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Cadillac Caliphs: 1932

Cadillac Caliphs: 1932

    Don Lee handing over the keys to a V-12 Cadillac touring car.

San Francisco, 1932. "Cadillac agency, NE corner Van Ness & O'Farrell." The monumental exterior of Don Lee Cadillac. Note the "ISLAM" fezzes of these Masonic potentates. 5x7 glass negative by Christopher Helin. View full size.


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Islam Temple

These fortunate new Cadillac owners are affiliated with Islam Temple, San Francisco Landmark #195, Ancient Order Nobles of Mystic Shrine. A building commissioned by the Shriners and designed by architect Thomas Patterson Ross. It was used for meetings and ceremonies 1918-1970 and later functioned as a small theater.

It appears the key recipient is a PAST potentate of the Islam Temple, given the text on his fez. Maybe they'll use the car in parades but now they lean toward '70s-style Jeeps and minibikes.

Man of Many Achievements

Don Lee was the exclusive Cadillac distributor for the West Coast and had a store in LA as well, where he had employed Harley Earl (having bought his LA facility) as a custom coachwork designer prior to the latter's going to GM to found its Art and Color operation, the first styling department in a major US auto manufacturer. Lee was also a pioneer radio broadcaster, operating KFRC (studios high atop the building in the background) as well as KHJ (LA)and (eventually) at least ten other stations. In 1931, he began experimental TV broadcasting from LA as well.

He succumbed to a heart attack two years after this photo was taken, still in his 50s but having compiled accomplishments worthy of a very busy nonagenarian.

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