Bertha Ringer: 67 Miles That Made History

C. Bertha Ringer was born in 1849 to wealthy parents in Germany. As was the custom of the time, her future was to be a wife and mother. There was no need for her to get an education, but she was fascinated with natural sciences and the workings of locomotives.

When she was 21, she became enthralled with a young mechanical engineer who was without money but filled with ideas. Her father didn’t approve, but she invested in his construction business, which was failing. Two years later, they wed.

One of her husband’s dreams was a horseless carriage. She and her husband were collaborators, with Bertha adding many of the practical innovations to make the horseless carriage practical. Her financial contributions continued to be vital.

In 1885, their ideas were presented to the public. But the public was not impressed. The problem was that the horseless carriage needed fuel to run and could only go short distances.

Bertha was fed up with the public’s fear and decided to do something that would convince them that the horseless carriage could travel distances needed by the public. She and her two oldest boys (14 and 15 years of age) quietly rolled the horseless carriage away from their home while her husband was sleeping. (She had five children in total over a span of 17 years).

Bertha planned to take the horseless carriage on a route of 67 miles. She carefully planned the route so that they would always be near a pharmacy. She had planned to use a cleaning agent which the pharmacies stocked, as fuel.

Mechanical problems were frequent, but Bertha was very inventive. She used her garter to insulate the spark plug and a hat pin to clean out the fuel line. The horseless carriage had problems with hills, so

As the public and press looked on, there became the realization that the horseless carriage, which we now call the automobile, was here to stay. We know the name Karl Benz, Bertha’s husband as an automobile pioneer but the story of Bertha’s contributions is less well-known, and that’s a shame. It took 131 years for the Automotive Hall of Fame to recognize her contributions.

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“Only one person remailed 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.” – Karl Benz



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