Mercedes Benz: B like Bertha
© By Sheila
Germany, 1888. The world was a different one, driven by horsepower and the sound of horseshoes. Carriages and horse taxis filled the streets- with noises and smell. With the growth of cities and the number of carriages, a new crisis arose- the horse shit crisis. That’s right. Had it not been for the courage of a brave entrepreneur, every street in 1940’s London would have been buried under three meters of horse shit according to the Times’ forecast. Instead, cars hit the road. What many don’t know: We owe the fact that cars have prevailed largely to a woman, Bertha Benz.
Can you imagine a world without cars? Back in those days, the question was rather the opposite. Like most innovations, the car was initially rejected, and mocked. Probably most of us know the name Benz today, and it is the heritage of the inventor Carl Benz. Yet it was not Carl, who finally convinced the sceptics. His wife, Bertha Benz, acted as what we call Business Angel in the start-up scene back then. An angel with vision, courage, and an advocate for progress. And money. Thanks to that, Bertha Benz made her husband’s invention come true in a man’s world. Berthe went all in: She demanded the early payout of her dowry and financed the first prototypes of Carl Benz’ car. But just as modern investors in the start-up scene do, Bertha Benz supported her husband with much more than money.
She lent a hand in the workshop, helped with daily troubleshooting and above all, despite the most adverse circumstances, criticism and ridicule, she never gave up believing in Carl’s idea. Carl Benz, the ingenious inventor, had already filed a ground-breaking patent in 1886. Still, nobody was interested in buying a self-driving vehicle. The financial situation got worse and worse until Bertha Benz decided to take the step, that finally made Carl Benz’s technology world famous.
1888, again. Previously, customers had denied the purchase of the finished “Benz Patent Motor Car Number 3”. The skepticism about progress was deep and the social rejection of a car without horses even bigger. Carl Benz, on the other side, did as a perfectionist not trust the car to perform in public. The situation of the Benz family became more and more precarious. So Bertha stepped in. Without the knowing of her husband, she started the car and drove adventurous 106 km from Mannheim to Pforzheim and back.
Problems on the way were solved pragmatically: Bertha cleaned a clogged gasoline line with her hatpin. She isolated the ignition, scandalously, with her garter. And since wooden blocks seemed too laborious to stop the car to her, she quickly invented the brake pads. When Bertha Benz ran out of fuel, she incidentally founded the “oldest gas station in the world”: The city pharmacy in Wiesloch. There, she bought the necessary ligroin. Pharmacies should remain the filling stations of the world up until the 20th century.
After Berthas Benz’s daredevil ride and the public’s enthusiasm about it, success finally arrived in the house of Benz. Bertha and Carl Benz became founders of a brand, an industry and a modernity, that has been preserved to this day.
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