World Stamps

German stamp honors automotive pioneer Bertha Benz

May 17, 2024, 2 PM
On May 2, Germany issued a stamp marking the 175th birth anniversary of Bertha Benz (1849-1944), the first person to drive a long distance in an automobile with an internal combustion engine.

By David Hartwig

A German stamp issued May 2 marks the 175th birth anniversary of automotive pioneer Bertha Benz (1849-1944), the first person to drive a long distance in an automobile with an internal combustion engine.

The stamp shows photographs of Benz and the three-wheeled Benz Patent-Motorwagen she used for her long-distance road trip.

A barcode to the right of the design can be scanned with a smartphone to provide tracking information and details about the stamp. The €0.70 denomination pays the domestic postcard rate in Germany.

Benz, the wife of automobile inventor Karl Benz, played a pivotal role in the history of automotive transportation with a groundbreaking journey of approximately 66 miles in 1888.

Determined to showcase her husband’s invention, she embarked on an automobile journey from Mannheim to Pforzheim in Germany without his knowledge. The journey tested both her determination and the capabilities of the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, the first automobile powered by an internal combustion engine.

During the trip of over 12 hours, Benz encountered rough terrain, equipment malfunctions and a lack of fuel stations. She resolved an issue with the ignition system by using a garter to insulate a wire, and she stopped at pharmacies for ligroin, a petroleum solvent used as fuel, when the vehicle’s supply ran low.

Despite the challenges, her journey was a resounding success, proving the viability of the automobile as a mode of transportation.

Benz was born May 3, 1849, and died May 5, 1944, two days after her 95th birthday.

A spokesman for Germany’s federal minister of finance presented the stamp April 29 at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany. Bertha and Carl Benz’ great-granddaughter Jutta Benz and Mercedes-Benz Museum director Bettina Haussmann attended the presentation.

“The special stamp honours an extraordinary woman,” Haussmann said. “With courage, foresight and determination, Bertha Benz played a decisive role in shaping individual mobility as we know it today. Her intrepid drive in August 1888 is a milestone in the history of the motor car. She demonstrates the reliability and potential of this innovative means of transportation and paves the way for its future. Her legacy continues to inspire us today to push boundaries and make the seemingly impossible possible.”

Stahl R studio in Berlin designed the Bertha Benz stamp, which was printed by offset in panes of 10 by Giesecke+Devrient. The stamp measures 55 millimeters by 30mm.

The Bertha Benz stamps are available for purchase at Deutsche Post’s web shop.

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