HomeCar CultureCommentaryMuseums celebrate Bertha Benz, automotive pioneer

Museums celebrate Bertha Benz, automotive pioneer


Bertha Benz and her influence on the early motorcar is being celebrated all the way from Germany to California. 

In Sacramento, the California Automobile Museum devotes its Tinker Time program on March 2 at 11 a.m. to Carl Benz’s wife, noting “The cars we love today might be completely different without one amazing woman pioneer that was bold enough to see what the automobile could be back in 1887.”

In Germany, the live radio play, “My dream is longer than the night,” which recounts Bertha Benz’s life, has enjoyed success at the Studio Theater in Stuttgart and will be performed with two evening and two “family” performances May 3-5 at the Mercedes-Benz Museum. 

Those May 3-5 dates were selected because May 3 marks the 170th anniversary of Bertha Benz’ birth and May 5 is the 75th anniversary of her death.

In August 1888, Bertha Benz put her sons into her husband’s Model 3 patent motorcar and drove from Mannheim to Pforzheim and back to visit family. The trip, the first such “road trip,” made her famous and also showed the capabilities of this new invention. 

Bertha Benz, Museums celebrate Bertha Benz, automotive pioneer, ClassicCars.com Journal
Another scene from the play

The California Automobile Museum is featuring Bertha Benz during Women’s History Month and as part of its program this weekend it will parade its replica Patent Benz Motorwagen around the museum. 

And the Oscar goes to ‘Green Book’

We’ve written not only about the Academy Award-winning movie Green Book, but about the permanent exhibit at the Gilmore Car Museum in Michigan that pays homage to The Negro Travelers’ Green Book, a grassroots publication designed to keep black Americans safe as they traveled by car in the 20th Century.

The publication by postal carrier Victory H. Green and his team also is the subject of a Smithsonian Channel special, The Green Book: A Guide to Freedom, which was offered in a special screening February 28 (yes, last night) at the Cleveland History Center/Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum.  

Meanwhile, The Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Michigan, offers a special webpage on the Green Book with a link so anyone can examine a 1949 edition.

Let’s hope other car museums follow suit, showing the Smithsonian special or even the Academy Award-winning film, with a discussion session, or perhaps doing at least a temporary exhibit on the book and its role in America’s automotive culture.

Motorcycles featured at Packard museum

The 19th annual vintage motorcycle exhibit runs through May 18 at the National Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio. Here are some photos from the exhibit:

Bertha Benz, Museums celebrate Bertha Benz, automotive pioneer, ClassicCars.com Journal
A 1915 Smith Motor Wheel on a early bicycle is on loan from Norm Smith and is part of the motorcycle exhibit at the National Packard Museum | Museum photos
Bertha Benz, Museums celebrate Bertha Benz, automotive pioneer, ClassicCars.com Journal
1969 Greeves Griffon 250 on loan from Gary Bailey

Teen driving day at the National Corvette Museum

In conjunction with the Kentucky Safe Driver Program, the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green offers a full-day driver safety experience from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. on April 13. By the time the day is over, new drivers will have received the required four-hour class on driver’s awareness taught by law enforcement officials, a required for earning their graduated license certificate.

They also will visit the Kentucky State Police mobile substance abuse exhibit, learn blind-spot safety with a tractor trailer, discuss emergency air medical services with the local Air Evac Lifeteam and will learn about vehicle care and maintenance from the museum staff. To register, visit the museum’s website before April 5.

Special events this weekend

The Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile in Torino, Italy, hosts a presentation March 2 at 10:30 a.m. on the Group 6 Lancia Spider that carried Riccardo Patrese, Michelle Alboreto, Teo and Corrado Fabi and others during the 1982 season. 

Registration closes March 1 for the Museum In Motion trip to the 24 Hours of Le Mans race with the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The dates for the trip are June 6-17 and the tour includes four nights in London, three in Angers for the race and then another in Paris before flying home.

Mark your calendar

The Brooklands Museum in England offers a presentation March 7 by author Matt James on the 60-year history of the British Touring Car Championship

The Seal Cove Auto Museum in Maine hots its Brass Club speakeasy gala on March 9 from 7 until 9 p.m.

The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia hosts the second model car show staged by the Philadelphia Area Car Modelers from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. on March 9. The theme for the show will be “Welcome to Woodstock! — It’s all about VW’s, Man!”

Muscle Car City in Punta Gorda, Florida, hosts its 10th anniversary car show March 9 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.

The 31st induction ceremony at the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in Daytona Beach, Florida, takes place March 11-12. Inductees will be Augie Duesenberg, Dario Franchitti, Phil Remington, Don Schumacher, Kevin Schwantz, Tony Stewart and Linda Vaughn.

The California Automobile Museum in Sacramento opens a new exhibit, Micro Cars, on March 15.

The National Corvette Museum’s Motorsports Park will be the site of BingeTokyo on March 16-17. Though it may sound as though only Japanese vehicles are welcome, organizers say all makes and models are welcome in what they believe to be “hands down the cheapest seat time you will get,” seven hours of track time over two days for $500.

LeMay Collections at Marymount participates in the Almost Spring swap meet and car show at the Washington State Fair Events Center in Puyallup, Washington, on March 16-17.

The Miles Through Time Automotive Museum in Toccoa, Georgia, stages a car club cruise-in on March 23.

“RADwood: Cleveland Goes Rad” is the title for an exhibit/experience running through March 24 at the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in Cleveland. Staged in partnership with RADwood car shows, the exhibit will celebrate 1980s and ‘90s car culture and will showcase vehicles, clothing, music “and everything in between.”

LeMay Collections at Marymount in Tacoma, Washington, hosts the LeMay Tea Party on March 30.

The Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild will stage a reunion and model car exposition April 4-7 at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, where more than 100 of the cars will remain on exhibit through October.

“USAC Stars: From Dirt Tracks to the Brickyard” is the theme of a panel discussion at 6 p.m. April 9 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum featuring U.S. Auto Club racing champions Brady Bacon, Tyler Courtney, Dave Darland, Justin Grant and Kody Swanson. 

SEMA’s CuS.T.E.M. Car Experience visits the LeMay – America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington, on April 19. The program introduces middle school students to the automotive customization hobby through STEM education experiences. 

Britain’s National Motor Museum at Beaulieu hosts its annual “Simply Audi” car show on April 21.

The AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, is organizing a bus trip to the New York International Auto Show on April 27.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame museum in Charlotte, North Carolina, opens a special “RCR 50: Only in America” exhibit featuring 50 years of Richard Childress Racing in May. 

The Simply Ford gathering May 5 at Britain’s National Motor Museum at Beaulieu will feature the 60th anniversary of the Ford Anglia 105E and the 50th birthday celebration for the Ford Capri.

The AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, opens two new summer exhibits on May 18 — Studebaker Cool: 114 Years of Innovation, and Harley-Davidson: History, Mythology and Perceptions of America’s Motorcycle. Both exhibits run through October 20.

Britain’s National Motor Museum at Beaulieu hosts both its silver-anniversary spring autojumble (swap meet) May 18-19 and a 60th anniversary celebration of the Mini. 

LeMay Collections at Marymount in Tacoma, Washington, offers Model T drivers education classes May 18, June 8, July 7, August 4 and September 8.

The IMS Museum presents the 21st annual Indianapolis Historic Racing Exhibition on May 23-25 when around 70 Indianapolis 500 racing cars are expected to return to the track for exhibition laps and to be displayed in the museum parking lot inside Turn 2. The event is open to cars that raced at Indy between 1911 and 1994.

LeMay Collections stages LeMay Motorcycle Days from June 13-23 with 200 motorcycles on exhibit and with rounds of motorcycle soccer.

“The Car. The Future. Me” is the title of an exhibit scheduled to open July 13 at the British Motor Museum in Gaydon, UK, to explore “futuristic car design and (to) challenge your idea of how we will interact with the cars for the future,” the museum said. 

The Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan, inducts new members Sergio Marchionne, the late chief executive of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles; Janet Guthrie, the first woman to qualify as a driver in the Indianapolis 500; Richard “Dick” Dauch, co-founder of American Axle Manufacturing; and Patrick Ryan, creator of the first auto dealership finance and insurance department, on July 18 in Detroit.

On August 3, the British Motor Museum will be the site of the Classic Mini Mosaic world-record attempt that is expected to draw more than 600 classic Minis. The following day the museum will be the site of the National Metro & Mini Show.

The National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, inducts racer Briggs Cunningham, Corvette designer Tom Peters, and Dollie Cole, Corvette enthusiast and widow of former GM president Ed Cole, into its hall of fame on August 30.

“Legends of Speed,” a showcase of nearly two dozen historic racing cars, opens November 2 at the Phoenix Art Museum.

Does your local car museum have special events or exhibitions planned? Let us know. Email [email protected].

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


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