched off the lights in the Eiffel tower.

image found here

Published in: on November 20, 2011 at 9:03 am  Comments (57)  
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