Founders and pioneers

Bertha Benz.

Bertha Benz (née Cäcilie Bertha Ringer on May 3, 1849) played a decisive part in the development of the automobile. She supported her husband Carl Benz as best she could and, like him, firmly believed in the future of the automobile.

Pioneer of the automobile: Bertha Benz, here a portrait of her as a young woman, helped pave the way for the spread of motorised vehicles.

Ambitious, curious, with an alert mind and a great interest in technological innovations, she meets the engineer Carl Benz during an excursion organized by the social club ‘Eintracht’ on June 27, 1869. Together they make big plans and get married in Pforzheim on July 20, 1872. With determination and talent, she helps him realize his vision of an engine-powered horseless carriage. She supports her husband in the technical implementations, puts forward her own ideas and helps him again and again in practical respect, for instance when they wound wire induction coils for the ignition mechanism. On New Year’s Eve 1879, the couple gets the two-stroke engine to work for the first time.

In the economically precarious early years, she uses her dowry even before her marriage to save the first firm of her fiancé and later repeatedly spoke out resolutely against doubters. On January 29, 1886, Carl Benz files a patent application for his “motor car with gas engine operation”. However, the new means of transport is met with deep scepticism. This narrow-mindedness of most Benz contemporaries finally led to a momentous decision in August 1888.

World’s first long-distance journey in an automobile

Bertha Benz could not and would not stand by and watch anymore as her husband suffered from the negative stance of the public. Without further ado and without his knowledge, she set out with his motor car and her two sons Eugen and Richard in the direction of Pforzheim. After more than twelve hours of driving and over 100 kilometers on mostly unpaved roads, the three actually arrived there. The circumstances of this world’s first long-distance journey in an automobile – for example, a fresh supply of petrol from a chemist’s shop – are legendary, and have gone down in the annals of automotive history. Bertha Benz and her sons therefore played a vital part in the subsequent triumphant advance of the petrol-powered automobile.

Bertha Benz dies on May 5, 1944, two days after her 95th birthday, in Ladenburg.