André Citroën

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André Citroën
André Citroën on an ocean voyage
André-Gustave Citroën

(1878-02-05)5 February 1878
Died3 July 1935(1935-07-03) (aged 57)
Paris, France
OccupationBusiness, engineering
Known forFounder of Citroën
Parent(s)Levie Citroen and Masza Amelia Kleinman
RelativesAlfred Lindon (brother in law)
The gears with double chevrons that reputedly were the basis of the Citroën logo.
His grave in Paris (2011)

André-Gustave Citroën (French: [ɑ̃dʁe ɡystav sitʁɔɛn]; 5 February 1878 – 3 July 1935) was a French industrialist and the founder of French automaker Citroën. He is remembered chiefly for the make of car named after him, but also for his application of double helical gears.

Life and career[edit]

Born in Paris in 1878, André-Gustave Citroen was the fifth and last child of Jewish parents,[1][2][3] diamond merchant Levie Citroen and Masza Amelia Kleinman. He was a cousin of the British philosopher Sir A. J. Ayer (the only son of his aunt Reine).

The Citroen family moved to Paris in 1873. Upon arrival, the French diaeresis was added to the Dutch surname (reputedly by one of André's teachers), changing Citroen to Citroën. Citroen comes from a grandfather in the Netherlands who had been a greengrocer and seller of tropical fruit, and had taken the surname of Limoenman, Dutch for "lime man," his son however changed it to Citroen, which in Dutch means "lemon".

His father committed suicide when André was six years old (presumably after failure in a business venture in a diamond mine in South Africa). It is reputed that the young André Citroën was inspired by the works of Jules Verne and had seen the construction of the Eiffel Tower for the World Exhibition, making him want to become an engineer.

Citroën was a graduate of the École Polytechnique in 1900. In that year he visited Poland, the birthland of his mother, who had recently died. During that holiday, he saw a carpenter working on a set of gears with a fish bone structure. These gears were less noisy, and more efficient.

Citroën bought the patent for very little money, leading to the invention that is credited to Citroën: double helical gears. Also reputed to be the inspiration of the double chevron logo of the brand of Citroën. In 1908, he was installed as a chairman for the automotive company Mors, where he was very successful.[4]

During World War I, he was responsible for mass production of armaments. Citroën gained an international reputation during the war, and more as the leading production expert in France. His activities were extensive in connection with the Renault plant, which employed 35,000 men in the manufacture of munitions during the war.[citation needed]

In the middle of 1919, Citroën was one of the directors of the Société Française Doble, Paris, to build steam cars in France. Some other directors of the company were Paul Sicault, of the Renault Co.; M. Mery, of the Turcat-Mery Co.; M. Delage, the automobile designer.[citation needed] The design was not feasible and Citroën turned to other projects.

Citroën founded the Citroën automobile company in 1919, leading it to become the fourth largest automobile manufacturer in the world by the beginning of the 1930s (specifically 1932).[citation needed] The costs of developing the advanced front wheel drive unibody Traction Avant and redeveloping the factory to produce it at the same time, led to bankruptcy in 1934. It was taken over by the main creditor Michelin, who had provided tires for the cars. The Traction Avant after initial problems improved the sales for the company, and was a great success and was in production apart from during World War II until 1957.

He died in Paris, France, of stomach cancer in 1935, and was interred in the Cimetière du Montparnasse, the funeral being led by the Chief Rabbi of Paris.

Posthumous recognition[edit]

On 9 October 1958, while the Motor show was running, the city fathers renamed the Quai de Javel as the "Quai André-Citroën," in recognition of the transformation effected since the city's 15th arrondissement, two generations earlier characterized by market gardening, had been selected by Citroën as the location for Europe's first mass production car plant.[5]

This was the second celebrity name for the street which in 1843 had been baptised "Quai de Javel," in recognition of the chemical factory that had been set up to produce a range of industrial acids, and which later numbered the well known eponymous "Eau de Javel" (bleach) among its products.[5]

In 1992, the Parc André Citroën public garden in Paris was named after him. It was built on the site of the former automobile manufacturing plant of Citroën, which operated until its closure in the 1970s, and which had been demolished during an eight-year period, between 1976 and 1984.[6] In 1998, André-Citroën was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan.[7]


  1. ^ Reynolds (1997)
  2. ^ A travel guide to Jewish Europe. Ben G. Frank. 1992. ISBN 9781455613298.
  3. ^ "Foreign News: Saving Citro". Time. 5 November 1934. Archived from the original on 25 November 2010.
  4. ^ "Mors". Brighton-Early. Archived from the original on 9 December 2004.
  5. ^ a b "Automobilia". Toutes les voitures françaises 1959 (Salon Paris Oct 1958). Paris: Histoire & collections. Nr. 21: 27. 2002.
  6. ^ Pringle-Harris, Ann (2 November 1997). "The 15th, a World of Its Own". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 May 2008.
  7. ^ "André Citroën". Hall of Fame Inductees. Automotive Hall of Fame. 1998. Archived from the original on 16 March 2016. Retrieved 4 March 2016.


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