No celebration of Women’s History Month would be complete without commemorating the vital role Bertha Benz played in the development of the automobile. In a nutshell, she was the funder of the world’s first internal combustion automobile and the first female driver. Fortunately, the Newport Motor Museum keeps its spirit alive in the form of a multimedia exhibit that explains the whole story.
The 1886 Benz Patent-Motorwagen is the brainchild of Karl Benz, husband of Bertha Benz, who was granted German patent DRP 37435 on January 29, 1886 for the first motor-powered vehicle. Although Ms. Benz funded the development process, as a woman she was unable to hold patent rights under German law. On July 3, 1886, Karl Benz officially unveiled his invention to the public at the Ringstrasse in Mannheim, Germany.
Ironically, later in 1886, about 60 miles away, Gottlieb Daimler (Mercedes) patented an internal combustion engine and began building a four-wheeled horseless carriage. Neither Benz nor Daimler knew of the other’s work. The rest, as they say, is history.
Corn this This is where the story gets really good…
In 1888, Bertha Benz drove the Benz Patent-Motorwagen (unbeknownst to her husband) on a 65-mile trek from Mannheim to her hometown of Pforzheim, Germany. Before returning the same way, she had repaired the carburettor with her hatpin and an electrical short with her garter belt and had even refueled with Ligroin cleaning fluid purchased from a pharmacy in Wiesloch, known to this day as “the world’s first filling pump”. station.”
The Patent-Motorwagen looks a bit like a horse-drawn carriage, notably having a small front wheel and two larger rear wheels. The construction used a lightweight tubular frame with wire-spoke wheels and steering was by rack and pinion connected to a tiller. The brake was a manually operated leather pad with a lever.
The original vehicle was restored in 1906 and donated to the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany. The Newport Car Museum reproduction was made by Mercedes-Benz and is an extremely accurate recreation of the original.
Although the Newport Car Museum focuses on cars from the early 1950s through to current models, this car was a must for the collection, if not for its historical significance, then at least for its sentimental value to the museum’s founder, Gunther Buermann. Originally from Mannheim, Buerman, as a child, remembers his mother’s great-uncle helping Karl Benz work on his invention.
The Newport Car Museum is handicapped accessible and hours are daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online at www.newportcarmuseum.org. Regular admission: $18/adult; $15/seniors, military, students; $8/5 to 15 years (with an adult); Free / 4 years and under (accompanied by an adult). 1947 West Main Rd. (Enter at traffic light), Portsmouth, RI 02871, 401-848-2277.
Source: Newport Motor Museum