The Michelin Man is one of the most recognised symbols in the world but how was he created and why is he called Bibendum?
In 1880 brothers Édouard and André Michelin inherited a small company based in Clermont-Ferrand and quickly realised the potential for a new means of transport that could replace the horse and carriage.
Their first success was the invention of the detachable pneumatic bicycle tyre; however it was the automobile that provided the greatest scope for their creative talents.
In 1894, while they were at the Lyon Universal Exhibition, Édouard and André noticed a pile of tyres that seemed to resemble the body of a man and, four years later, the artist O’Galop brought the idea to life with his first sketch.
The Michelin Man’s first public appearance was in an advertisement which depicted him raising a cup filled with nails and broken glass. A Latin quotation from a famous ode by the Roman lyric poet Horace, “Nunc est bibendum” (Now is the time to drink) was declared by the character, followed by “To your health! The Michelin tyre drinks obstacles”. Bibendum was born.
Over the years, Bibendum featured increasingly in the Michelin Guide, giving advice to travellers on everything from tyres to leaving tips, and in 1934 he appeared in his own comic-book-like section at the centre of the guide. Today, he features throughout the guides, providing helpful hints and pointing out the best value restaurants with his ‘Bib Gourmand’ award.
In 2000, he was voted best logo of the 19th century and he remains one of the most recognised and iconic symbols in the world today.