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.
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.
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.
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
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