The secret journey
Bertha Benz resolutely took the driving seat of the Patent Motor Car herself. She was convinced that the day-to-day reliability of the new vehicle needed to be physically demonstrated to the public. Without her husband’s knowledge, Bertha Benz therefore embarked on a publicity tour in the early hours of an August day in 1888. Accompanied by her two sons Eugen (15) and Richard (14), she drove one of her husband’s three-wheelers from Mannheim to Pforzheim. When dusk fell this intrepid trio had reached its destination without incident. She informed Carl Benz by telegram that the first long-distance journey with his Patent Motor Car had been a success. News of this sensational event spread like wildfire: two young boys and a woman on a hissing, thumping horseless carriage – this could only be the work of the Devil himself, some said.
But Bertha Benz had achieved what she set out to do: the critics had at least been silenced where reliability was concerned, and everybody was talking about the Benz Patent Motor Car. Without the commitment and resolution of Bertha Benz, the automobile would undoubtedly have had a slightly more difficult journey into the future. Karl Benz later wrote the following in his memoirs: 'Only one person remained with me in the small ship of life when it seemed destined to sink. That was my wife. Bravely and resolutely she set the new sails of hope.' On May 5, 1944, two days after her 95th birthday, Bertha Benz died in Ladenburg, the family’s last place of residence.