A Daughter Named Mercedes: The 1898 Races Begin.

Mercedes Jellinek the name of Mercedes-Benz
Mercédès Adriana Manuela Ramona Jellinek calle...
Mercédès Adriana Manuela Ramona Jellinek called Mercédès (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This post is about the story of the new-fangled automobiles in the court of France and a a young daughter named Mercedes Jellinek.  In the spring of 1898, Emil Jellinek was just an observer–a member of the Rivera elite–however; he knew a business opportunity when he saw one.

The Marseilles to Nice run of January 1897 had been a huge success.  For 1898, the race was moved to March.  Ending so close to Monte Carlo had been a huge success.  The Rivera crowd of the day, with money to burn, were able to see motorsport in action.

It was in the south of France that Emil Jellinek ran into the automobile.  Described in his detailed work, Mercedes and Auto Racing in the Belle Epoque: 1895 – 1915, Robert Dick writes about a number of events that week in March 1898, making up something of a speed week.

Emil Jellinek

The firms of Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler did not merge until 1926.  Emil Jellinek was instrumental in the direction of Daimler-Moteren-Gesellshaft (DMG).  The story of the name “Mercedes” lies at the heart of this story.

Emil Jellinek
Emil Jellinek (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

DMG came into existence in March 1890.  As described by Robert Dick in detail, DMG would go on to license its engine to Panhard et Levassor.  They were the marque doyenne.  However, Emil Jellinek though he had better ideas for DMGs.

Emil Jellinek, the son of an Austrian Rabbi was born on April 16, 1853 in Leipzig.  He grew up in Vienna.  At age 19, he was sent to Morocco, to make his fortune.  In 1874, he injured his leg.  As the story goes, one Mademoiselle Rachel Goggman came to his aid.  They married.  Her parents were in the tobacco business.

Mademoiselle Rachel and Emil had three children.  The oldest was born in 1889 in Vienna.  her name was Mercedes Adriana Manuela Romona Jellinek.  Tragically, her mother died of cancer in 1893.  During the winter months, Emil Jellinek had been setting up proverbial shop in Nice.  After seeing the cars in March 1898, he travelled to Constant, the home of DMG, with a crazy idea.

As it stood, Panhard et Levassor held the patent and licensing rights to sell the DMG system and engine in France.  Not a single part from a Daimler could legally be sold in France as a result of this agreement.

But, like all good businessman, Jellinek found a loop-hole.  He would semi-officially sell DMG’s in Monaco, which was outside the jurisdictional limits of French law.  More than that, Jellinek had a vision, one so influential the it inextricably altered the course of Mercedes-Benz history.

As the story suggests, Jellinek–in the future–made his interests known.  He first named his Monte Carlo cars “Mercedes.”  Eventually, his brand became so influential, that all of DMG absorbed his moniker.

Emil Jellinek driving his Phoenix car
Emil Jellinek driving his Phoenix car (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The life of Mercedes Jellinek, the daughter with bright green eyes, did not live a long or happy life.  According to the New York Times, “During World War I, her father, then a diplomat, was accused of espionage and fled from Nice.  The French Government seized his villa, yachts, and cars, and he died in exile in Switzerland in January 1918.  Mercedes was forced to beg from neighbors.”

The article continues, “Her adult years will filled with illness and tragedy.  Her two marriages, both to barons, failed.  She died in a small Vienna apartment in February 1929, not yet 39 years old.”

But, history teaches us that the 1898 Marseilles to Nice race played a part, through Emil Jellinek, in shaping the entire future of motorsport history.

So, what about the race itself?

The 1898 Marseilles to Nice Race.

There were four classes; two for cars and two for motorcycles.  However, the vast majority of the competition was in the first class of cars–those weighing over 400 in kilograms.  Charron’s Panhard et Levassor attracted considerable attention by being painted white.  Also notable was the fact that a lady, Madame Laumaillé, competed on a De Dion tricycle.

Charron started second.  He soon stock the lead, with bearded De Knyff and Hourgieres following.  They were not only close together, but only one minute behind Charron.

The next morning, the cars rolled out in a fine mist.  The fine mist quickly turned into a torrential downpour.  The sheer amount of rain turned the roads to mud.  The cars’ tiny pneumatic tires slid along the surface.

In the end, Charron won again.  Hourgieres ended up second and good old De Knyff was third.  The cars were exhibition the next day, on Tuesday.

The rain from this race also stablished gear drive as being superior over belt transmission.  The rain caused the belts to slip.

 

/ Travis Turner for GPevolved.com

 

Sources:

Mercedes-Benz: Quicksilver Century, Karl Ludvigsen

A Record of Motor Racing 1894 – 1908, Gerald Rose

Her Name Still Rings a Bell, New York Times (October 19, 2001)

The Lady with the Green Eyes, Mercedes-Benz.com

The Origins of British Motoring, pt. II

The 1896 run from London to Brighton signaled the legal start of motoring in Great Britain.  Excitement had been building since the amendment to the Light Locomotive Act earlier in 1896.  I have found two interesting accounts of that inspirational day.

The 1896 amendment, raising the speed limit to approximately twelve miles per hour, went into effect on November 14, 1896.  Thousands arrived to watch cars legally travel down public roads.

London to Brighton, 1896.

In Ten Years of Motors and Motor Racing, Charles Jarrott provides a first-hand account of the historic run from London to Brighton.  According to Jarrott, “for the first time in English history legal restrictions in regard to the use of motor-cars on the public highways, except when proceeded by a man with a red flag, had been removed, and we were to be allowed to drive a car on the road not exceeding twelve miles an hour.  The run from London to Brighton had been arranged ti celebrate the event.

It was “a foggy, dull, wet, typical November morning.”  Jarrott provides color to his narrative by adding, “An occasional petrol blaze was seen through the fog which filled the hall, making the scene resemble a veritable inferno.”  It was a “who’s who” of early British car culture.

It must have been an unforgettable scene.  “The spectators had availed themselves of every possible point of vantage, to view for the first time these wonderful machines which were that day allowed to be run upon English roads.  Lamp-posts, housetops, balconies were all occupied and the thousands thronging the roadways made the passage for our car almost impossible.”

It was a cosmopolitan event for high-society and the masses alike.  “The Frenchmen were of course wildly excited; if gesticulation and talking could have accomplished anything, much would have been laid to their credit.  The English crowd was rather fearful.”

The start was slow.  Unfortunately, thousands also watched the relative unreliability of early automobiles.  The only motorcycle crashed before it ever really got started.  All things considered, Jarrott noted wryly, “it might have been worse.”

Finally, Charles Jarrott wrote of the race:

The effect of the run on the public was curious.  They had come to believe that on that identical day a great revolution was going to take place.  Horses were to be superseded forthwith, and only the marvelous motor vehicles about which they had read so much in the papers for months previously would be seen upon the road.  No one seemed to  be clear as to how this extraordinary change was to take place suddenly; nevertheless, there was the idea that the change was to be a rapid one.”

/ Travis Turner of GPevolved.com

Sources:

Ten Years of Motors and Motor Racing, Charles Jarrott

A History of the First Ten Years of Automobilism, Lord Montagu

Encyclopedia of Auto Racing Greats, Charles Jarrott, Cutter and Fendell.

The Origins of British Motoring, Pt. I

“Without any deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”

-Frank Zappa

Motoring in Great Britain was, in essence, illegal until 1896.  Emancipation Day, a cold and rainy November day, saw the run from London to Brighton, following the passage of less restrictive legislation.  This run stands as the legal start to motoring in Great Britain.

Motoring is Banned.

English: Symington steam coach of 1784
English: Symington steam coach of 1784 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Motoring was banned in Great Britain before the motor act even existed.  An essay by John Henry Knight notes that 70 years before 1906, just as railroads were being introduces, “there were scores of steam coaches and steam carriages running on [British] roads.”  He recites the great pioneers of the steam coach and steam carriage such as Hancock, Gurney, and Summers.

However, according to Knight, :”but the opposition of the Turnpike Trustees, the coach proprietors, and the railway companies nipped in the bud a promising industry by the imposition of excessive tolls and adverse Acts of Parliament.”

That Act of Parliament included the The Locomotives Act, 1865, provided “it shall not be lawful to drive any locomotive along any turnpike road or public highway at a greater speed than 4 miles per hour, or through any city, cotton , or village at a greater speed than 2 miles per hour.”  These few words quashed most progress in the motoring arts until 1896.

It is important to realize that The Locomotives Act of 1865 never contemplated the petrol/gasoline powered vehicle.  According to Mr. R. E. Moore, writing in 1906:

Of course, the truth of the matter is, that when these regulations were first imposed, the Legislature had in contemplation only such cumbrous and unwieldy machines as the old-fashioned steam traction engine, and it never occurred to any of those responsible for framing that it would ever be possible for anyone to place on the road such a striking example of engineering skill and applied science as the modern light motor-car.”

John Henry Knight driving his own creation &qu...
John Henry Knight driving his own creation “The first petroleum carriage for two people made in England” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Society was hesitant to accept similar technologies.  According to John Henry Knight, “Even when the bicycle appeared about 1869, it was viewed with displeasure and suspicion; horses would shy at it, and several accidents occurred from this cause.”

It wasn’t exactly “fast and furious” yet; however, there was a London underground motoring scene before the passage of an amendment to The Locomotives Act in 1896.  For example, Sir David Solomons, Bart., built an electric automobile in 1874,  The wealthy were quietly importing motoring vehicles for on the use on private property.  However, these privately imported vehicles were few and far between.

Public Opinion Opposed Motoring in Britain.

English: Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu, 3rd Bar...
English: Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu, 3rd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu (Photo credit: Wikipedia).  Editor of the collection of essays from which this GPevolved post relies upon.

According to Lord Northcliffe, in Montagu’s compilation of essays, “We had first enthusiasm and curiosity, causing cheering crowds to assemble when we arrived in a town; then, when it began to be seen that horses were frightened (and in those days every horse was frightened), the populace became wrathful.

Sir David Solomons, Bart., was an early proponent of legalized motoring.  According to  him., “the first step would be to interest the public, if only by way of curiosity, secondly to obtain the opinion of the press, and thirdly to influence parliament by a powerful and impartial combination…”

Although simply stated, this small grassroots movement faced overwhelming opposition.  Sir David Solomons planned to change it.

The Tunbridge Wells Demonstration.

Organized by Solomons, himself, a demonstration of several cars occurred on October 15, 1895.  According to C. L. Freeston, “it was then that the public realized for the first time that a new means of locomotion had been brought into being.”

However, the success of the event was not left to chance.  Solomons had over 10,000 invitations mailed out to this event.  It was a general success.  The press covered the event and this, presumably, helped to sway the opinion of the members of parliament.

Parliament Debates Motoring.

The comments summarizing the July 30, 1896 parliamentary debate give a sense of inevitability.  There was a feeling that the legislation would pass; it was just a matter of hammering out the particulars.  The car had to carry lights at night.  It had to have a bell.  Breaking any part of the proposed amendment would result in a fine of up to 10 pounds.

Debate heated up on the topic of “rate of speed.”  It is clear than an unlimited speed limit would never have gained parliamentary support.  The debate started off with discussion of a ten mile per hour speed limit.  They were concerned about protecting against “furious driving.”

Others objected to imposition of a strict liability statute, that it would be better to set standards depending on condition.  This suggestion, while noble, was quickly shot down.  In the end, the speed limit was increased to 14 miles per hour, from the original suggestion of 10 miles per hour.  However, in getting the increase, the proponents of motorsport gave in to language to allow every city, town, and municipality, to reduce this speed in any manner they saw fit.

And in doing so, Lord Solomon, Lord Montagu, and other proponents of motoring succeeded in changing the law of the land.  However, the act would not go into effect

The celebration of the emancipation of the motor vehicle was celebrated by a run from London to Brighton, covered in a forthcoming post.

/ Travis Turner of GPevolved

Sources:

A History of the First Ten Years of Automobilism, Lord Montagu (a collection of essays published in 1906).

Locomotives on Highways Bill [H.L.] (Hansard, 30 July 1896) (summarizing the parliamentary debate)

1897: A Lackluster Motorsport Season Concludes Early.

Mozart is not impressed, neither is GPevolved.com

1897 did not really have a “major” motorsport race, at least not on the scale as seen in 1896.  I share in Gerald Rose’s criticism of the season that, “It is certainly due to this lack of competition that the falling off in [technical] improvement is due.  There was very little difference in the cars of 1896 and 1897, such improvements as appeared being of a minor character.”

1897 Paris to Trouville.

The Paris to Trouville race was scheduled for August 14th, 1897.  There were two classes, as had recently become customary: one for light motorcycles and the other for proper automobiles.

Basically, the short of it is that the race was a second-consecutive victory for one Mr.

Das benzinbetriebene Dreirad Voiturette von Lé...
Das benzinbetriebene Dreirad Voiturette von Léon_Bollée, 1896; Damit legte er die Strecke Le Mans – Paris in sieben Stunden zurück. 650 ccm, Cité de l’Automobile – Musée National – Collection Schlumpf, Mülhausen, Frankreich (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jamin rocking a Bollée.  A Mr. Viet had a bad crash, due to cruising around a 90-degree off-camber bend, much to quickly.

On a positive note, the winning speeds of these early races continued to climb.  This race was won, by a vehicle similar to the one pictured, at an average speed of 28.2 miles per hour.  The fastest car, a Panhard et Levassor clocked in at 25.2 miles per hour.

A Personal Note on the Lackluster.

As I am quickly discovering, one of the challenges of this blog will be to effectively, efficiently–yet interestingly–deal with the uneventful.  Let me be completely honest.  Not much anything of significance happened in 1897.  Perhaps, on some level, that is–in and of itself–modestly useful to point out.

Regardless, I remain excited about this project.  Even in the face of minutia, I am firmly convinced with absolute confidence that GPevolved is preserving a story worth telling in a unique format.

Stay tuned for next post on “The Origin of Motoring in the UK” (from a Yankee, as it were).

/ Travis Turner of GPevolved.com

Primary Source:

A Record of Motor Racing: 1894 – 1908, Gerald Rose (2d. ed. 1949)

Paris to Dieppe in 1897

Val-Saint-Nicolas, near Dieppe in the Morning
Val-Saint-Nicolas, near Dieppe in the Morning (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As early motor racing seasons go, 1897 was not the best.  January’s race had generally been a success, as I detailed in my last post.  However, the Automobile Club de France (ACF) did not exactly go big in their planning for 1897.  Gerald Rose blames the lack of mechanical progress in the 1897 cars on the absence of a major city to city race.  One must remember, it is nearly another ten years until the usefulness of major circuit based races is really discovered (i.e. the Grand Prix).

The run from Paris to Dieppe is relatively short.  The course measured only 106.2 miles.  It was to be a simple one-day affair.  The lack of a major race did not translate to a lack of amateur enthusiasm in the 1897 races.  Nearly 70 entries were received for the 1897 run from Paris to Dieppe.  59 of those entries managed to show up for the race.  It is clear that more amateurs were rolling around in increasingly reliable machines, at this point in history.

It was a hot day.  The roads were dusty.  The officials had a grand idea; they would officiate the start and then take a chartered railcar to beat the cars to the finish.  That way, they could manage both ends of this relatively short city to city race.

At Beavuais, one Mr. Vicomte de Soulier had been leading, until a tire burst.  Pneumatic tires were still in their infancy and prone to failure.  However, speeds had exceeded the useful range for solid rubber tires.  Metal wheels, were just terrible, and had since been abandoned.

English: 1897 Leon Bollee
English: 1897 Leon Bollee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After de Soulier’s tire failed, Jamin, in a Bollée “tricar” took the lead.  However, in the hot wind, his ignition failed.  By Gourney, Amédé de Bollée rolled through leading in a car of his own make.

Fernand Charron, introduced in my last post, rolled through in his Panhard et Levassor, just a couple minutes behind a Mr. Hourgieres.  Shockingly, as the cars started to cross the finish line, the officials were nowhere to be seen.  Their plan of chartering a railcar had failed.  As such, the competitors were left to their own devices when it came to certifying finish times.  Thus, Rose’s finish tables (in my estimation) should be viewed with caution.

What is certain, however, is that average speeds had again increased.  The two-seated car leaders averaged upwards of 22 to 24 miles per hour.  The four seated cars, which included the De Dion steam car, were even faster.

Gerald Rose, one of the only sources for these early races, notes that this race hosted a couple of technical advancements with the new cars that ran.  For example, aluminum components began to replace their (often brass) counterparts.  Moreover, the gilled radiator also made it’s first appearance at this race.

 

Travis Turner of GPevolved.com

Primary Source:

A Record of Motor Racing 1894 – 1908, Gerald Rose (1949).