Daimler-Benz Museum, Bad Cannstatt, Germany

Steven Dutch, Professor Emeritus, Natural and Applied Sciences, Universityof Wisconsin - Green Bay

I have little emotional attachment to cars. They are solely useful ways of getting from Point A to Point B, not an extension of my virility.

So when I say I walked through this place leaving a trail of drool on the floor, that means I was seriously impressed. Not only is this where most of the early development of automobiles took place, but what they have is breathtakingly beautiful. Century old cars that look like they just came off the assembly line.

Bad Cannstatt is a suburb of Stuttgart.

As you approach the factory, it becomes apparent it's not so much a factory as a fortress.

Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz were founders of two rival auto companies that later merged.
Emil Jellinek was a wealthy Austrian who expressed an interest in selling Daimler's cars in Austria, on one small condition. Would they mind terribly naming the car after his daughter Mercedes?

Mercedes, tragically, died in 1929 of tuberculosis at the age of 39. She did not have a happy life.

Elfreide Jellinek, one of Emil's granddaughters (not Mercedes' daughter) won the Nobel Prize in literature in 2004.

Most people are not aware that internal combustion engines were originally designed as stationary power sources, running off piped gas.

Like electric motors, they were intended as small power sources for powering individual machines, more versatile than steam engines, which typically were used to run large numbers of machines at once.

It was the invention of the carburetor, which sprayed a fine aerosol of gasoline into the spark chamber, that made it possible to run internal combustion engines on liquid fuels. The ability to use liquid fuels meant the engines could be entirely self contained and completely portable.

A natural first step was to try using them to power vehicles. Among the very first powered vehicles were bicycles, which became motorcycles.

Engines were also installed in carriages, which took some time to evolve from horseless carriages to automobiles.
If there's a single most beautiful car here, this is my candidate.
Below: not only were motor vehicles designed to carry passengers, but loads as well. At left, an early truck. At right, a fire engine.
Left: an early bus.
Below: if it moved, they put an engine in it.
Left: some things you just get out of the way of, like this 24 cylinder engine.

Below: other Mercedes engines.

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Created 22 June 2007, Last Update 04 June 2020