If you’re familiar with the story of the origin of the Chevrolet Bowtie, you may have been misinformed. The original story involves Chevrolet co-founder, William C. Durant, creating the emblem after spotting a bow tie-shaped pattern on the wallpaper of a French hotel in 1908. In an interview with Durant’s widow, for a book titled “Billy Durant,” by author Lawrence R. Gustin, however, the true origin of the Chevy Bowtie was revealed. Thanks to Jalopnik.com writer, Ray Wert, for announcing the news.
According to Catherine Durant, William Durant’s widow, the story of the bow tie that has circulated for decades is incorrect in many ways. Not only was the bow tie not discovered in Parish, it was not part of a wallpaper pattern. In reality, the bow-tie that inspired the Chevrolet emblem was discovered as part of an advertisement in a Virginia Newspaper by Mr. Durant when him and his wife vacationed to Hot Springs, Virginia around 1912.
Because there were two conflicting stories, and the company that printed the advertisement was unknown, finding the actual origin of the image was unlikely. However, when Chevrolet historian Ken Kaufmann was reading issues of The Constitution, a newspaper based in Atlanta Georgia, printed between 1910 and 1917, he came across an advertisement that had an emblem with a striking resemblance to the Chevy Bowtie. The advertisement was for Coalettes brand coal and dated November 12, 1911. This date was only nine days after the Chevrolet Motor Company was incorporated by Mr. Durant.
Similarities between the Coalettes logo and the Chevy Bowtie are haunting. The emblems are the exact same shape with a white border. Both are dark with white lettering. Both names are nine letters long, start with the letter “C” and have the suffix of “let” in them. While the type faces are different, the emblems are strikingly similar.
Kaufmann stated that he thinks the Southern Compressed Coal Co., the company which produced the Coalettes product, would have had their emblem and name trademarked back in the day. This could cause some problems for General Motors. If in fact the emblem was trademarked, GM might end up owing the current owner of rights to the Coalettes emblem a large chunk of cash. Only time will tell if the person comes forward with a trademark infringement suit.