Cäcilie Bertha Benz (Ringer) (1849 - 1944)

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Birthdate:
Birthplace: Pforzheim, Germany
Death: Died in Ladenburg, Germany
Managed by: David Leeds
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About Cäcilie Bertha Benz (Ringer)

Bertha Benz (née Ringer) was married to inventor Karl Benz. She invested in Benz's business in 1871, enabling him to develop the first patented automobile and in 1888 she was the first person to drive an automobile over a long distance, which brought it worldwide attention.

She was born on 3 May 1849 in Pforzheim, Germany, the daughter of Auguste Friederike and Karl Friedrich Ringer. She was the third of nine children in the Ringer family. Her father had saved some money as a carpenter and master builder in Pforzheim, which enabled his children, including his daughters, to get a good education. Bertha went to boarding school in Pforzheim for ten years..

In the summer of 1870, she met the engineer Karl Benz. The two fell in love and soon began making big plans. They both agreed that they did not want to stay in Pforzheim. She married Benz on 20 July 1872. They had five children: Eugen (1873), Richard (1874), Clara (1877), Thilde (1882), and Ellen (1890).

In early August 1888 and without her husband's knowledge, she drove her sons, Richard and Eugen, fourteen and fifteen years old, in one of Benz's newly-constructed Patent Motorwagen automobiles—from Mannheim to Pforzheim—becoming the first person to drive an automobile over more than a very short distance. The distance was more than 106 km (60 miles). Distances traveled before this historic trip were short, and merely trials with mechanical assistants.

Although the ostensible purpose of the trip was to visit her mother, Bertha Benz also had another motive: to show her brilliant husband—who had failed to consider marketing his invention adequately—that the automobile would become a financial success once it was shown to be useful to the general public.

On the way, she solved numerous problems. She had to find Ligroin as fuels which was available only at dispensing chemists' shops. A blacksmith had to help mend a chain at one point. Brake linings needed replacement. Bertha Benz had to use a long, straight hairpin to clean a fuel pipe which had become blocked and to insulate a wire with a garter. She left Mannheim around dawn and reached Pforzheim somewhat after dusk, notifying her husband of her successful journey by telegram. She drove back to Mannheim the next day.

Along the way, several people were frightened by the automobile and the novel trip received a great deal of publicity—as she had sought. The drive was very helpful for Karl Benz, as he was able to introduce several improvements after his wife reported everything that had happened along the way—and she made important suggestions, such as the introduction of an additional gear for climbing hills.

Bertha Benz died at the age of ninety-five in Ladenburg, where the workshop of Karl Benz had stood after they moved there in 1906.

HONOURS

In 2008, the Bertha Benz Memorial Route was officially approved as a route of industrial heritage of mankind, because it follows Bertha Benz's tracks of the world's first long-distance journey by automobile in 1888. Now everybody can follow the 194 km of signposted route from Mannheim via Heidelberg to Pforzheim (Black Forest) and back.

The Bertha Benz Challenge, embedded in the framework of the ceremony of Automobile Summer 2011, the big official German event and birthday party commemorating the invention of the automobile by Karl Benz 125 years ago, took place on the Bertha Benz Memorial Route on Sept 10 and Sept 11, 2011. It is a globally visible signal for a new automobile breakthrough, as it will only be open for sustainable mobility: Future-oriented vehicles with alternative drive systems – hybrid and electric, hydrogen and fuel cells vehicles – and other extremely economical vehicles. The motto will be: Bertha Benz Challenge - Sustainable Mobility on the World’s Oldest Automobile Road!

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Bertha Benz's Timeline

1849
May 3, 1849
Pforzheim, Germany
1873
May 1, 1873
Age 23
1874
October 21, 1874
Age 25
1877
August 1, 1877
Age 28
1882
February 2, 1882
Age 32
1890
March 16, 1890
Age 40
1944
May 5, 1944
Age 95
Ladenburg, Germany
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