In 1888, a woman took her two children and without even notifying her husband set out with them on the first long-distance drive of the first automobile in the world. Her name was Bertha Benz, and she was the 39 year old wife of Karl Benz–yes, of future Mercedes-Benz fame.
Bertha zoomed along the roads at 10 miles an hour, driving 60 miles from Mannheim to Pforzheim in this new-fangled horseless carriage.
Her trip made headlines; nothing of its like had ever been seen. In making this voyage, she catapaulted the automobile from the bog of doubt and neglect that had greeted its invention. Her spunk raised public attention and was just the marketing her husband needed to get his invention sold–and to get people to believe that cars without horses could actually work.
But Bertha didn’t just dare to drive, she also proved a self-sufficient improviser and mechanic during this trip, cleaning the carburetor using her hat pin and insulating a wire with her garter. (I, who own neither a hat pin nor a garter, feel ill-prepared for a drive now!) She also replaced the brake lining on the drive, and upon her return home advised her husband on improvements he should make to the vehicle–including adding a gear for climbing hills.
Karl Benz was a believer, pioneer and inventor, and his wife’s contributions–financial, moral and finally mechanical–were crucial in getting his dream off the ground.
If you’re in the mood to relive history, you can join or witness the caravan of antique automobiles which follows this historic trip every two years.
Now two little nuggets of history to enjoy.
First off, if you’re imagining that Bertha traveled in the kind of secure car we use today, think again. This is from the following link from Wikipedia–and it’s her model. Imagine driving this with two kids for 60 miles. Egad!
And secondly, this is from years later, but check the BOUNCE in this vehicle! 🙂 That’s a ride that’s gotta hurt. (I have no idea what make of car this is.) And yet look how excited everyone is about it. Divine. History. 🙂 So alive!