Bertha Benz Memorial Route

Berthabenzmemorialrouteschild.jpg

Bertha Benz Memorial Route
Route information
Length194 km (121 mi)
Existed25 February 2008–present
Major junctions
Tourist loop
South endPforzheim
North endMannheim
Highway system

The Bertha Benz Memorial Route is a German tourist and theme route in Baden-Württemberg[1] and member of the European Route of Industrial Heritage.[2] It opened in 2008 and follows the tracks of the world's first long distance road trip in 1888.

History

Bertha Benz (1849–1944)

Bertha Benz's husband, Karl Benz, patented the first automobile designed to produce its own power in January 1886 (Reichspatent No. 37435).[3][4]

In early August 1888,[5] without her husband's knowledge, Bertha Benz, with her sons Richard (aged 14) and Eugen (aged 15), drove in Benz's newly constructed Patent Motorwagen No. 3 automobile, from Mannheim to her own birthplace, Pforzheim, becoming the first person to drive an automobile over more than a very short distance.[6] The distance was about 104 km (65 mi). Distances driven before this historic trip were short, being merely trials with mechanical assistants.[7][8]

Although the ostensible purpose of the trip was to visit her mother,[9] 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.[10]

The town pharmacy in Wiesloch, referred to as the "First filling station in the world", with a monument dedicated to her historic first car trip on the right

On the way, she solved numerous problems. She had to find Ligroin, a solvent available only at dispensing chemists' shops, to use as fuel.[11] Thus the still existing Stadt-Apotheke (Town Pharmacy) in Wiesloch, some kilometres south of Heidelberg, became the world's first filling station.[12] A blacksmith had to help mend a chain in Bruchsal.[13] Brake linings were replaced in Bauschlott/Neulingen north of Pforzheim.[14] And Bertha Benz had to use a long, straight hatpin to clean a fuel pipe which had become blocked, and a garter to insulate a wire.[15]

Bertha and her sons left Mannheim around dawn and reached Pforzheim somewhat after dusk, notifying Karl of their successful journey by telegram.[16] They drove back to Mannheim three days later, by a different itinerary.

Along the way, several people were frightened by the automobile and the novel trip received a great deal of publicity – as she had sought.[17] 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.[18]