Queenswood Historians take a journey into the past
Friday 2 October 2015
Queenswood historians had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel around the school campus in one of the oldest manufactured motor vehicles on Friday 25 September.
The Model 4 Benz Car, built in 1899, is one of just six such vehicles still in existence. It was the first car ever to be built on a production line, and is capable of surprisingly high speeds.
In Year 9 History, the girls study the Industrial Revolution. They consider transport change and engineering advances as well as the working and living conditions of developing cities up to 1900. The opportunity to see, and ride in, the oldest car they will ever set eyes on proved to be quite exciting.
The first road trip
At Queenswood we are always keen to promote the role of women in society, so the little-known fact that the first ever road trip was undertaken by a woman in a similar car to this was of particular interest to the girls.
Bertha Benz, wife of Karl, the founder of the company that is today known as Mercedes Benz, played a vital role in marketing the car and preventing the company from falling into ruin. ‘We are going to visit Grandma,’ the note read.
Early one morning in 1888, Bertha Benz wrote a brief message – ‘We are going to visit Grandma’, gathered her two sons, and left their house in Mannheim while Karl was still sleeping. She wasn’t’ ‘visiting Grandma,’ she was on a mission to save her husband’s company.
She realised that he needed to be selling cars to the public, however the people who could afford to buy them had doubts about their reliability; some even thought that motorised transportation was the work of the devil.
At that time, women who were married to business owners didn’t even operate their own horse and carriage, let alone attempt to drive motor vehicles. Bertha figured that if a woman could be seen driving without her husband in a car containing her children, the public would be more likely to buy one.
She snuck out of the house and with the help of her sons, pushed the vehicle on to the road and drove 65 miles from Mannheim to Pforzheim. With no petrol stations, phones or tow trucks along the way, this was an incredible journey for a woman to make in the late 1800s. When she ran out of petrol she had to stop at a chemist’s to buy anything that could be burnt as fuel!
The public immediately realised that the motor car was safe, practical and exciting, and an industry was born.