The Mother of Motoring
Called “the mother of motoring,” Bertha Benz made the first automobile journey in 1888. Hailing from a wealthy family, Bertha had used part of her dowry a few years earlier to help her husband, Karl, create the Benz company, and she had helped keep the family afloat financially while Karl perfected a 2.5-horsepower, three-wheeled automobile. Karl was a great inventor, but a poor marketer. He had spent three years perfecting his Benz Motorwagen, but there were no buyers. At one of Karl’s public displays, a stranger took the Motorwagen for a spin and promptly crashed into a wall, frightening potential customers. Bertha decided to set out on a ground-breaking journey as a publicizing venture. Leaving Karl a note explaining that she and the boys were going to visit her mom, she and her two teenage sons crammed into the little automobile and headed out on the 60 mile journey. The adventure began at 5 am, when the boys pushed the car a few blocks from the house so Dad wouldn’t be wakened by the noisy engine. There were no motor roads, no gas stations, no mechanics. She purchased fuel at pharmacies in the form of the petroleum solvent ligroin and topped off the water from streams and wells. She cleared a clogged fuel line with a hair pin and repaired the ignition with her garter. She even invented the first pair of brake pads when the wood shoes failed and she had a shoemaker install leather pads. The boys pushed the underpowered car up hills and removed obstacles. Finally at dusk they reached Grandma’s house, where they stayed for a few days to show off the car. Bertha telegrammed Karl to let him know what was happening, but news of her exploit had already spread like wildfire. The Benzes received an avalanche of orders and their company became the world’s largest automobile company at the time, with annual sales of 600 vehicles. Benz eventually merged with another company to form Daimler-Benz, home to the Mercedes-Benz. Bertha lived until the dawn of the rocket age, dying in 1944 at age 95.
(Friday Church News Notes, May 22, 2015, www.wayoflife.org, firstname.lastname@example.org, 866-295-4143)
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