French company that invented the inflatable rubber tire; now makers of tires for planes, trains and automobiles, not to mention the space shuttle. Also (ever-increasingly since 1900) publishers of information for motorists. Known since 1898 for its puffy inflatable mascot, Bibendum (the Michelin Man).

Founded in 1889 by André and Édouard Michelin in Clermont-Ferrand, Auvergne, France. They made farm equipment, then rubber brake parts, then had a wacky idea for a removable rubber bicycle tire in 1891. (Previous tires were attached to the wheel and very difficult to repair.) Public relations for the innovation was an easy matter; the first road racer outfitted with the tires won the Paris-Brest race, and demand was immediate and strong. Just as the inner tube was catching on with bicyclists, the automobile became an international craze...and the Michelins embraced the opportunity.

The company went to enormous lengths to promote automobile travel in its earliest days, making tires (of course), publishing guidebooks, maps...even forming the first auto club for the French general public and campaigning for road marking, safety and maintenance.

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