My Car Quest

April 13, 2024

Geronimo’s Cadillac

by Mike –

We do not expect to see a 19th century American Indian warrior dressed up in a top hat and vest sitting behind the wheel of a luxury car. Yet here is the Apache warrior Geronimo in just such a pose.

The photograph below was staged by the US government; they apparently wanted Americans to think that Geronimo had been “civilized” and was now happy with his new life. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

The song Geronimo’s Cadillac (click here) , written by Michael Murphey & Charles Quarto, was recorded by Michael Murphey (aka Michael Martin Murphey) and released in July 1972 on his debut album “Geronimo’s Cadillac”. I bought this album when new and have listened to it many, many times over the years.

This song has subsequently been recorded by other singers (Cher, Hoyt Axton, Johnny Rivers and many others) and became an unofficial anthem for the American Indian Movement in the early 1970s.

Murphey was inspired to write “Geronimo’s Cadillac” by this photograph.

Geronimo’s Cadillac

The July–August 1987 issue of American Songwriter quotes Murphey as saying,

The two images together Geronimo and a Cadillac just struck me as a song title. It was every irony I could ever think of about our culture in two words. Their attempt to make of him what we would define as a civilized person. That was the reason they put him in a Cadillac in the first place. He was actually in jail at the time.

The photograph was taken at a show for the US press held June 11, 1905 at a ranch located southwest of Ponca City, Oklahoma. Geronimo, then imprisoned at Fort Sill, Oklahoma is actually sitting in a 1904 Locomobile Model C rather than a Cadillac.

I suspect that Michael Murphey took poetic license in naming the car a Cadillac. It becomes timeless and relatable to people today if Geronimo is in a Cadillac rather than a Locomobile, which most people have never heard of.

No matter the make of the car the point is the same – a US prisoner was staged with a fancy car for publicity purposes – not for his benefit nor the benefit of his people. Geronimo did not own this car and probably did not drive it.

The photo below is a more natural image of Geronimo.

I should have never surrendered. I should have fought until I was the last man alive.

Geronimo’s last words

The Locomobile Company of America, founded in 1899 in Watertown, Massachusetts, initially made steam powered cars. They switched to internal combustion engine power in 1903 and made luxury cars. Locomobile was taken over by Durant Motors in 1922 and went out of business in 1929.


Let us know what you think in the Comments.




Geronimo’s Cadillac

Put Geronimo in jail down south
Where he couldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth

Sergeant, Sergeant, don’t you feel
Something wrong with your automobile?

Warden, Warden, listen to me
Be brave and set Geronimo free

Governor, Governor, isn’t it strange
You never see a car on the Indian range?

Oh, boys, take me back
I wanna ride in Geronimo’s Cadillac

Warden, Warden, don’t you know
The prisoners ain’t got no place to go?

They took old Geronimo by storm
They took the feathers from his uniform

Jesus told me and I believe it’s true
The Redmen are in the sunset too

They stole their land and they won’t give it back
And they sent Geronimo a Cadillac

Oh, boys, take me back
I wanna ride in Geronimo’s Cadillac

Lyrics by Michael Murphey (as he sang them not as printed in the album notes)

Geronimo’s Cadillac Album

Geronimo’s Cadillac Album Front – photo by Mike Gulett

Geronimo’s Cadillac Album

Geronimo’s Cadillac Album Back – photo by Mike Gulett

Geronimo’s Cadillac
Article Name
Geronimo’s Cadillac
The Apache warrior Geronimo was posed in a fancy car while he was a US prisoner in 1905.


  1. Nice post Mike.
    Even more ironic given the state of politics and truth today.
    The dignity in an old man’s eyes seems to say more than a million words from a politician’s mouth

    • Thanks Tony

      It is difficult to imagine how Geronimo and his fellow Apaches felt after the war with Mexico and then a war with the US. They were far out numbered and out gunned.

      This is also a very early example of an automobile used for propaganda purposes.

  2. Wayne Watkins says

    Were any other early American cars RHD like this Locomobile ? I know that Bugattis were mainly RHD as were all Ferraris for the first few years . Very interesting article by the way made more so by the comment by Trump that he wants to make America white again , when in fact originally it was red .

    • Wayne,

      I asked myself the same question about an American RHD car and I do not know of another but there may be. In 1904 the rules of driving and the position of the steering wheel may not have been as they are today.

      I do not want to comment about US politics now.

      • Wayne Watkins says

        Sorry Mike to bring up politics in such a quality online car site , please accept my apologies . I think McLaren got it right with their midseat model years ago .

  3. what is heartwrenching to me is this country ripped the soul and spirit from an entire people and still continue to do so today with their quickie marks right outside the res or you can get the cheapest malt liquor to kill yourself with and all the other junk food that’s readily available this country has an opportunity to wash some of the blood off of its hands by helping these people I’m not bashing America I love this country but most folks don’t know what this country has done throughout this world hookah hey. excellent story sir thank you

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