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Michelin heritage

Over 130 years of adventures

Driven by materials science and technological progress for more than 130 years, Michelin has been at the origin of the greatest advances in the field of mobility and beyond. Let yourself be transported to the heart of the fabulous History of a Group that continues to innovate to transform your daily life.

Genesis

1829 > 1889

1829

The beginnings of rubber
in Clermont-Ferrand

A Scottish woman named Elisabeth Pugh-Barker married Édouard Daubrée, an entrepreneur from Auvergne. She was the niece of the chemist Charles Macintosh, who had discovered that rubber was soluble in benzine.

Remembering the bouncing balls her uncle made for her, she began to make them herself in her husband’s workshop.
Her initiative brought rubber to Clermont-Ferrand, making a lasting impression!

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Rubber ball made by Amazonian aborigines. Collecting latex (postcard, 1900). Advertising postcard from the 1900s showing different types of rubber. Among the rubber products manufactured by Barbier-Daubrée are hardened rubber billiard balls. These compete with traditional, much more expensive ivory beads. Portrait of Elisabeth Pugh-Barker.
  • Billiard balls in hardened rubber were among the first rubber products manufactured by Barbier-Daubrée. They competed with the traditional ivory billiard balls, which were much more expensive.
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1832

The Barbier-Daubrée company

Édouard Daubrée joined forces with his cousin Aristide Barbier to launch a farm machinery business. Édouard was in charge of production while Aristide handled sales and promotion.They quickly made a name for themselves at international trade fairs and exhibitions thanks to the quality of their products and technologies, which used many rubber parts (hoses, valves, fittings, joints, etc.).
Portraits of Aristide Barbier (left) and Edouard Daubrée (right).
Extract from the general Barbier-Daubrée album dating from the 1860s: examples of manufactured farm equipment.
  • Designs of watering pumps and house pumps
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1889

The creation of Michelin & Cie

The company faced difficulties after its founders died in 1863 and 1864. Aristide’s Barbier’s daughter Adèle, who was married to Jules Michelin, was convinced that rubber had a big future. But she first had to face the company’s creditors and asked her sons André and Édouard for help.Édouard took the reins of the company, changing its name to Michelin & Cie. Like their predecessors, the brothers had big plans and quickly found new rubber applications. They launched a brake pad for hackney cabs and horse-drawn carriages called “The Silent,” a name that already hinted at their international ambitions.
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“The Silent” brake pad: the first manufactured rubber Michelin object marketed in 1889. Portrait of André Michelin, circa 1890. Portrait of Edouard Michelin, circa 1885. 1st Michelin logo. Edouard Michelin (seated 2nd from the left) photographed with the factory staff in 1890.
  • Illustration of the first logo of 'Michelin & Cie'. The typography is imbued with the 'Art Nouveau' style, characteristic of this era. The letters are made up of soft, curved shapes.
  • Edouard Michelin (seated 2nd from the left) photographed with the factory staff in 1890.
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The first major innovations

1891 > 1900

1891

The first modern tire

A cyclist with a punctured tire appeared in the plant’s courtyard one day. His bicycle had glued-on tires – a process that was effective, but hard to repair. Édouard Michelin took a personal interest in the issue and ended up creating a detachable tire to eliminate the many hours required for gluing and drying.
With his ingenious system, it took only 15 minutes to repair a flat tire. The modern tire was born and quickly proved itself.
Using this tire, Charles Terront won the Paris-Brest-Paris race more than eight hours ahead of the second competitor!
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The MICHELIN detachable tire: a revelation! Michelin filed its first patent for a detachable tire in the summer of 1891. Ceramic illustrating Charles Terront's victory on detachable tires. Extract from an 1892 advertisement showing the principle of the removable tire. Edouard Michelin (2nd from the right) didn't hesitate to lend a hand with a tire repair during the Nail Race from Paris to Clermont-Ferrand in 1892.
  • Photograph of the first detachable tire: ocher-brown in color, its surface is smooth. It has a strapping system that can be detached from the structure to change the damaged part.
  • Photograph of the first patent filed by Michelin on July 18, 1891. The signatures are handwritten on this official document. It is written that Michelin has filed 'a fifteen-year patent application for improvements to pneumatic tires intended for the wheels of velocipedes and other vehicles'.
  • Art Nouveau style ceramic, illustrating the victory of Charles Terront on removable tires. The pilot is in the saddle, pedaling his bike in a countryside landscape.
  • Legendary technical diagram presenting the patented removable tire system designed by Michelin. It is mentioned that it is possible to change the inner tube in just one minute and fifty-five seconds.
  • Black and white illustration showing four men on their knees, including Edouard Michelin, repairing a puncture.
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1895

Riding on air

André and Édouard Michelin became interested in the automotive industry, which they expected to grow quickly. They mounted the first car tires they designed on a vehicle called the Éclair, which participated in the Paris-Bordeaux-Paris race.The vehicle didn’t win, but made history by becoming the first car to ride on air!
This feat allowed the Michelin brothers to showcase the benefits of tires to the world, particularly their reliability, resistance, safety, and comfort.
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In June 1895, the Michelin brothers entered 'l'Eclair' in the Paris-Bordeaux-Paris race to prove that it was possible to run a vehicle that was both heavy and fitted with tires over long distances. André Michelin driving the Eclair during the Paris-Bordeaux-Paris race, the world's first automobile competition. Réplique de l'Eclair, exposée à l'Aventure Michelin à Clermont-Ferrand (France).
  • Brochure with engraving of 'L'Eclair', the first car in the world equipped with tires.
  • Black and white illustration showing André Michelin at the wheel of 'l'Eclair', a man is seated to his right, passenger side. The car has the number 46 on the rear.
  • Photograph of a replica of 'L’Eclair'. The vehicle sports the blue and yellow colors, characteristic of the Group's graphic charter.
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1898

The gentleman of tires

The Michelin Man was born in a pile of tires. His instantly recognizable silhouette came straight out of the imagination of André and Édouard Michelin and was drawn into existence by artist Marius Rossillon, known as O’Galop.That same year, the Michelin Man was featured in a remarkable composition entitled “Nunc est Bibendum,” then at the Michelin stand during the first edition of the Paris Motor Show. From then on, each of his appearances became an event and an opportunity to build trust and friendship with the public.
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First advertising poster bearing the image of Bibendum, which takes its name from the Latin phrase 'Nunc est Bibendum' (Now is the time to drink). Portrait of Marius Rossillon known as O'Galop. Original drawing from the Michelin Graphic Studio showing the Michelin brothers in front of the pile of tires that inspired Bibendum. Bibendum made its first public appearance at the first edition of the Paris automobile show in 1898.
  • Photograph, black and white portrait of O'Galop.
  • Black and white photograph of a Michelin exhibition stand at the Paris Motor Show. The scenography is composed, in its center, of a gigantic sculpture of Bibendum made from tires. Around him, tires of different sizes and diameters are displayed.
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1899

The need for speed

Camille Jenatzy sought to set a new speed record even though vehicle performances were still limited. But impossible was not in the Michelin brothers’ vocabulary! As usual, André and Édouard took on the challenge by equipping the electric car.The smaller diameter and wider tread of these special tires made them very stable, and they already looked like modern tires. Thanks to these tires, Jenatzy’s “Jamais Contente” (“Never Satisfied”) became the first vehicle in the world to break the symbolic 100 km/h barrier.

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Portrait of the Belgian pilot Camille Jenatzy, nicknamed the 'Red Devil'.. Triomphe de Camille Jenatzy, qui vient de franchir la barre des 100 km/h. Plan of the 'Jamais Contente'. Reduced in diameter and with a widened tread, the wheels of 'La Jamais Contente' already feature the profile of modern tires.
  • Black and white photograph of a group of individuals gathered around driver Camille Jenatzy, at the wheel of the Jamais Contente. A woman is seated in the back, just behind the driver, in the rear part of the vehicle. The car is decorated with wreaths of flowers and ribbons, symbols of his victory.
  • Technical diagrams showing the technical structure of the 'Jamais Contente' from different angles. Top view, sectional plan profile view.
  • Black and white photograph of the wheels of the 'Jamais Contente'.
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1900

The first MICHELIN Guide

At that time, car travel was a true adventure! André Michelin quickly understood the need to support their customers’ journeys. He created a red booklet called the “Guide Michelin,” featuring technical recommendations (tire maintenance and repair, etc.) and practical information (addresses of garages, gas stations, tire shops, hotels, etc.).When the “Étoile des bonnes tables” (“fine dining star”) Guide was published in 1926, it became a reference for gourmet food lovers and professionals. In 1910, Michelin launched a 1/200,000 road map to complement the directions in its Guide and make it easier for drivers to find their way.
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First edition of the MICHELIN Guide dated 1900. 'This book appears with the century. It will last as long as it does' (André Michelin). Before the First World War, the MICHELIN Guide became international. The advantages of the MICHELIN Guide summarized through a cartoon by O'Galop.
  • Map showing the different countries concerned by the advice of the Michelin Guide: France, of course, but also Spain, Italy, England and even Germany.
  • Cartoon drawing illustrating the practicality of the Michelin guide for peaceful travel. A man loaded with numerous manuals (maps, itineraries, technical manuals, hotel and restaurant directories, etc.) is in distress, a drop of sweat beading on his face. A hand offers him the solution: a single book, simple and complete - the Michelin guide.
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The builders

1906 > 1937

1906

All over the world

At that time, car travel was a true adventure! André Michelin quickly understood the need to support their customers’ journeys. He created a red booklet called the “Guide Michelin,” featuring technical recommendations (tire maintenance and repair, etc.) and practical information (addresses of garages, gas stations, tire shops, hotels, etc.).When the “Étoile des bonnes tables” (“fine dining star”) Guide was published in 1926, it became a reference for gourmet food lovers and professionals. In 1910, Michelin launched a 1/200,000 road map to complement the directions in its Guide and make it easier for drivers to find their way.
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Facade of the commercial building of the English subsidiary of the Manufacture: 'La Michelin House' in London in 1911. Construction site of the Turin factory (Italy) in 1906. Cover of an Italian internal newspaper dating from 1914. Cartoon drawing from 1914 illustrating the beginnings of Michelin's international expansion.
  • Photograph of the construction site of the Turin factory (Italy) in 1906.
  • Illustration from the front cover of the Michelin internal newspaper from 1914: Le Bibendum holds the Italian flag. He is surrounded by cars of different shapes and colors. Each automobile displays a flag of a different nationality. The title “Il Pneumatico Michelin” is written at the bottom of the poster.
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1914

“Our future is in the air!”

When 3,500 Michelin workers were called up to the army, the company focused its production on tires, wheels, and essentials: sleeping bags, tents, mugs, and many other items made of rubber. Since the Michelin brothers believed the war would be won in the air, they contributed to the war efforts by using part of their factory to produce aircraft.Between 1915 and 1918, Michelin made nearly 2,000 Breguet airplanes. To ensure these planes could take off in any weather, the company built the world’s first concrete runway.
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Bibendum, actor and witness of his time, provides support to the troops. Advertisement for the MICHELIN Guide to the Battlefields dating from 1919. Workshops transformed into war hospitals. Here, the dormitory. Sending packages intended for mobilized employees. Breguet XIV on the Aulnat track (near Clermont-Ferrand), the first hard track in the world built in 1916. Bréguet XIV manufacturing workshop: construction of the wings.
  • The illustration shows Bibendum, in combat uniform, shaking hands with a soldier on a battlefield.
  • Black and white photograph showing a workshop transformed into a war hospital. The image shows a dormitory where many wounded soldiers are bedridden. Nurses are at their bedside.
  • Black and white photograph, showing the sending of packages intended for mobilized employees.
  • Black and white photograph of a Bréguet XIV manufacturing workshop. The image shows men and women working on building the plane's wings.
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1929

The Michelines’ story

André Michelin was traveling in a sleeper car, kept awake by the shaking and squeaking, when inspiration struck: “We should put tires on the train cars so people can sleep!” The company created a special tire equipped with a guide ring that could roll on the narrow surface of the tracks and support the weight of a truck.This innovation gave birth to the Micheline, a railcar mounted on tires. On September 10, 1931, the inaugural voyage of prototype No. 5 between Paris and Deauville showcased its comfort, lightness, and speed. Since the Micheline could adapt to all situations, it was adopted all over the world.
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Micheline letterhead. Micheline en construction à l'usine de Cataroux (France) laissant voir sa structure à la fois rigide et légère.
  • Micheline letterhead which sells its lightness.
  • Photographie d'époque montrant la structure métalique à la fois rigide et légère de la Micheline.
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1931

Road signs

After actively campaigning for roads to be numbered in 1912, André Michelin wanted to go even further to improve road navigation. At the end of World War I, he started to produce distance markers and signs. His goal was to introduce simple, effective, and lasting signage.Nameplates were made of enameled lava while their bases were made of reinforced concrete. After a few tests, Michelin developed a wide range of road signs to meet all needs. Michelin manufactured several thousand signs until the early 1970s.
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André Michelin (front) promotes traffic signs to Bridges and Roads engineers in 1926. Extract from a 1933 brochure showing the diversity of terminals and signs offered by Michelin. Mise en place d'une borne. Prospectus de 1933 mettant en avant les avantages des bornes Michelin et le soin avec lequel leur emplacement est déterminé. Photo from 1920 showing a test dummy terminal placed in situ to assess its visibility.
  • Photographie en noir et blanc montrant la mise en place d'une borne de signalisation au bord de la route.
  • Prospectus de 1933 mettant en avant les avantages des bornes Michelin et le soin avec lequel leur emplacement est déterminé. Il est écrit : "Blanche, de forme typique, la signalisation Michelin se voit de loin, de nuit comme de jour."
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1935

Michelin, Citroën, and the 2CV

Michelin took the reins of French carmaker Citroën and put Pierre Michelin and Pierre Boulanger in charge. The two men immediately started conducting tests as part of the TPV program — for “Toute Petite Voiture” (“Very Small Car”). This idea was inspired by the results of the National Popular Automobile Survey.The Michelin brothers conducted this first major market study in 1922 to identify consumer needs and create a new type of vehicle: simple, versatile, easy to drive, and above all, economical. The 2CV was finally launched in 1949. It was a success, and the company produced more than 5 million units.
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In August 1939, Edouard Michelin discovered the prototype of the 2 CV Citroën. Advertising leaflet from 1958 promoting MICHELIN X tires for the Citroën 2 CV. At the end of the Second World War, the automobile became more popular. The 2 CV Citroën, here in front of the Michelin headquarters in Les Carmes (France), is becoming popular. One of the very first 2 CVs assembled was sent to Clermont-Ferrand in 1949 to be subjected to tests. Photograph of Edouard Michelin (left) and André Citroën (right), 1928, in the Citroën workshops at the Javel plant (Paris).
  • Photographie d'Edouard Michelin (à gauche) et d'André Citroën (à droite), en 1928, dans les ateliers Citroën de l'usine de Javel (Paris).
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1937

The marriage of rubber and steel

Starting in 1930, vehicles became heavier and more powerful. As a result, Michelin engineers changed the tire architecture. Adding metal wires allowed them to overcome many limitations. Since nothing is stronger than metal, they decided to study its interaction with rubber.After six years of research, they found a solution to make them stick together permanently. This discovery opened up promising new avenues and quickly led to the design of the first steel-cased tire, sold in 1937: the “Metalic.”
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Flyer describing the Metalic tire's ability to withstand the extreme driving conditions of a pipeline construction site in the Middle East. Resistance and robustness of the Metalic tire during exceptional transport in the United States. 1937 flyer vaunting the merits of the Metalic tire: efficiency, robustness, safety and comfort. Advertising flyer from 1937 promoting Metalic tire retreading.
  • Illustration of the Michelin Man seated repairing the sole of a shoe.
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The Radial area

1946 > 1981

1946

The invention of the Radial tire

Michelin designed a prototype called a “fly cage” in reference to the widely spaced cables in its casing. Its revolutionary architecture gave rise to the Radial tire, whose patent was filed on June 4, 1946.Sold under the name MICHELIN X, this tire was a real breakthrough thanks to its exceptional performance: incredible longevity (it lasted 2 to 4 times longer than a conventional tire), greater safety, and, above all, reduced vehicle fuel consumption. Radial technology was then applied to all types of vehicles.
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Advertising poster dating from 1964. 1946: MICHELIN X and fuel savings poster. 1952: radial technology is applied to heavy-duty tires. 1959: radial technology is applied to Civil Engineering tires. 1979: radial technology is applied to agricultural tires. 1981: radial technology is applied to aircraft tires. 1987: radial technology is applied to motorcycle tires. The Radial tire, whose patent was filed in 1946, is the result of a revolutionary design.
  • Poster advertising the fuel savings achieved by X-tire technology. The illustration depicts a gasoline can at the bottom of which the bidendum has dived to recover kilometers.  It reads: "With Michelin X, more kilometers in your tank! "
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1955

François Michelin, the Radial ambassador

François Michelin, the founder’s grandson, became Managing Partner of the company alongside Robert Puiseux. From the very beginning of his mandate, he took full advantage of the positive economic context to impose Radial technology on all automotive markets, which were growing rapidly at the time.This successful strategy quickly propelled Michelin from tenth place to that of the world’s leading tire manufacturer.
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François Michelin becomes co-manager alongside Robert Puiseux, who has headed the company since 1938. François Michelin during a visit to the United States in the 1960s.
  • Group photograph during a visit to the United States in the 1960s. François Michelin (center) stands out for his large size.
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1965

The importance of research

To support the radialization of the market, Michelin devoted most of its financial resources to developing the X tire. In 1965, the first research and test center opened in Ladoux, near Clermont-Ferrand (France). It featured laboratories, workshops, and tracks.The company then built other centers: Alméria in Spain (1973), Laurens in the United States (1977), and Ota in Japan (1991). Michelin also used state-of-the-art analytical vehicles to test the tires. The most remarkable was the Milles Pates or PLR (Poids Lourd Rapide — Fast Heavy Truck), built in 1972 to test truck tires.