According to the book Motor Badges & Figureheads by Brian Jewell, John Scott Montagu (later Lord Montagu) was the first person with a hood ornament – in 1899 he attached a Saint Christopher medallion to the bonnet of his Daimler. Whether this was for aesthetic or religious purposes we will never know, but it was just before WWI when car mascots really began to emerge. Toy-type ones, such as model aeroplanes with propellors that spun when the car moved became very popular, as did lucky charm mascots including horseshoes and black cats. Believe it or not, the now-hated swastika was considered a symbol of good luck and was commonly displayed on bonnets in the years before it was adopted by Hitler and his Nazi party.
Around the same time, many people had taken to adorning their cars with silly and sometimes comical mascots. Although this seems like a bit of innocent fun to most, it caused some major rumblings in the car world. The top chaps at Rolls-Rolls for one were extremely unamused; downright vexed, in fact. It was all very well for the more, you know, common cars to be sporting these ridiculous ornaments but Rolls-Royce, they felt, was a brand that deserved something more befitting of a car that evoked awe and respect. Lord Montagu (the selfsame) introduced his friend and well-known artist Charles Sykes to Claude Johnson, the MD of Rolls-Royce at the time, and suggested that Sykes design an exclusive mascot for Rolls-Royce – one that would be worthy of the esteemed marque.