By on March 27, 2014


In response to my post about how the Nazis tried to write Austrian inventor Siegfried Marcus (who was Jewish) out of history by ordering German encyclopedia publishers to replace Marcus’ name and credit Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz as the inventors of the automobile, some of our readers felt that I was unfairly diminishing Daimler and Benz’s contributions to automotive history. My point that in pre-1938 Austria Marcus was considered the inventor of the gasoline powered automobile was dismissed as the result of Austrian chauvinism – as if Germans haven’t been eager to accord their own countrymen the same honor.


How to resolve the matter? Well, since there was a documented attempt to rewrite history in 1940, we’d have to look at what the historical record said before 1940. Fortunately, the world’s biggest public automotive history archive is about 20 minutes from where I’m sitting now, and while some of the early automotive histories in their collection credited Daimler or Benz, the oldest source they have, dating to 1912, says that Daimler’s contribution was even by then overstated and that author made a point of crediting Marcus with making the first gasoline powered auto.

First off, it’s obvious that Benz made and sold the first practical motorcar and that Marcus regarded it as an intellectual curiosity, not an invention with practical use. However, the fact remains that what we now know says that Marcus powered a four wheeled vehicle with a gasoline fired internal combustion engine at least a decade and a half before Daimler made his motorcycle and Benz his own three wheeler. What we know today, however, isn’t as important to the topic as what was known or thought about the origins of the motorcar before the Nazis tried to diminish Marcus’ role.

To see what early automotive historians had to say about the relative roles that early automotive pioneers had in the history of the car, to get a perspective on the pre-WWII draft of automotive history, I visited the National Automotive History Collection, which is housed at the Detroit Public Library’s Skillman branch in downtown Detroit. If you’re a car enthusiast and you find yourself in the Detroit area, I cannot urge you strongly enough to visit the NAHC, which has everything from the minutes of the boards of directors of long dead car companies to service manuals for just about every automobile that’s every been made. The NAHC doesn’t just have musty old Chilton’s books, it also has a sufficient budget for new acquisitions. If there’s a book about cars, there’s a good chance the NAHC will have it in their collection.

The NAHC has a dedicated reference librarian who is very helpful with research requests and she managed to find three histories of the automobile that were published before 1940. Well, two of them actually. The third was published in early 1941, not likely to have been affected by what publishers in Germany had only recently done (the Reich’s Ministry for Propaganda issued it’s directive in mid 1940) and we’ll start with that first, going in reverse chronological order.

The Automobile Industry: The Coming of Age of Capitalism’s Favorite Child, by E.D. Kennedy, was published in January, 1941 by Reynal & Hitchcock in New York. Therein Kennedy makes the simple assertion that, “the world’s first automobile was a German automobile which Benz had completed in 1886.”

Going back to 1917, the A. J. Munson company of Chicago published The Story of the Automobile, Its History and Development from 1760 to 1917. Munson includes many early developments going back to Cugnot and various steam powered vehicles, but like Kennedy he fails to mention Marcus. Also, like Kennedy, he credits Benz. In the book’s index, the entry under Benz reads “builder of first internal combustion road vehicle” and in the text of the work Munson says, “…in 1885, Benz, a German, built the first road vehicle to run by the internal combustion, hydro-carbon motor”.

Now that would seem to settle things, but perhaps due to geography, or possibly spelling, American automotive historians may not have been aware of the role that Marcus played.

The oldest history of the automobile that the NAHC has in its collection is Motor-Cars and their Story, by Frederick A. Talbot, published in London in 1912 by Cassell and Company, Ltd. Unlike the the authors writing later, Talbot seems to go out of his way to credit Marcus, or as he spelled it Siegfried Markus, almost from the outset. In the front of the book, the list of illustrations describes one plate as “The Siegfried Markus motor-car completed in 1875, and said to be the first petrol-driven car” and the caption for that illustration goes on to say, “This is claimed to be the first petrol motor-car: it was completed by Siegfried Markus in 1875”. In the index, under Siegfried Markus it simply says, “Inventor of the automobile, 13”.

Now it must be said that we know today that Talbot got some facts wrong. To begin with, the vehicle shown in the photograph supplied by the Automobile Club of Vienna that owned it, was the second motorcar that Marcus built, and it was likely built closer to the time that Benz and Daimler were working on their first vehicle. We also know that the 1875 date is likely too late for Marcus’ first “car”, which is shown in a photograph dated 1870 and may actually have run even earlier, in the mid 1860s.

As with what we know today, the issue isn’t whether Talbot got his timeline correctly, it’s what early automotive historians felt about Marcus’ role and Talbot clearly thought that role was highly significant. From page 13 of his book:

“Who invented the automobile? This question has provoked considerable diversity of opinion. Each country would appear to bestow the wreath upon its native claimant. Thus in Germany Gottlieb Daimler secures the honour, Selden in the united States, and so on. One above all, however, would appear to be entitled to the distinction, if it should be awarded, inasmuch as he drove a petrol-driven car in Vienna in 1875. It was a four-wheeled vehicle, with the mechanism placed centrally and driven by belting over a large pulley mounted on the back axle, with front-wheel steering controlled from a pillar and hand-wheel.”

Again, Talbot seems to be describing the second Marcus car, which was much closer to late 19th and early 20th century motorcars than the primitive cart with a motor that he prior built. However, he clearly credits Marcus “above all” with being the first. Almost as if to prove his point about nationalism affecting the historical record, Talbot devotes a significant amount of ink to the story of the UK’s Edward Butler and his 1883 “tri-car” and then goes on to say, “it has been stated that Daimler produced, in 1886, the first practical petrol motor-car, but this face seems scarcely reconcilable, as I have already shown. While Daimler’s work was of far-reaching value, there is a tendency to overrate it.”

Talbot’s comments about Marcus carry a lot of wisdom about who invented the car and if that distinction really should be awarded. As I said in my original post, there are so many contributors to the idea of the automobile that it’s hard to credit a single individual. Undoubtedly Benz and Daimler were two of the earliest contributors to that idea. However, as you can see from 1912’s Motor-Cars and their Story, at least one early automotive historian, based outside of Austria, felt that Marcus deserved more credit than the German pair for originating the gasoline powered automobile.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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51 Comments on “Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due, Benz or Marcus? Pre WWII Automotive Histories on Who Invented the Car...”

  • avatar

    The joy of historical research is the constant effort to find that sometimes impossible point in time where an invention was conceived. Not made any easier due to the realization of what Robert Heinlein called “steam engine time”: The concept that when the time is right for a certain product to be invented, it will be invented, most likely in numerous places by individuals totally unconnected with each other.

    And it’s not made any easier due to the false starts. Probably the best example was the Cugneot’s steam-tractor which led almost directly to the English road engines (what would probably be best described as a cross between a stagecoach with a steam engine powering it, and an interstate bus) which took off in the early 1800’s . . . . . only to be promptly legislated out of existence by the Red Flag Laws, due to lobbying of stagecoach and other traditional transportation interests. And the Red Flag laws weren’t rescinded until around 1900 when it became obvious that England was falling behind Europe in regards to the automobile.

    Marcus may yet get his day. Fifty years ago, when I was in school and the discussion was electricity; all you ever heard was Edison, Edison, Edison. The greatest genius the US ever produced.

    Nowadays, we realize that Nikolai Tesla did at least as much, if not more, than Edison regarding electrical generation and transmission; Edison did not invent the light bulb (he only came up with a version that would burn for longer than ten minutes before blowing out); and Thomas Edison was not the kindly inventive genius that was described to us in my youth. Rather, Edison was a patent-mongering genius (today he’d probably be called a patent troll) who was in it totally for the money, and worked on the basis that any credit given elsewhere diminished the credit for his contributions.

    Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Nikolai Tesla has become trendy, even being played by David Bowie in a feature film.

    History constantly changes. It’s all a matter of who’s the victor, and who does the best research.

    • 0 avatar

      I just wonder how many kids graduate college unable to do library research. Not all information is online and many archives and library collections may never be digitized.

      My mom is in the process of moving into an assisted living apartment and we’ve been packing up a lot of photographs. If you have family photos or slides, get a scanner and digitize them for posterity, otherwise your grandkids will likely never see them. The same is true for home movies, even if you only do a quick and dirty copy by projecting the movie on a wall and shooting it in digital.

      When you find old photographs or negatives, save them. Books too.

      • 0 avatar

        Growing up in the dawn of the “internet age” my instructors acknowledged the internet, but still taught and enforced traditional library research standards. Knowledge will be lost from this generation to the next, and probably every one thereafter.

        • 0 avatar

          Learning how to do an index>abstract>journal article search back when computers used punch cards has proved to be useful when using search engines, but then the skill that I most frequently use in research and writing is the touch-typing class that I had to take in high school.

          Can anyone take Gregg shorthand these days?

          Someone should make a phone app so that when you send a text msg, the recipient receives it in a graphic form that looks like a Western Union telegraph.

          • 0 avatar

            You lost me with Gregg shorthand.

            Regarding your app I’m sure something like that does exist or will exist. If I knew more about these silly phones I’d do it myself.

          • 0 avatar

            Shorthand is rightfully deprecated. These days most folks can type just as fast as a skilled transcriptionist could take shorthand, and there’s no further transcription necessary afterwards.

            Also: TXTs. LOL.

    • 0 avatar

      As Syke says, it’s not always easy to tell, especially 100+ years later.

      It’s worthwhile to note that two of the three references, which pre-date Goebbels’ order, still credited Daimler. So his fame is not just a result of Nazi white-washing.

    • 0 avatar

      “The joy of historical research is the constant effort to find that sometimes impossible point in time where an invention was conceived. Not made any easier due to the realization of what Robert Heinlein called “steam engine time”: The concept that when the time is right for a certain product to be invented, it will be invented, most likely in numerous places by individuals totally unconnected with each other.”

      In his book “The Ancient Enginners”, L. Sprague De Camp put it: “When it is time for man to board a ship, someone will invent the ship.”

      What you said is so true; the same applies to the airplane. And going back closer to the event will not necessarily help. Up until around WWII; when you visited the Smithsonian Institute; you would find Langley’s Aerodrome on display with the placard declaring it to be first airplane capable of manned flight. (Langley was Secretary of the Smithsonian Institute beginning in 1887.) The Wright Brothers were so infuriated by the display that they had the Wright Flyer shipped to England for display; it was only with the threat of destruction during the Battle of Britain that they agreed to have it returned to America and placed on display in the Smithsonian with the provision that it be given proper credit for being the first plane capable of manned, sustained, controlled flight.

      (The Aerodrome crashed just a short distance after takeoff on both attempts at flight. It used dihedral for lateral stability instead of providing a means of lateral control. It was rebuilt by Glenn Curtiss with some modifications and briefly flown as part of his legal battle over lateral control with the Wright Brothers.)

      Many texts closer to 1900 may have given Clement Ader credit for being the first to fly; although his bat-like Eole lacked any sort of usable control surfaces (they were all of the warping type activated by pulleys off to one side instead of a stick) and was incapable of sustained flight. Mozhaysky and du Temple also managed brief hops off the end of ramp with their steam powered airplanes; the Soviets built a steam powered replica of Mozhaysky’s plane (but with modern control surfaces added) and flew it in the 1930s to “prove” he was the first to fly. Many pioneers such as Goupil understood the need for control in three dimensions, but did not build their designs because they felt the steam power plants of their day were inadequate for sustained flight; Curtiss built Goupil’s “Duck”, but powered it with an OX-5 engine, as part of his legal wrangle with the Wright Brothers.

      Most comprehensive histories of aviation will make mention of many of these as aviation pioneers; but give the Wrights the credit they deserve for making the first sustained, controlled flight; and going on to further develop their design. (“Flight: 100 Years of Aviation” published by the Smithsonian Institute devotes two pages to Langley, mentions Ader and others, but most of a chapter to the Wright Bros.) History is a tangled web; and sometimes we may uncover documentation that gives further strength to what the early pioneers achieved that was not available to contemporary historians. To strive for a definitive answer free of politics and bias is a noble; but near impossible cause.

      • 0 avatar

        Of course, De Camp and Heinlein were both contemporaries and friends. No doubt there was a great deal of cross-pollination there.

        I had the pleasure of knowing both Sprague and Catherine (his wife) back in my SF convention going days in the ’70’s and ’80’s. Quite the story teller, settle back with a couple of beers are just let the man talk. By that point he was well past his prime writing days, but he could certainly entertain an audience.

      • 0 avatar

        Just like on balance, the honour for (powered) flight goes to the Wright brothers (or possibly Gustave Whitehead), with Langley and Curtiss and Mozhaysky and whatnot as not-quite-there attempts…

        In exactly the same way, it seems to me, the honour for a working roadworthy self-propelled vehicle goes to Daimler and Benz. I don’t know if it is because Marcus was Jewish that Ronnie has got a bee in his bonnet about him, but the more he goes on about him, the more he makes Marcus look just like Cugnot and the men behind those road engines and — heck, the automobile has even been claimed for Leo from Vinci! — the more he goes on, the more Marcus looks like those Wright precursors: A good early attempt, but not quite it.

    • 0 avatar

      > History constantly changes. It’s all a matter of who’s the victor, and who does the best research.

      History as a collection of empirical events doesn’t change at all, only the narrative.

      It just happens popular narratives are universally poor because the popular mind abhors the complexity of reality.

  • avatar

    Hey Ronnie, why don’t the inventors of the English road engines get credit for the invention of the automobile (sure sounds like an early automobile to me)

  • avatar

    Ronnie – – –

    Boy, you just won’t quit this distortion, will you?

    No credible and universally accepted source, or company, in the automotive world believes that anyone other than the Benz/Daimler/Diesel trio, as a group, were responsible for the practical, modern motorcar as we know it today, with various forms of an ICE. The Nazi’s had nothing to do with that 19th Century, patent-documented history.

    Just as the Byzantine Greeks suffered from the want of a iota (“i”), you seem to suffer from the want of a tau (“t”). Your use of the word “motorcar” in both a photo captions and text in the previous post ( is not justified. I believe my posted comments discussed that in some detail.

    For example, under photos, in their captions, you said, “Replica of the first Marcus MOTORCAR in the museum of Malchin, Germany, Marcus’ hometown”; and “Early Marcus combustion engine. Dated 1870, it appears to be the same engine he used in his first MOTORCAR.” [Capitals mine.]

    And in the text following, you also said, “Marcus already had a thriving business so to him the MOTORCAR was more of an intellectual pursuit…”. And you continued that usage later in the text as well, “Marcus built a second motorcar, this one much more sophisticated than the first Marcus MOTORCAR and in a number of ways closer to a modern car than Benz’s three wheeler….” [Capitals mine.]

    All of which assigns a false status to the first Marcus device, WHICH EVEN HE DID NOT INTEND.

    (In fact,there were many inventors or tinkerers of that era who were putting motive engines on wheeled things to provide motion: In 1871, Dr. J. W. Carhart, professor of physics at Wisconsin State University, and the J. I. Case Company, built a working steam car that won a 200-mile race. AND THAT WAS EVEN A REAL CAR!

    The Marcus device was clearly a MOTORCART, ending with a “t”, and not a MOTORCAR, – – – hence your omission of the “t” changes everything, doesn’t it?

    Even your headline in the previous post, said in part, “How the Nazis Made Daimler & Benz the Inventors of the Automobile…”, and that clearly implies that the Nazi fabricated this whole Benz thing, as though there were no substance to it. And of course, that flamboyant distortion served to garner the attention and agreement of your readership, since it implied a discovery about how bad those Nasty Nazis were (big surprise there). I’m afraid that is psychological manipulation, Mr. Schreiber.


    • 0 avatar

      You do have a point here, NMGOM; though I don’t share your opinion that Ronnie has some dark manipulation behind his reasoning.

      Others have already mentioned Cugnot’s steam carriage and the steam road carriages in England prior to the Red Flag act. But, for a steam powered MOTORCART, google “William Murdock steam carriage” and you will see pictures and documentation on the steam carriage that Murdock built in 1784. In general layout and principle, it is a MOTORCART along the lines of the Marcus device; but powered instead by a steam engine; and came out nearly a century earlier.

      The fact is, like the aeronautical pioneers I mentioned in another thread, all of these were an evolutionary dead end; they were pioneering efforts that played out and did not result in the MOTORCAR we use today. That was for Benz/Daimler/Diesel and others to do in terms of automobile, and the Wrights, Curtiss, Farman and others to do in terms of the aeroplane we have today.

      • 0 avatar

        Where do you put Santos Dummond in the the creation of the airplane? Just curious. Because Brazilians (of course we would, wouldn’t we?) and the French name him the inventor.

        • 0 avatar

          Don’t forget Richard Pearse.

        • 0 avatar

          Santos-Dummond’s first recognized flight is on November 12, 1906; and is credited with being the first person to fly in Europe.

          Santos-Dummond was weathly, but also an experienced ballonist and a clever mechanic, and built a series of 15 airships; starting in 1898 with the Santos-Dummond 1. His development of the non-rigid airship and his piloting skills made it possible for him to win a prize for the being the first to fly from St. Cloud to the Eiffel and back in his No. 6 in October 1901. He later used his Santo Dumont No. 9 airship as a runabout in Paris; sometimes leaving his airship tied up outside while he ate or drank coffee.

          His plane is named the 14bis because he took the gondola of his Santo Dumont No. 14 airship, trimed it down, and fitted box kite-like control surfaces to the front, and similiar wings with a large amount of dihedral (to eliminate the need for lateral control) to the back, along with landing gear. This is the plane in which he made a series of short hops starting on October 23, 1906, and followed by his official flight.

          I almost forgot about his crowning achievement, the Demoiselle series of monoplanes. According to wilipedia:

          “In 1908, Santos-Dumont started working with Adolphe Clément’s Clement-Bayard company to mass-produce the Demoiselle No 19. They planned a production run of 100 units, built 50 but sold only 15, for 7,500 francs for each airframe. It was the world’s first series production aircraft. By 1909 it was offered with a choice of three engines: Clement 20 hp; Wright 4-cyl 30 hp (Clement-Bayard had the license to manufacture Wright engines) and Clement-Bayard 40 hp designed by Pierre Clerget. The Demoiselle could achieve a speed of 120 km/h.[8]”

          The wikipedia article also states that some feel that Santos-Dumont deserves credit for the being the first to fly a practical fixed wing aeroplane because his 14bis had wheels; while the early Wright Flyers used skids and a takeoff rail. Like the arguements in this article; there will never be a definitive answer; it all depends on whether you are cheering for the Wrights or Santos-Dumont. Both deserve their place in history as aviation pioneers. I also give Santos-Dumont credit for taking his earnings from his Eiffel Tower prize and splitting it between the poor of Paris and his airships builders; along with giving away his plans to the Demoiselle for free rather than trying to capitalize on it like the Wrights did.

          Santos-Dumont as also an early automobile owner; he owned a deDion three wheeler and the very early Le Zèbre cars.

          • 0 avatar

            Thanks! Very balanced and complete answer. Sometimes, when discussing these things, people take sides which leads nowhere.

            Another couple of interesting facts on Santos Dummont. He is credited with inventing the wrist watch. Apparently he came upon the idea as he needed a timepiece for his tests but also needed his hands to fly his airplanes.

            Also, he was a kind of crazy guy. Believing that he had in fact invented the airplane, seeing the carnage brought on by his “invention” in WWI, he committed suicide.

          • 0 avatar

            Marcelo, Santos-Dumont is thought to have developed multiple sclerosis; which eventually forced him to give up his aeronautical research and move back to Brazil. The wikipedia article outlines how a series of unfortunate incidents only deepened his depression from his original multiple sclerosis illness until he died; some feel he was murdered.

          • 0 avatar

            Yes, I know. I state the suicide story because it’s the one that has the most credence around historians here. His disease did debilitate him and cause his on and off depression to hit deep. The cause for his mood swings in unknown. Some say it was the result of his bi-polar nature, others cite deep-rooted personal issues. There are stories of him falling into melancholy even as a child.

            And yes he was a car enthusiast. He was one of the first in Brazil to own one and certainly the first in my (and his) home state, Minas Gerais.

            He was a talented guy, maybe even a genius. He patented many things, things still in use. The biggest inventions on the general public are the wrist watch and airplane,though.

          • 0 avatar

            FAscinating! Thanks!

      • 0 avatar

        jhefner – – –

        “….I don’t share your opinion that Ronnie has some dark manipulation behind his reasoning.”

        Mr. Schreiber’s “dark manipulation” is to solicit agreement by the imagery of Nazi irrationality. Guess I am very sensitive to the use of loaded language.

        For example, a better and more credible title for Mr. Schreiber’s original post (IMHO), – – – one that is more imagery neutral, – – – might have been “The Contributions of Siegfried Marcus in Automotive History”, or something comparable to that.

        Thanks for your comment…


    • 0 avatar

      “Ronnie – – –

      Boy, you just won’t quit this distortion, will you?”

      I wanted to see what the early histories actually said, so I went to the NAHC and reported on what they had there, as I found it. I’m not sure how accurately quoting historical sources, including those that credit Benz, is a distortion. I cited three pre-WWII sources. Two credited Benz, one credited Marcus.

      Since one out of three citations seems to be too much credit to Marcus for you to bear, which would you prefer, not mentioning him at all, or only mentioning his “motorcart” in the context of minimizing his contribution to the development of the automobile?

      Should we also ignore Marcus’ other inventions, his magneto and carburetor, that were important, perhaps necessary, steps in the development of the internal combustion engine?

      Should the NAHC remove Frederick Talbot’s book from their collection because he credits Marcus and you think it offends the memory of Daimler and Benz? Actually, it’s hard to tell what you think of Talbot since you carefully avoid mentioning him.

      What do you think of what Talbot said in 1912?

      • 0 avatar
        Felis Concolor

        Perhaps we should just limit and qualify our questions until we achieve the answers we want.

        Thank you very much for digging up these important historical accounts; in an age where many people speak only in and of superlatives, it’s good to come across confirmation the past history of what we knew is never as clear cut as many insist it was.

      • 0 avatar

        I wouldn’t dismiss Talbot, however, the fact that you found one source out of three that credits Marcus as the first guy isn’t actually much of a proof. It is one source only and there might be a reasoning behind the other two not mentioning Marcus (speculation, obviously, but still).

        While it is certainly interesting that you found a pre-1940 source mentioning Marcus, isn’t it more interesting that you found two that did not, but in fact credit Benz? In this regard I tend to agree that your assertion that the evil Nazis erased Marcus from history is at least an exaggeration.

        Additionally, while the existence of the memorandum to German lexicographers cannot and should not be denied, this memorandum in no way makes an argument as to the truthfulness of the claim that Marcus was the first. In fact, German-language Wikipedia claims that while the first Marcus vehicle can be reliably dated to 1870, the second one – the vehicle that more closely resembles a car (considering the first one lacked brakes, transmission, steering) can be reliably dated to 1888/89 (not 1875!) through letters from the company that built it. Thus, while the Nazis might have had an interest in leaving out Marcus’ contribution, his contribution actually did not precede Benz. (The research that indicated that later date for the 2nd Marcus vehicle was done in the 1960s and later confirmed by several other researchers.)

        • 0 avatar

          madcynic – – –

          Amen. You are spot on.

          Ronnie asked what we think about Talbot. Well, not everything that comes out of Britain is credible…think of the Cardiff Giant, for example, or Chamberlain’s “Peace” with Hitler!

          Talbot has had little credibility in the automotive history realm, considering current research. Ronnie’s own comments explain a part of “Why”:
          “Now it must be said that we know today that Talbot got some facts wrong. To begin with, the vehicle shown in the photograph supplied by the Automobile Club of Vienna that owned it, was the second motorcar that Marcus built, and it was likely built closer to the time that Benz and Daimler were working on their first vehicle. We also know that the 1875 date is likely too late for Marcus’ first “car”, which is shown in a photograph dated 1870 and may actually have run even earlier, in the mid 1860s.”

          My God, if Talbot got simple things like this wrong, what else did he get wrong? Hence, no credibility, regardless of anything else he might have gotten “right”. (Confession: One of my own scientific papers had a foolish factual error. As a result, I could only questionably convince the surface-science community that the REST of the findings were OK. Tough crowd.)

          But Ronnie is also not addressing his absolutely false accusation that the Nazis initiated the “Benz-Invented-The-Automobile” thing. His title to the original post was: “How the Nazis Made Daimler & Benz the Inventors of the Automobile…” The Nazi’s had nothing to do with the reality of the Benz legitimacy.

          As I said to “jhefner” above, a less hysterical , more level-headed, and more appropriate title, might have been, “The Contributions of Siegfried Marcus in Automotive History”, or something comparable to that.


  • avatar

    For firsts, one should not forget Frenchman Joseph Cugnot, whose Fardier a vapeur (steam engine car) was built in 1769. No, it didn’t go anywhere in the business sense, but it preceded the others by 100 years. (Although if someone were to come up with yet someone else, earlier, I wouldn’t be too surprised.)

    • 0 avatar

      Is he the one that also crashed into a stone fence or something? I remember that from years ago.

      • 0 avatar

        Hah! I don’t really know what he crashed into, but crash he did! Maybe one of our colleagues will enlighten us.

        • 0 avatar

          Just saw your post below Marcelo! It takes me a long time to finish typing, people…

        • 0 avatar

          Hanging a copper boiler and steam engine in front of your front driving wheel will make any FWD car today total awesome! He built a second model in 1770; it’s unstable three wheel arrangement overturned on a Paris street; and Cugnot was locked up afterwards. That machine is in a museum in Paris.

          He originally intended it to be a gun carriage used to haul cannon; and not as a vehicle in and of itself; it only had a single seat for the driver.

          I thought Murdock’s steam carriage of 1784 preceeded Cugnot; but I am obviously wrong. It is closer in design to the Marcus machine; it is just steam powered instead of i.c. powered.

          Pulling out one of my books; a missionary to China named Verbiest had propelled a model by steam issuing from jets in a container and which blew upon vanes fixed to the periphery of a wheel in 1680. Denis Papin; who is credited with an early form of steam pumping engine, made a model that used his piston-in-cylinder arrangement with a rachet drive to the rear wheel in 1698.

    • 0 avatar

      Let’s not forget that the distinction of the very first automobile crash in history also belongs to M. Cugnot. On his very first public display of the new invention, he crashed into a tree at the ungodly speed of 10 or 15 mph.

      No one was hurt, though I figure that dampened the attraction of the new machine!

      Anyhow, I think the invention of the car was a collaborative effort by many. Some, for whatever reason, have gone down in history, others have been forgotten.

      I for one salute them all.

      • 0 avatar

        Well if we’re going to talk the distinction of crashes, then I’d like to bring up my Grandmother. She crashed into the first traffic light in Denver the day after it was installed. I don’t know how fast she was going, but I don’t think she was hurt. (She was also among the first three women in Colorado to earn PhDs, so she was very distinguished.)

        But all that certainly does not detract from M. Cugnot’s achievements. Heck, having built one of the first cars, he was hampered by the fact that there was no one to teach him to drive!

  • avatar

    inventor of the motor car is Henry Leland, he took the remains of the first ford motor company after herny ford leave. then he founded Cadillac.
    the cadillac A model in 1904 is belived to be the first usable car as we intend today. the cadillac A was the first car to be mass produced, with standard interchangeable parts.
    sorry but before that cars were more rich men’s toys than a locomotion device.

    • 0 avatar

      Where on gods little green earth did you dug up this tidbit of misinformation as well as revisionist history other than who and why Cadillac was formed is well beyond me and any other intelligent person with so much as a modicum of automotive history knowledge ! Simple fact is .. much everyone wants to vilify the Nazi’s even for things they didn’t do [ as if the proven things they did do were not enough ] Benz created the FIRST automobile … sold the FIRST one ( actually his lovely wife did while taking the first one out for its first extended drive … bet you din’t know that either did you ? ) etc

      Cadillac as the first automobile … and first to be mass produced as well … thats almost laughable .. if it wasn’t so pathetic

      As far as mass production …. that term never even so much as came into being until Henry Ford brought the concept into automotive production … and it was THEN … with the Model T … that the automobile was no longer strictly a Rich Man’s toy . And BTW …. Cadillac …. has ALWAYS been at the very least a well to do mans toy if not a rich ones since the companies inception . Which is why it almost came to a halt until Chevrolet … soon to become GM bought the remainders of the company .

      As to the airplane ? Everyone here might want to take a look just a wee tad bit North ( New England ) if you’re really interested in learning who Actually created the very first FLYING airplane … that in fact on its maiden voyage out flew even the 4th generation plane the Wrights had concocted . So why do the Wrights get all the credit you ask ? US Government favoritism eliminating one and promoting the other … plain and simple

      Ahhh revisionist History . Makes for an entertaining story … but Truth ? … Not so much !

      • 0 avatar

        I take it you are referring to Gustav Whitehead. His is an example of where later research may prove that this early pioneer accomplished more than we give him credit for.

        But, he did not help his cause by not having a photographer present for his first flights like the Wright Brothers and Santos-Dumont did. (Or, to be more accurate, no photographs have survived to this day.) Nor for whatever reason did he attempt to promote or make money from his invention after he succeeded.

        I agree that after the spat between the Wright Bros. and the Smithsonian over Langley and who was the first to fly that they are not an impartial judge in this matter. Whitehead is not even mentioned in the Smithsonian book I mentioned before.

        Yes, there is Richard Pearse and and a host of others who died in relative obscurity. Like I said before; it is almost impossible to come up with a definitive answer free of politics and bias.

        In my steam themed study, along with pictures of steam locomotives, steamships and steam pumps; I have 1/72 scale paper models of steam airplanes over my desk. They are of the Henson’s Aerial Steam Carriage of 1849, duTemple’s steam monoplane of 1874, Mozhaiski’s steam monoplane of 1884, the Eole of 1894, and Whitehead’s No. 21 of 1901; though I never found the definite answer on whether No. 21 was steam powered, i.c. powered, or both; since he experimented with both, and had seperate engines driving the wheels and propellers.

      • 0 avatar

        someone should read some books, or look one of those “cars” built before the cadillac.
        who cares the nazi? the came 20 years later!

      • 0 avatar

        Oldsmobile had the first assembly line.

        Cadillac won the Dewar trophy in 1908 for making working interchangable parts, which were a critical component for the development of mass production. (This was the source of the “Standard of the World” slogan.)

        Henry Ford created the benchmark for automotive mass production, which established the standard in the industry until Toyota’s lean production methods eventually replaced it. But Ford did not invent either the assembly line or interchangable parts, although he gets full credit for advancing them both.

        • 0 avatar

          yes, olds maybe was the first to develop mass production, but first models were hardly considerable as cars. 3hp, 300kgs of weight, brake on 1 wheel….
          so the innovation wasn’t big evolution for consumers. small cars were not practical, unreliable, slow, not real cars in my opinion.
          in europe Bugatti designed the peugeot bebè in 1910, good try but was nearly unusable.
          usable cars back in the day were incredibly expensive because hand made.

          cadillac with standardization was able to develop the ford A and made it practical and reliable, built different versions even with 4 cilinder engines.
          then ford made the “usable” car cheap and we know the rest of the story (and drive a ford T isn’t easy).
          in europe we had opel, renault, citroen, morris in 1910-1915… but war slowed everything.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    Of course the Amercians love to claim that the Wrights were the first to fly etc , but it is well Known that New Zealand’s Richard Pearse was in fact the earliest and replica of his plane is on Display in Auckland’s Transport and Technology museum. In the late 60’s his actual plane was hanging up in the roof of the museum.
    it has always been a mystery to me that Hitler allowed Daimler Benz to continue to use the Name”Mercedes” on it’s product. After all, the girl who was Named Mercedes and whose father was Daimlers first ‘dealer’ ,Mercedes Adrienne Ramona Jellinek was the granddaughter of Vienna’s Chief Rabbi,Adolf Jellinek.

    • 0 avatar

      There were limits to what even Hitler could do to stamp out his percieved enemies and rewrite history. Hugo Eckener, manager of Luftschiffbau Zeppelin in between the war periods, was a well known anti-Nazi who objected to the nationalization of Luftschiffbau Zeppelin and the Nazi flags being painted on the tails of the Hindenburg and Graf Zeppelin II. But he was a popular man in Germany and elsewhere; and while Hitler succeeded in blacklisting Eckener throughout the war; he was not able to dispose of him.

      And Pearse is in the same boat as Whitehead and others, dying in relative obscurity little known outside their country or region of their contributions to aviation. As already mentioned several times already; technological history is not a straight line, but a tree with many branches; some of which we know little to nothing about, and terminate without leaving a legacy of other branches branching from them in the form of further developments.

    • 0 avatar

      >> New Zealand’s Richard Pearse was in fact the earliest and replica of his plane is on Display in Auckland’s Transport and Technology museum.

      From the Museum’s Web Site:

      “The eyewitness accounts also tell us of Pearse crashing his plane into a
      gorse bush after only a few seconds in the air. This means that Richard
      Pearse did not achieve sustained and controlled flight, and this is why he
      himself never considered it to be the real thing.”

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    I see the process of invention like a river: there will always be a tributary which is born the farthest from the river’s mouth to the sea.

    But in many instances, said tributary is not the one that provides the greatest water-flow. Many times a much shorter tributary enhances a small stream into a full fledged river.

    This added water-flow may enable the original stream to survive the crossing of deserts, to carve a path thru solid rock, to continue flowing in the flattest of plateaus.

    Even then, the river may still not yet be useful for navigation, or be able to provide life to significant population centers, nor be spanned by magnificent bridges or bordered by iconic structures.

    It takes the water from many other streams and many other rivers to fully create the world’s most important rivers.

    Invention is the same.

  • avatar

    Spain likes to take credit for the first submarine, Ictineo II designed by Narcís Monturiol i Estarriol, but I suppose it’s only “first” with some qualifiers (first air-independent, combustion-powered submarine).

    As we can see with the car/cart distinction, these things are often evolutionary, and who’s first depends on where you draw the line between what’s a car (or submarine, or airplane) and what isn’t.

  • avatar

    The first real motorcar was Ford’s Model T. By the late 1920’s it represented more than 80% of all motor cars in service in the world. Granted western and mittel Europe would have represented themselves better had it not been for the destruction of WWI.

    I once learned to drive a Model T. It was nothing at all like driving a modern motor vehicle. The throttle was on the dash. So was the spark adjustment. It top ended at about 45 mph. This was way above the practical speed limit of most wagon roads in those early days.

    The mass produced Model T motor made the prosperity of the 1920’s in America. It powered everything on the farm. Country boys everywhere learned how to fix it.

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