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Inspiring Biography of Karl Benz

Karl Benz is the founder of Mercedes-Benz, the world’s most valuable premium automobile brand.


Karl Friedrich Michael Vaillant (Karl Friedrich Benz or Carl Friedrich Benz) was born on 25 November 1844 to Johann Georg Benz and Josephine Vaillant in Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

His father, Johann Georg Benz worked as a locomotive driver.

Unfortunately, the two-year old Karl Benz lost his father to the pneumonia.

Suffering from poverty-

After the death of Johann Georg Benz, their family suffered from poverty.

But this couldn’t deter Josephine Vaillant to provide Karl Benz with good education.

Initially, he chose to study locksmithing but later, much like his father, he was attracted towards locomotive engineering.

On 9 July 1864, at the age of 19, he graduated from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

After graduation, Karl Benz did several jobs like working as a draftsman, as a designer in a scales factory and he also worked at an iron construction company.

Unfortunately, due to lack of interest, Karl Benz was unable to settle in any of the jobs he did.

Karl Benz adored riding his bicycle and he also dreamt to produce horseless carriages.

Struggling for many years-

After spending seven long years doing several jobs, Karl Benz realised that he couldn’t fit as an employee and he is meant to be an entrepreneur.

At the age of 21, Karl Benz established his first company.

In 1871, Karl Benz and August Ritter co-founded the Iron Foundry and Mechanical Workshop (Factory for Machines for Sheet-metal Working) in Mannheim.

Unfortunately, this time Karl Benz selected the wrong business partner and as a consequence, all the assets and machineries of his company were seized.

Helped by her fiancée-

Fortunately, his fiancée Bertha Benz rescued him by purchasing the shares of August Ritter with her dowry money and thus bailing out the unprofitable company.

On 20 July 1872, Karl Benz and Bertha Benz got married.

This couple was later blessed with five children namely, Eugen, Richard, Clara, Thilde and Ellen.

Failing as an entrepreneur-

They faced new problems because of the high production costs at Iron Foundry and Mechanical Workshop and because of this, the banks at Mannheim forced them to get incorporated.

So, the Benzes teamed up with Emil Bühler and his brother.

Emil Bühler was a photographer while his brother was a cheese merchant.

Unfortunately, Karl Benz lost control over his company after the incorporation of the new owners, Emil Bühler and his brother.

At one point of time, his share in that company plummeted to five per cent.

Karl Benz’s new partners used to take decisions on their own without even consulting him and they started to completely ignore him.

So, in 1883, he left the company just after a year of its inception.

At this point of life, Karl Benz couldn’t succeed as an entrepreneur and previously, he even failed as an employee.

He did not give up even after failing numerous times.

Working on his passion-

Finally, Karl Benz established a company to produce horseless carriages.

He was always fascinated by bicycles and for manufacturing horseless carriages.

Karl Benz approached a nearby bicycle repair shop and with the help of its founders, Max Rose and Friedrich Wilhelm Eßlinger, he started a new company.

In 1883, all three of them joined hands to start Benz & Companie Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik (also known as Benz & Cie).

Initially, they produced industrial machines and static gas engines and this venture became very successful.

The world’s first horseless carriage-

Karl Benz is credited with producing the world’s first horseless carriage (automobile).

He worked hard for two years to build Benz Patent-Motorwagen, the first prototype of the horseless carriage.

Karl Benz was very exhilarated on seeing the fruition of his hard work.

By 1885, the work on this automobile got finished and this vehicle was christened as Benz Patent-Motorwagen.

In 1885, Karl Benz set up a public demonstration to display his new invention to the general public.

Woefully this demonstration did not go well and as the vehicle was difficult to control, it crashed into the wall.

Poor Karl Benz hoped that this day would be the best day of his life but unfortunately, his dreams got shattered with this failure.

He was pained as his two years of research and development didn’t yield the expected outcome.

On 29 January 1886, he received a patent for this vehicle.

In 1888, Karl Benz received the world’s first motor vehicle driver license.

Believing in himself-

Even as Karl Benz failed in his previous attempt, he preserved and started working even harder on his dream.

And for the next two years, he worked on improving his prototype.

Karl Benz worked upon his vehicle’s faults and continually improved it.

In 1887, he demonstrated his carriage prototype at the Paris Expo.

This time, the luck favoured him and his demonstration became a huge success.

By 1888, the orders for his vehicle started to pour in.

Benz Patent-Motorwagen-

Benz Patent-Motorwagen is the world’s first commercially produced and patented modern automobile.

This vehicle was made up of three wheels, a steel tube frame and wooden panels.

This car was very primary and had a tilt steering instead of a steering wheel.

Benz Patent-Motorwagen was powered by a gasoline engine and it had no gears and was able to attain a top speed of 7 miles per hour.

The suspension of this vehicle was also not great.

Benz Patent-Motorwagen was unsuitable for travelling uphill and it required a person to push it from behind to climb up a hill.

The initial struggles-

Many people disliked Benz Patent-Motorwagen as it produced unpleasant noise and smell during motion.

Getting banned-

Initially, the mayor of the town banned this vehicle from travelling on the main streets.

Karl Benz was held responsible for any accidents made by this car.

He was greatly disappointed by all these restrictions.

How a road-trip helped Mercedes-Benz?

Bertha Benz, the wife of Karl Benz played a very important role in the success of Mercedes-Benz.

She financed and marketed the vehicles.

Bertha Benz took the first ever road trip on this automobile to market the car and take it to the public.

Bertha Benz borrowed the car out of the garage without her husband’s knowledge and started the tour.

Bertha Benz and her two sons, aged 13 and 15 drove the car over 130 miles from Mannheim to Flörsheim.

She wanted to prove the practicality and usability of the vehicle.

The completion of the tour was a very noteworthy achievement, as it proved the capabilities of the car in travelling long distances.

This road trip brought the country-wide attention to their car.

The reaction of public-

As this invention was new, the public had no knowledge of the car.

So, the people grew nervous on seeing the car running on the road without any horses and some even thought that the car was possessed by a devil.

Another reason why the public hated the automobiles was that they saw the steam cars exploding and they thought that these petrol cars would explode too.

Solving the real-world problems-

During this trip, Bertha Benz tried to solve the real-world problems which the car faced during the trip.

She took the help of a cobbler to install leather onto the breaks, when her breaks began to fail.

This resulted in the world’s first pair of brake pads.

She cleaned the blocked fuel line with the help of her hat pin.

In detail about Mercedes-Benz-

By the 1890s, both Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz were independently mass producing the cars.

Mercedes-Benz was founded on 28 June 1926, when two German engineers, namely, Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler merged their companies to form a company by name, Daimler-Benz.

It was later renamed as Mercedes-Benz.

(Find how World War I merged these companies in the following paragraphs.)

The story behind its name-

The brand name of this company, Mercedes was taken from an eleven year old girl, Mercedes.

Her father, Emil Jellinek was a politician, entrepreneur and a racing enthusiast; he later ordered 36 cars from the Daimler car company.

Emil Jellinek greatly admired the Daimler cars and he eventually joined the board of the Daimler.

And in the year 1901, he requested for a new type of car model and wanted to brand those cars Mercedes, after his daughter, Mercedes.

Winning the races-

Emil Jellinek received those cars in the year 1901 and he won almost all the racing competitions with those Mercedes cars.

As a result, the popularity of the Mercedes cars sky-rocketed.

And the Daimler Company decided to brand all their cars Mercedes and they eventually trademarked the Mercedes brand in the year 1902.

This company built special models for the purpose of motor races and they won many races, like the French Grand Prix of 1908 and 1914.

During those times, their race cars could clock over 112 mph.

How Hitler helped Mercedes-Benz?

The first car produced by Mercedes-Benz was the Mercedes-Benz 770.

This model was used by Adolf Hitler, who used a bullet-proof windshield on this car.

By the 1930s, Mercedes-Benz became the dominant player in Germany.

When Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, he decided to showcase the German engineering and technology to the world.

So, he provided subsidies to Mercedes-Benz, by which it was able to participate in international motor sports.

And soon, the Mercedes-Benz cars dominated the motor racing sport events.

For five long years from 1934 to 1939, Mercedes-Benz ruled the world of motor sports.    

Surviving the two world wars-

World War I –

As Germany got defeated in World War I, it faced huge economic problems and eventually, inflation rates skyrocketed.

All these proceedings heavily burdened the automobile industry.

So, it became very difficult for Mercedes (Daimler) and Benz to individually survive, so they decided to merge in the year 1926.

World War II –

World War II destroyed Germany and its home grown Mercedes-Benz company.

Paying millions of dollars-

During the period of World War II, 46,000 laborers were forced to work in the Daimler-Benz factory to help in the war efforts.

The Daimler-Benz later paid approximately 12 million dollars in reparations to the families of these laborers.

Becoming a dominant player-

Mercedes-Benz introduced the world’s most powerful sports car, seven years after the war ended.          

It developed many newer technologies like direct fuel injection, turbo braking system, etc. and their sports car achieved the maximum speeds of 115 miles per hour.

By the 1950s, Mercedes-Benz had completely recovered and became the dominant player in Europe.

And after a period of ten years, it started to produce the best cars in the world which in addition to performing great, had great build and were reliable enough to last for many years.

And then, Karl Benz built a world-wide brand name for his company.

Moving into the future-

Mercedes-Benz is gearing itself for the future, as it works on newer technologies like automation.

Mercedes-Benz has built a self-driving autonomous truck, which they call the Future Truck 2025.

The Mercedes-Benz’s three point, star-shaped logo signifies its dominance on land, air and water.

Even a fourth point to signify the dominance over space was planned but this plan was later dropped.     

Mercedes-Benz has come a long way from producing carriages to becoming a global leader in the automobile industry by its focusing on innovation, technology and safety.

The life story of Karl Benz inspires us to believe in our dreams and relentlessly follow them to make them a reality.

Feedback from readers is highly appreciated; it helps me to deliver better results to you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What was Karl Benz childhood like?

Karl Benz’s childhood was very hard.
He lost his father at a young age and suffered from poverty.
But Karl Benz was lucky enough to receive good education, thanks to his mother, Josephine Vaillant.

What did Karl Benz study?

Karl Benz studied mechanical engineering at the University of Karlsruhe and graduated on 9 July 1864.

Was Karl Benz rich?

Karl Benz wasn’t rich in the initial phases of his life.
As a child he experienced poverty and as an adult most of his startups failed.
Karl Benz became rich only after the success of Benz & Companie Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik and Benz Patent-Motorwagen.

Where did Karl Benz work?

Karl Benz worked at several places like-
• He worked in Karlsruhe for a mechanical engineering company.
• Karl Benz worked in Mannheim as a draftsman and designer.
• He moved to Pforzheim to work for a bridge building company.
• Karl Benz also worked in Vienna for an iron construction company.
• Later, he became an entrepreneur and started several companies.

Was Karl Benz an entrepreneur?

Yes, Karl Benz was a tenacious entrepreneur.
As an entrepreneur he founded the following companies-
• In 1871, Karl Benz and August Ritter co-founded the Iron Foundry and Mechanical Workshop.
• In 1883, Karl Benz along with Max Rose and Friedrich Wilhelm Eßlinger started Benz & Companie Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik.
• In 1926, he joined hands with Gottlieb Daimler to form Daimler-Benz.

Why did Karl Benz invent the car?

Since his childhood, Karl Benz dreamt of producing horseless carriages (cars).
And by 1885, he succeeded to build the world’s first automobile, the Benz Patent-Motorwagen.

Who helped Karl Benz invent the car?

Karl Benz invented the car all by himself.

How long did it take to build the first car?

It took two years from 1883 to 1885 for Karl Benz to build Benz Patent-Motorwagen, the world’s first car.

Who is Mercedes named after?

Mercedes was named after an eleven year old girl, Mercedes.
Mercedes was the daughter of Emil Jellinek and he was a board member of Daimler.
In 1901, Emil Jellinek suggested naming Daimler cars after his daughter, Mercedes.

Featured image credit- Wikimedia Commons

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