What do Chevy and Jack-the-Ripper have in common? It's a mystery

I slowly navigated the dark cobbled streets of the oldest part of London one evening last week looking to unravel the century-plus-old mystery of Jack the Ripper. I was on a walking tour with a former Scotland Yard detective. He'd spent his career studying the gruesome late-1800s serial killer.

The lingering mystery and conflicting theories surrounding Jack the Ripper's identity reminded me of another very old unsolved mystery also shrouded in conflicting theories: The origin of the famous Chevrolet bow tie emblem introduced in late 1913.

While researching some articles for Automotive News' commemorative edition A Century of Chevrolet: The stories that shaped an icon, I heard various versions of the iconic bow tie's origin.

The most well-known account is that company cofounder William Durant saw a similar emblem on a wallpaper design in a Parisian hotel. He tore off a piece of the wallpaper, believing it would make a good symbol for Chevrolet. The problem is that reports say Durant wasn't traveling in Europe in the 1911-12 time period.

Then there is the version Durant's daughter, Margery, told. Margery published a book in 1929 entitled My Father. According to a General Motors' Web site, in the book she said Durant sometimes doodled nameplate designs on paper at the dinner table. She wrote: "I think it was between the soup and the fried chicken one night that he sketched out the design that is used on the Chevrolet car to this day."

But in a 1972 interview, Durant's widow, Catherine, gave yet a different account. She said she and Durant were vacationing in Hot Springs, Va., in 1912 when he spotted a similar design in a newspaper he was reading in their hotel room.

Ken Kaufmann, historian and editor of The Chevrolet Review, dug up a Nov. 12, 1911, issue of The Atlanta Constitution newspaper. In it he found an ad placed by the Southern Compressed Coal Co. that used a logo of a slanted bow tie form.

Perhaps Durant saw that ad or a similar one the following year in Virginia?

Frankly, I don't know which account is true.

I do know that human nature prefers anything holding iconic status to be enveloped in the fog of a good mystery.

25

Shares

ATTENTION COMMENTERS: Over the last few months, Automotive News has monitored a significant increase in the number of personal attacks and abusive comments on our site. We encourage our readers to voice their opinions and argue their points. We expect disagreement. We do not expect our readers to turn on each other. We will be aggressively deleting all comments that personally attack another poster, or an article author, even if the comment is otherwise a well-argued observation. If we see repeated behavior, we will ban the commenter. Please help us maintain a civil level of discourse.

Newsletters