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History of the Chevy Bowtie
The Chevrolet bowtie—introduced by company co-founder William C. Durant in late
1913—is one of the most recognized emblems in the world today. But how it came to
be synonymous with the brand is open to wide interpretation.
Inspired by wallpaper in a French hotel?
Durant’s version of how the logo came into existence is well-known. The long-accepted story, confirmed by
Durant himself, was that it was inspired by the wallpaper design in a Parisian hotel.
According to The Chevrolet Story of 1961, an official company publication issued in celebration of Chevrolet’s
50th anniversary: “It originated 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.”
However, conflicting accounts have emerged, each of which is plausible enough to deepen the mystery and
suggest it may never be solved. Two of the alternate origins come from within the Durant family itself.
Or was it a dinner-table sketch?
In 1929, Durant’s daughter, Margery, published a book entitled, My Father. In it, she described how Durant
sometimes doodled nameplate designs on pieces of paper at the dinner table: “I think it was between the
soup and the fried chicken one night that he sketched out the design that is used on the Chevrolet car to this
Was it borrowed from a newspaper ad?
More than half a century later, another bowtie origin story was recounted in a 1986 issue of Chevrolet Pro
Management Magazine, based on a 13-year-old interview with Durant’s widow, Catherine. She recalled how
she and her husband were on holiday in Hot Springs, Virginia, in 1912. While reading a newspaper in their
hotel room, Durant spotted a design and exclaimed, “I think this would be a very good emblem for the
Chevrolet.” Unfortunately, at the time, Mrs. Durant didn’t clarify what the motif was or how it was used.
That nugget of information inspired Ken Kaufmann, historian and editor of The Chevrolet Review, to search
out its validity. In a November 12, 1911, edition of The Constitution newspaper, published in Atlanta, the
Southern Compressed Coal Company placed an ad for “Coalettes,” a refined fuel product for fires. The
Coalettes logo, as published in the ad, had a slanted bowtie form, very similar to the shape that would soon
become the Chevrolet icon. Did Durant and his wife see the same ad or one that was similar–the following
year a few states to the north? The newspaper edition was dated just nine days after the incorporation of the
Chevrolet Motor Company.
The Swiss flag theory.
One other explanation attributes the design to a stylized version of the cross of the Swiss flag. Louis
Chevrolet was born in Switzerland at La Chaux-de-Fonds, Canton of Neuchâtel, to French parents on
Christmas Day 1878.
Whichever origin is true, within a few years, the bowtie would emerge as the definitive
Chevrolet logo. An October 2, 1913, edition of The Washington Post seems to be the
earliest-known example of the symbol being used to advertise the brand. “Look for this
nameplate” the ad proclaims above the emblem. Customers the world over have been
doing so ever since.
Today’s bowtie: a gold standard.
Many variations in coloring and detail of the Chevrolet bowtie have come and gone over the decades since its
introduction in late 1913, but the essential shape has never changed. In 2004, Chevrolet began to phase in
the gold bowtie that today serves as the brand identity for all of its cars and trucks marketed globally.