Globally recognized today, the Chevrolet bowtie logo was introduced by
company co-founder William C. Durant in late 1913. But how it came to
be synonymous with the brand is open to wide interpretation.
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.
In 1929, Durant's daughter, Margery, published a book entitled, My
Father. In it, she told 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 day," she
More than half a century later, another Bowtie origin 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, Va., 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 Nov. 12,
1911 edition of The Constitution newspaper, published in Atlanta, an
advertisement appeared from by the Southern Compressed Coal Company
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 similar – the
following year a few states to the north? The date of the paper was
just nine days after the incorporation of the Chevrolet Motor Co.
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 Neuchatel, 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, so far, 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.
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. The move reinforced
the strength of what was already one of the most-recognized automotive
emblems in the world. More than 4.25 million Chevrolets were sold in
more than 120 countries and regions during 2010.