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The Michelin Man and the History of the Michelin Tire

Bibendum, the Michelin Man mascot, apparently first came into being in 1899, when Edouard Michelin observed a stack of tires forming the now famous tapered silhouette. The first ads appeared with the slogan “Nunc est Bibendum”, Latin for “to your health”. At about the same time, the slogan “The Michelin tire drinks the obstacle” was first used.

 Bibendum seen at a French agency, photo via  Manufacture de la Mémoire

According to Michelin : “In 1889 two brothers, André and Edouard Michelin, embarked on a great human and industrial odyssey to develop modern transport solutions – the key to freedom and economic development – through ceaseless innovation.” If you would like to learn more, visit the Michelin website history page where you can learn the complete story of the tire company over the last 124 years.


L to R (above) : An ad from the August, 1907 issue of the Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal announcing the new American factory, a period French poster and an October, 1907 ad in the Horseless Age stating that America’s highest-priced cars would be equipped with Michelin tires in 1908 and seen at motor shows during the 1908 season.    

This from Michelin, U.S.A. : “Michelin has been a part of the tire industry in the United States since 1907 when it purchased the International Rubber Company in Milltown, New Jersey. Tires and tubes were manufactured there up until 1930 when the Great Depression took its toll on what had become the fourth largest tire manufacturer in the country with 2,000 employees.”  The rest of the company’s U.S. history can be found at Michelin North America.

C.L. & Theo. Bering Jr. Inc., located at 609-11 Main St. in Houston, Texas.

This photo via the History Blog shows an early promotion by the Bering brothers on the streets of  Houston. Note the scaled up size of the seat that the mascots are sitting on in a very characteristic pose.

We found the following information about the German immigrant Bering brothers in the Houston Business Journal: “C.L. and Theo Bering Jr., operated a business which offered departments for mantels and tile, house furnishings, crockery and hardware. Many grand homes in Houston boasted elaborate mantels made elsewhere and shipped to the Bering store. It’s crockery department stocked fine china, including French porcelain made and decorated by Haviland and marked expressly for C.L. and Theo Bering Jr., Inc., Houston, Texas. The store also sold tires, tubes and spark plugs, no doubt due to the fact that C.L. Bering was an avid motorist, having made the first cross-country auto trip from Houston to Rockport in 1903.” You can read more of the interesting story about the Bering Family here.

And just below is a very interesting and well done video titled “The History of The Tire Part I”.  We think that it is well worth watching as it shows the complete story of the tire around the world up until 1920, complete with much period film footage.

5 responses to “The Michelin Man and the History of the Michelin Tire

  1. Dave,
    This is really interesting film on the history of tires. Here’s something I didn’t know much about and is very eye opening to me. Thanks for posting this video and I see there are other videos regarding the development of this industry. Good stuff. Thanks.


  2. I enjoyed this recent post . As I have enjoyed many more . … I just find some humor in a horse drawn wagon with steel wheels as an advert for a pneumatic tire

    • Even more in some parts of Latin America tires are called “Neumáticos” ,”Llantas” is more a local name used in Central America,and Mexico. In Spain is more common the use of “neumático” (french Pneus is an avbreviature for “Pnematique”(pmeumatic tire).Here in Uruguay some people call them “cubierta”(plural “cubiertas”)And the inner tube is “cámara”.Greetings from the Rio de la Plata.

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