As we say goodbye to our Hitting the Road special exhibit and head into Women’s History month, we wanted to share the story of the woman that started it all: Bertha Benz. For Tinker Time on March 2, we will be starting up and driving our replica Benz Patent-Motorwagen and sharing Bertha’s story.
Check out the incredible story of Bertha Benz below and learn more on March 2 by coming to see our replica Benz take a trip around the museum. Long story short is there might not be the automobile as we know it without the genius of daring Bertha Benz!
In 1885, 23 years before Ford’s Model T, the first automobile was born and sparked over a century of innovation with the Benz Patent-Motorwagen. Benz’s invention was not received initially with the adoration that it now has, people were afraid of the contraption and driving it was limited to short trips. It had a long way to go before people would be willing to accept it.
In 1888 Bertha Benz took her husband’s invention, Benz Patent-Motorwagen in its third version on the first ever “road trip” to her mother’s house in Pforzheim, Germany 66 miles away. Bertha was determined to prove that that automobile could be a commercial success. She believed that her husband had not yet done an adequate job marketing the revolutionary innovation and was determined to prove to him and the world that the automobile was here to stay. She knew that completing the first long-distance trip would change the way people viewed the automobile. Without her husband’s knowledge Bertha set out to show the world how incredible the automobile could be, not to mention the trip was illegal and done without the permission of local authorities. Bertha was a pioneer of the automobile not only because of her daring first road trip but also because she financed her husband’s inventions. Today, modern patent laws would have made her the actual patent holder for the first production automobile!
Bertha not only had an exceptional mind for business and innovation, but she also had mechanical skills. On her road trip she made several repairs to the Benz model she was driving, and even made her own invention along the way. The term “brake shoes” even comes from this drive where Bertha got into an accident and went to a shoemaker to have him build her the first ever brake shoes, affixing leather pads to the wheels so that she could more reliably stop the car on her trip.
Bertha Benz is just one of the amazing women that helped shape the world we live in, and without her intellect and boldness, in a time where those attributes were not celebrated in women, we might not have the automobile as we know them today. Thank you to all the bold and brilliant women in the world, past and present, for making shaping history.
Come see our replica Benz Patent Motorwagen drive at 11 am Saturday March 3rd and bring the kiddos to Tinker Time. Free with paid admission to the Musuem or Musuem Membership!