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Bertha Benz and the Benz Patent-Motorwagen

The Very First Road Trip

Bench Racing

by Ryan King

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Did you know that Karl Benz is considered to be the father of the automobile?

Did you know that it might never have come to pass if it had not been for his wife, Bertha?

It's true.

Not only was she the one who financed its invention, but after Karl failed to make it a financial success, she took it upon herself to make it happen, and in the process, was the first person to take an automobile on a road trip.

Bertha, the mother of the road trip, took off without Karl being the wiser, to travel over 60 miles across the German landscape — which mind you, didn't have paved, level roads or gas stations — to see her Mother. Along the way, she realized the real purpose of the trip: to generate publicity for his new invention. Karl only found out after she sent him a telegram once she arrived. With her children in tow, she was both driver and mechanic, repairing a number of issues as she went — and she's even credited with inventing brake linings along the way.

Although Karl Benz created the first automobile, it was Bertha that both financed and proved the automobile was a practical, viable form of transportation. Thanks to her and her grit the Benz Patent-Motorwagen became a success, and with that, the entire automobile industry was launched.

Today, the achievement is celebrated with an antique automobile rally along the "Bertha Benz Memorial Route," every two years.

Next time you take a road trip, you can thank Bertha Benz, the first person bad ass enough to hit the open road on an adventure in a car.


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