Chevrolet Bowtie History
The Chevrolet Bowtie has been one of the World’s
most recognized trademarks since 1913, when William C. Durant first introduced
the symbol that represents Chevrolet’s
We have all heard the legend how Durant copied
the bowtie design from the wallpaper in a Paris Hotel. The 50 Year Anniversary
issue of The Chevrolet Story, printed in 1961, and reprinted in part in
the October 1986 G&D, told the story this way:
“This was also the year (1913) that the famous Chevrolet
trademark was first used on the cars. The distinctive trademark has appeared
billions of times on products, advertisings and sales literature as the
mark of dependability, economy and quality in motor transportation. It
in Durant’s imagination when, as a world traveler in 1908, he saw
the pattern marching off into infinity as a design on wallpaper in a French
hotel. He tore off a piece of the wallpaper and kept it to show friends
with the thought that it would make a good nameplate for a car.”
BETWEEN SOUP & CHICKEN
Margery Durant in her book. My Father,
wrote in 1929 her version of how her father designed the Chevrolet Bowtie:
“As in the case of the Buick, my father drew name-plates on pieces
WIFE HAS THE LAST WORD
paper at the dinner table. I think it was between the soup and the
chicken one night that he sketched out the design that is used on
Chevrolet car to this day.”
A story in Chevrolet Pro Management Magazine,
October 1986, which was copied in the May 1987 G&D, told that W.C.
Durant did not copy the design from the wallpaper in a French hotel room,
and that according to Mrs. Durant, the bowtie emblem was first seen by
her husband in an illustrated Virginia newspaper, while they were vacationing
in Hot Springs, Virginia around 1912. Mrs. Durant was quoted as recalling,
were in a suite reading the papers, and he saw this design and said, ‘I
think this would be a very good emblem for the Chevrolet’ ” She did
not explain how the newspaper used the emblem.
The 75 th Anniversary issue of The Chevrolet
Story, 1986, gave both bowtie story versions with the comment that Billy
Durant, himself, confirmed the Paris hotel story, which was later refuted
by his wife with the Sunday newspaper in Virginia story. Chevrolet Media
Productions then wrapped things up by writting:
“Whatever the source,the
Bowtie proved to be a recognizable winner, and is still the marque of today’s
The source of Mrs. Durant’s account is Lawrence
R Gustin, who interviewed Catherine Durant for his book, Billy Durant.
Creator of General Motors, 1973, and recorded her story of the bowtie in
this book. Ever since I read Catherine’s logical explaination 17 years
ago, I have been on the lookout for the true source of the bowtie.
This past year I have been reading that great
Southern newspaper, The Constitution, from Atlanta Georgia, looking for
how the Whiting, Little, Chevrolet, Monroe, and Scripps-Booth were actually
marketed in this southern hub city between 1910 and 1917, when I ‘spotted’
this Coalettes bowtie ad, I think I experienced the same excitement Durant
did almost eighty years ago, when he might have ‘spotted’ the same ad in
the same paper. The date of this Constihrtion ad was November 12, 1911
-nine days after the Chevrolet Motor Company was incorporated.
Notice some of the similarities between the Coalettes
and Durant designed Chevrolet Bowtie! Both started with a ‘C’, had nine
letters, had the suffix ‘let’, and were hard to pronounce-in a French way.
Both emblems had a dark background with white boarders and white letters.
The main difference was the Coalettes letters were slanted and used a stylistic
type face, while Durant used a more formal Roman type face and squared
off the center bow, three letters wide.
It looks like the reason the Southern Compressed
Coal Co. designed the bowtie logo in the first place was to highlight the
large, middle ‘E’, to help the public pro-
nounce this coined word easier. Maybe, this is where Durant got the idea,
“Pronounced Shev-Ro-Lay. ” I looked up the suffix ‘---let’ or ‘-lette’
in the dictionary and was surprised to find it means little or small. Therefore,
the coined word Coalettes means “Little Coals.” I would think the Southern
Compressed Coal Co. had the Coalettes
name and bowtie emblem registered as a trademark and will look through
the trademark registrations at the Patent Office in the future.
This is really a great ad! I bet Durant tore it
out of the newspaper to save for future reference. Note how this ad copy
stressed performance, economics, neighborhood
availability and “positively leaves no clinkers.” Coalettes seemed to have
many good features-I wonder if it ever became successful?
THE ORIGIN OF THE LITTLE NAMEPLATE TOO?
One more closing observation-this Coalettes ad
used a round circle with the slogan, “The Little Coals with the big heat.”
Durant’s Little Motor Car Company also used a
round nameplate emblem with the name LITTLE inside with a “heated red”
background- just a coincidence?
FIRST CHEVROLET BOWTIE AD?
Here is the earliest Chevrolet Bowtie ad I have
found in a newspaper. This “Look for this Nameplate” ad was found in the
Washington Post for the October 2, 1913.
The printing is not the greatest, but I think it is interesting because
the bowtie appears
to be drawn by hand, the ‘CH’ did not print well, and the Chevrolet name
printed in a not correct slanted type. However, this crude layout should
encourage other members to research and locate better ads.