Over the years, the Corvette has gone through many design changes; some subtle, some not so subtle. The Corvette's symbolic crossed flags emblem has also seen its fair number of changes. If you've taken a close look at the emblem over the five generations of Corvette, you'll notice that even though the design has changed dramatically from time to time, a few design cues remain. These include some form of a checkered flag and a bow-tie emblem. From time to time, a strange, maple leaf type of insignia, called a "fleur-de-lis" also shows up from time to time in the emblem. So what does all this mean and how did it get started?
The original Corvette logo (Figure 1) was designed by Robert Bartholomew, an interior designer at Chevrolet in 1953. This emblem was destined to appear on the 1953 Corvette prototype which was introduced to the public for the first time at New York's Waldorf-Astoria hotel in January of 1953. It had crossing staffs with the checkered flag on the right hand side, and the American flag on the left hand side. However, four days before the Corvette was to go on display at the show, Chevrolet management decided that it should be redesigned. The problem with the proposed emblem was that it included the American flag which is illegal to use on a commerical product. Right before the show, redesigned emblems were attached to the front hood and steering wheel of the Corvette. The new emblem contained the checkered flag on the right side as well as the white racing flag, red Chevrolet bow-tie symbol and a fleur-de-lis (Figure 2).
Where did the fleur-de-lis come from? At the time, Chevrolet was conducting research on various emblem designs for the 1953 and 1954 passenger cars. They looked at the Louis Chevrolet family history in an attempt to discover a crest or some type of heraldry that they could utilize. Unfortunately, they came up empty, but they did realize that Chevrolet is a French name and the fleur-de-lis (flower of the lily) is a French symbol meaning peace and purity. They decided to use the fleur-de-lis along with the famous blue Chevrolet bow tie on a new flag which replaced the American flag on the Corvette. When the 1953 Corvette first appeared to the public at the Waldorf Historia Hotel, the redesigned emblems were in place.
However, this emblem was temporary and used only for press photography at the show. A new emblem was designed prior to the 1953 Corvette going into production.
If you're wondering what ever happened to the original 1953 Corvette emblem by Robert Bartholemew, it's currently on display at the National Corvette Museum!