Michelin Bibendum Gladiator Tire Poster
In 1898 the Michelin Tire Corporation introduced Bibendum, its company icon. At that time the firm was a leader in the production of pneumatic bicycle tires. By 1900 Michelin achieved dominance in the French market for automobile tires, and on the eve of World War I Michelin supplied approximately a third of the world's tires. While bicycles were becoming mass-market goods, automobiles remained elite commodities. Michelin thus had a vested interest in encouraging automobile travel as a way to sell tires, and in educating new consumers as to its uses and capabilities. Bibendum, helped to do both. Appearing in posters and the press as a well to do Frenchman who embodied contemporary assumptions about class and racial privileges and appropriate activities (such as automobile travel and tourism), Bibendum also dispersed advice on technical matters pertaining to autos and tires.