Exhibition organized from 4 to 7 October in the Mercedes World in Berlin dedicated to “Sustainable Cars, Chemicals as Part of the Solution”, a strip cartoon on Bertha, the wife of Carl Benz. This cartoon is part of ‘ENCYCLAUTO’ a strip cartoon series on the history of automobile.
At the end of his life, Carl Benz attributed his success to his wife. This story relates one of the many exploits of Mrs Benz, but first, a little historical background is needed. 1844 Fatherless, Carl owes his education to his mother whose own father was killed in the Napoleonic campaign in Russia. She lived just long enough to see her son graduate as a mechanical engineer from the Karlsruhe Politechnikum.
1872 Married to Bertha Ringer, he opens his first machine tool workshop at Mannheim: the Carl Benz & August Ritter Werkstatte. With financial difficulties, Carl often needed his wife’s help in the workshop. Devoted, she even worked the treadle of her sewing machine to charge her husband’s batteries: the spirit of cogeneration in its infancy! 1879 For a long time, Carl had wanted to improve on the patented 4-stroke internal combustion engine of N. Otto.
He focused on a 2-stoke design. About to give up, Bertha persuaded him to make one last effort for New Year’s Eve: this time it worked. 1883 He made a fresh start by forming a new company with Max Rose and Friedrich Esslinger under the name of Benz & Cie Rheinische Gazmotorenfabrik. 1884 Carl’s associates wanted to focus on the stationary engine, recently prized at the International Exposition of Antwerp. Building his dreams alone after work, Carl Benz created each piece of the first gasoline powered automobile – which ran on 3 wheels (borrowed from his tricycle). 1885-1886 N. Otto’s patent was revoked – to the profit of Carl Benz and a certain Gottlieb Daimler.
The two men live 100km apart, have similar ideas, but don’t know each other. Daimler focuses all his attention on the ‘universal engine’. Cars being just the application or pretext to use the engine in as many ways as possible: his 1885 four wheel car was in fact a stagecoach with sawn-off handles and installed with an engine. For Benz the totality of the vehicle was important: submitted on January 29, his patent to the world’s first motor-propelled automobile was validated in November. Today, every German mechanical engineer knows the patent registration number. 1888 His associates think that Carl is taking his time and their money to perfect the BENZ PATENT WAGEN. They don’t realise that at least three new concepts are being developed: Water cooling radiator, Mechanically guided valves and Electric ignition. As for Bertha Benz, she was frustrated at the lack of public interest, which saw her husband’s invention as a useless curiosity with no future. She decides to un-robe the TYP III, the 3rd version of the 3-wheeled car, in a publicity stunt…