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Mr. Bibendum, The Michelin Man, Returns to The Old Motor


Surely one of the most recognized company mascots in the world is Mr. Bibendum, better known as the Michelin Man. Equally recognizable, but in an entirely unrelated field, is the Chiclets brand of chewing gum. In our top photo, Mr. B can be seen pointing directly to “Afamadas Gomas Michelin” on the side of this confectioner’s Model “T” delivery van which translates to “Famous Michelin Gum”. This seems to imply that the famous tire maker licensed the name for a brand of chewing gum.

Chiclets have been around even longer than Michelin tires, dating back to the 1870’s when Thomas Adams began experimenting with chicle he and General Antonio de Santa Anna imported from Mexico. The story goes that one day, after Adams repeated attempts to produce rubber products including tires from it failed, he popped a small piece into his mouth, found the peppermint flavor quite pleasing and the Adams New York Gum Company was born.

Had Adam’s research turned out differently, we might very well be riding around on his tires and chewing Michelin gum today. You can find many more photos and information about Michelin tires and Mr. Bibendum here on The Old Motor. The top photo is courtesy of Thierry Dubois and the bottom photo is courtesy of Marc Hendrix.


9 responses to “Mr. Bibendum, The Michelin Man, Returns to The Old Motor

  1. I’m thinking the “Afamadas Gomas Michelin” just means “famous Michelin tires”. In Spanish, “goma” can mean gum or rubber or tire, tho’ I don’t know why the candy factory would be advertising Michelin tires!

    Not sure I follow the Michelin chiclet connection – but this sure brings back memories of childhood, when a small box of white Chiclets was a part of daily life.

    Tom M.

  2. Tom is right, in many Spanish speaking countries car tyres are called “gomas”, to this day that’s the word we use in Argentina and also in Cuba from where the top picture is. The address Marta Abreu 14 in Santa Clara is Cuban. The child in the picture is sitting in a new tyre still wrapped, so it seems “La Estrella” sold chocolates, biscuits, sweets, Chiclets and Michelin tyres.

  3. If I remember correctly, Michelin is a French rubber company, yes? If so, this early version of “Bib” the Michelin Tire Man is just down right scary. Could you imagine being a kid and see that thing come out of your closet?

  4. I may have missed this in reading the text for Michelin tires but what Bibendum is drinking is broken glass (as in drinking broken glass and nails and such like). You’re right, the first iteration of Bib is rather frightening what with that Teddy Roosevelt- type pince-nez. Now he looks like a near relative of the Pillsbury dough-boy!

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