After being around one hundred years, and being graced on some 215 million (!) vehicles, the Chevrolet bowtie remains an enigma.
When Chevrolet co-founder William C. Durant first introduced the signature bowtie in 1913, on the 1914 model-year H-2 Royal Mail and the H-4 Baby Grand, centered at the front of both models, the logo has retained its shape through the past century. Compared to how many times logos from other brands have changed over that same time period really speaks to how well timeless the bowtie is. But where did it come from? It depends on who you ask. And apparently, nobody bothered to interview Durant about it during his lifetime.
According to William’s daughter, Margery Durant, in her 1929 book My Father, he randomly 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 wrote.
Yet in a 1968 interview, Durant’s widow, Catherine, said the bowtie design originated from a Hot Springs vacation 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, Mrs. Durant never clarified what the motif was or how it was used.
Lastly, Ken Kaufmann, historian and editor of The Chevrolet Review, discovered an old ad from The Constitution newspaper, published in Atlanta, of 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.
The world may never truly know. Regardless, the Chevy bowtie has 100 candles to blow out. Time for some celebratory burnouts.