Publish date:
Updated on

Hundred-year-old Michelin Man makes appearance in Monterey

As part of a yearlong celebration of its 100th anniversary, a redesigned version of the Michelin Man–the corporate symbol of one of the world’s largest tire manufacturers, makes an appearance at the Monterey Historic Automobile Races in Monterey, California, beginning on this day in 1998.

The history of Michelin dates back to 1889, when two brothers named Edouard and Andre Michelin took over a struggling rubber factory in the French industrial city of Clermont-Ferrand. The Michelins later became France’s leading producer of pneumatic (inflatable) bicycle tires, and in June 1895 they entered the first car to be equipped with pneumatic tires in the historic Paris-Bordeaux-Paris auto race.

As the story goes, their now-iconic corporate symbol originated with Edouard Michelin’s observation that a stack of tires resembled a human figure. A cartoonist named Maurice Rossillon, who signed his work O’Galop, created a series of sketches based on this idea. One depicted a man made of tires raising a glass of champagne and declaring “Nunc est bibendum” (“Now is the time to drink”). The figure’s white color mirrored the pale hue of rubber tires at the time, before manufacturers began using carbon black as a preservative around 1912. The symbol subsequently became known as Bibendum (sometimes Bibidendum or Mr. Bib), or the Michelin Man.

The original poster, produced from 1898 to 1914, was followed by a variety of other posters and signs featuring Bibendum smoking a cigar, wearing gladiator garb, riding a bicycle and carrying a load of tires, among other activities. Ubiquitous in France, the logo’s fame spread along with the popularity and success of Michelin tires around the world. In 1923, the Michelin Man was redesigned, losing some of his rings to reflect the introduction of wider, low-pressure tires. During the 1980s, he grew slimmer to conform to the healthy-living trend, a process that continued with the 1998 redesign. By that time, Bibendum was one of the oldest and most recognized advertising symbols in the world.

On January 1, 1998, the Michelin Man kicked off his centennial celebration by appearing on his own birthday float at the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California. The Monterey Historic Automobile Races, held at the Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey that August 14-16, welcomed the Michelin Man as part of its own 25th anniversary celebration. Two years later, an international jury of 22 designers, advertising executives and branding experts voted Bibendum the winner of a competition co-sponsored by The Financial Times, proclaiming him the “greatest logo in history.” 

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!


Russians settle Alaska

On Kodiak Island, Grigory Shelikhov, a Russian fur trader, founds Three Saints Bay, the first permanent Russian settlement in Alaska. The European discovery of Alaska came in 1741, when a Russian expedition led by Danish navigator Vitus Bering sighted the Alaskan mainland. more

Peking relieved by multinational force

During the Boxer Rebellion, an international force featuring British, Russian, American, Japanese, French, and German troops relieves the Chinese capital of Peking after fighting its way 80 miles from the port of Tientsin. The Chinese nationalists besieging Peking’s diplomatic more

Blackout hits Northeast United States

On this day in 2003, a major outage knocked out power across the eastern United States and parts of Canada. Beginning at 4:10 p.m. ET, 21 power plants shut down in just three minutes. Fifty million people were affected, including residents of New York, Cleveland and Detroit, as more

Japan’s surrender made public

On this day in 1945, an official announcement of Japan’s unconditional surrender to the Allies is made public to the Japanese people. Even though Japan’s War Council, urged by Emperor Hirohito, had already submitted a formal declaration of surrender to the Allies, via more

U.S. bombing of Cambodia ceases

After several days of intense bombing in support of Lon Nol’s forces fighting the communist Khmer Rouge in the area around Phnom Penh, Operations Arc Light and Freedom Deal end as the United States ceases bombing Cambodia at midnight. This was in accordance with June more

Seventh Marines land at Chu Lai

The advance units of the Seventh Marines land at Chu Lai, bringing U.S. Marine strength in South Vietnam to four regiments and four air groups. The Marines were given the responsibility of conducting operations in southern I Corps and northern II Corps, just south of the more

Hanoi prepares for more air attacks

Hanoi is reported to be holding air-raid drills for fear of more U.S. attacks in the wake of the Pierce Arrow retaliatory raids that had been flown in response to the Gulf of Tonkin incident. The North Vietnamese government urged all civilians with nonessential posts to leave the more

Pitching ace throws first no-hitter

On August 14, 1971, St. Louis Cardinals ace Bob Gibson throws the first no-hitter of his storied career. Gibson’s heroics helped his team sail to an 11-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Gibson overcame numerous childhood ailments–including rickets, asthma and a heart more

FDR signs Social Security Act

On this day in 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs into law the Social Security Act. Press photographers snapped pictures as FDR, flanked by ranking members of Congress, signed into law the historic act, which guaranteed an income for the unemployed and retirees. FDR more

Montana “Vigilante X” is born

John X. Beidler, one of the best known of the notoriously secretive Montana vigilantes, is born in Pennsylvania. Beidler, who preferred to be called simply “X,” had little formal education and tried his hand at a variety of trades. Initially a shoemaker, he also worked briefly as more

Steve Martin born

On this day in 1945, the comedian, actor and writer Steve Martin, who would rise to fame as a “wild and crazy” comedian during the 1970s, is born in Waco, Texas. Martin grew up in California and in his teens worked at Disneyland, where he entertained crowds with magic tricks and more

A daughter poisons her father

Francis Blandy falls into a coma and dies in his home outside London, England. Later that night, Blandy’s daughter Mary offered one of the family’s servants a large sum of money to help her get to France immediately. Mary was forced to flee on her own when he refused, but she was more

Confederate invasion of Kentucky begins

Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith begins an invasion of Kentucky as part of a Confederate plan to draw the Yankee army of General Don Carlos Buell away from Chattanooga, Tennessee, and to raise support for the Southern cause in Kentucky. Smith led 10,000 troops out of more