If ever a man depended on the energy of his spouse to pull him through, it was Karl Friedrich Benz. To speak about Karl Benz without mentioning his wife, Bertha, is telling only half of the story.
Benz was a typical inventor - grand in his ideas, a wonderful craftsman, but hopeless in business matters. Bertha Ringer believed in Karl's ability much more than he did. While he was torn by doubts on the direction he should take, she had none. He nearly lost his little mechanics shop to an associate until Bertha, then his fiancee, came along with a dowry prematurely cajoled from her parents.
Whenever the little gas engine in the tricycle that Karl built failed, Bertha would buck him up. When he wanted to give up the quest for the carriage that didn't need horses, she pushed him to continue.
To finance the development, she saw to it that the mechanics shop got some jobs.
At last, on Jan. 29, 1886, Karl registered his patent DRP37435, for a three-wheeler with a four-stroke 0.9 PS engine. DRP 37435 today is recognized as the official birth certificate of the motor car.
But the wealthy of the time, who should have bought the vehicle, doubted its reliability. The resolute Bertha came up with a grand public relations idea: a woman and two children alone on a long-distance tour. In those times, it was an unheard of adventure.
On an August morning in 1888 while her husband was occupied with other things, Bertha packed up their two sons, ages 14 and 15, swung herself into the driver's seat and drove 62 miles on rough roads from Mannheim to Pforzheim near Stuttgart. The expedition arrived just when the sun was setting.
By telegram, she and the boys let the father know that they had successfully completed the first long-distance trip in the history of the automobile.