Stuttgart – Mercedes Jellinek sitting in a Mercedes: it may not appear so at first, but this recently discovered photo is a mini-sensation as, before it was found, there were no known photos of the lady who gave her name to the brand sitting in the world-famous car.The newly-added original Mercedes Jellinek material in the Daimler archive comes from the estate of her son, Hans-Peter Schlosser, who bequeathed his mother’s personal photos and documents to his godchild living in Salzburg, since he had no children of his own. It includes three albums containing a total of around 300 photographs showing scenes from the previously little-known life of Mercedes Jellinek. The archive’s newly acquired treasures include childhood pictures of Mercedes Jellinek, who was born in Vienna on 16 September 1889, as well as photos from her time as a young adult in Nice – on a yacht named Mercedes, on horseback and reading a book in a lounge. There are also wedding photos from her first marriage with the Viennese Baron Karl Schlosser from 1909 and family scenes with her two children: Elfriede (born 20 June 1912) and Hans-Peter (born 3 May 1916). Although not all of the photos are inscribed or dated, they afford an insight into the private life of the Mercedes brand’s eponym – and into the life of a young, well-heeled lady at the dawn of the 20th century.
One of the newly acquired documents is a well-preserved birth certificate for “Mercedes Adrienne Ramona Manuela Jellinek”, on which the changing of the family name to “Jellinek-Mercedes” authorised on 24 June 1903 can also be seen. Incidentally, this document confirms that Mercedes was the name entered on her birth certificate, whereas it was previously widely believed that Mercedes was “just” her father Emil Jellinek’s pet name for her.
The marriage certificate for Mercedes Jellinek and Karl Freiherr von Schlosser is now also in the archive, as is her obituary notice; the lady who gave the Mercedes brand its name died before even reaching forty on 23 February 1929 in Vienna whilst married to her second husband Baron Rudolf Weigl – hence the entry “Mercedes Freifrau von Weigl, née Jellinek-Mercedes”.
Further newly acquired items from the estate include a passport from 1927, on which it can be seen that the Austrian citizen had chestnut-brown hair and green eyes – details that were not apparent on black-and-white photos, and of which the public at least was previously unaware.
The estate has therefore provided a mini-sensation in the shape of the ‘Mercedes in a Mercedes’ photo as well as a host of details which help to shed more light on the history of the world-famous brand’s eponym. After all had her father Emil Jellinek not been so besotted with his daughter, the Mercedes brand would presumably never have seen the light of day – and the “second coming” of the automobile could have been very different.
Background: Mercedes becomes a global brand with boundless charisma
When Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz invented the automobile independently of each other in 1886, excitement for this totally new kind of vehicle was initially somewhat muted in Germany. In Nice, however, well-known Austrian businessman Emil Jellinek was fascinated by the automobile right from the start. His first “big car”, which showed him the way from the three-wheeler to the four-wheeled automobile, was a Benz Viktoria .
The car buff, then in his early forties, became aware of the company Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) in 1896 after reading a newspaper ad, whereupon he set off for Cannstatt in Germany to order two cars. Emil Jellinek was very demanding when it came to performance, electric ignition and many other aspects, always wanting the finest technology available at the time.
He was able to get all of this in Stuttgart. In 1897, the businessman started advertising Daimler cars to the highest echelons of society on the Côte d’Azur. Baron Rothschild and other high-profile personalities of the time bought the German cars from him. By the time Gottlieb Daimler died in 1900, Emil Jellinek had sold 34 cars in this way – no mean feat at that time.
On a personal level, too, the car inventor from Stuttgart and the sophisticated car salesman obviously hit it off, as Gottlieb Daimler invited Jellinek and daughter Mercedes to his villa in Taubenheimstrasse in Cannstatt many times. On these occasions, Jellinek introduced Mr Daimler to the idea of Daimler taking part in races and endurance tests with its own cars and under its own name. He finally convinced both him and the designer Wilhelm Maybach that the future of the automobile lay in speed and elegance. For him, speed was not about the attraction of being careless, rather the actual purpose of a motor vehicle: “If I can’t get any more from a car than I would get from a horse and carriage, I might as well stick with the horse!”
A Daimler “Phoenix” 28 hp was made specially for him so he could enter a race event in Nice in 1899. There are two versions of events: the first describes how Emil Jellinek named the car he was driving there after his then ten-year-old daughter Mercedes; the second states that he registered for the race under the pseudonym Mr “Mercedes” – apparently deception was fairly common among racing drivers at that time: Baron Henry de Rothschild, for example, starts as Dr. Pascal. Daimler factory driver Wilhelm Bauer wins on Jellinek’s “Phoenix” car the Nizza–Magagnosc–Nizza long-distance drive.
“We have entered the Mercedes era”
Towards the end of March 1900, catastrophe struck during Nice Speed Week: in the Nice–La Turbie hill climb, Wilhelm Bauer died after an accident in a Daimler “Phoenix” 23 hp registered as “Mercedes II”. Co-driver Hermann Braun, who had already rolled over in the second registered car “Mercedes I” in the Nice–Marseille race, once again escaped without injury. The initial reaction from Stuttgart was to blame the excessive engine power for the accident, and to stay away from all high-speed driving in future.
However, Emil Jellinek managed to convince Wilhelm Maybach – Gottlieb Daimler had passed away shortly before this in early March 1900 – that the car’s high centre of gravity was the reason behind the accident: “Victories make you world-famous. People buy the winning brand, and always will. It would be commercial suicide to stay away from racing,” argued Jellinek.
DMG yielded to Jellinek’s urgings and, in April 1900, decided to develop an all-new car with an all-new engine. Following Jellinek’s suggestion, the new model series was to appear under the name “Daimler-Mercedes”. The dealer pledged to take a complete series of 36 cars and ensure that the press in France, Germany, and Austria reported on the new vehicle.
The first new model, a Mercedes 35 hp racing car, was delivered to Jellinek on 22 December 1900. Developed by Wilhelm Maybach, it caused a sensation at the start of the century, as it was the world’s most sophisticated car to date.
At the Nice Speed Week towards the end of March 1901, the Mercedes cars showed what they were made of: achieving four first places and five second places, the Daimler cars were a class apart – in the distance race, on the hill climb and in the mile-long sprint. French manufacturer Panhard & Levassor, which had achieved first place in all the events the previous year, withdrew its vehicles before racing commenced, prompting the General Secretary of the French Automobile Association to deliver a memorable line: “We have entered the Mercedes era.” Up until then, the French were actually considered the better carmakers. By the end of 1901, however, American billionaires such as Rockefeller, Astor, Morgan, and Taylor had all bought powerful Mercedes 40 hp models.
The Mercedes-Benz Classic Archive and Collection
With age comes wisdom, and innovation is based on tradition: these values apply in particular to Mercedes-Benz Classic and its Archive and Collection departments. The archive, one of the largest economic archives in all of Europe, and most probably the most complete archive in the automotive industry, is a remembrance of a unique company, product and idea history, starting with the invention of the automobile in 1886. Its collections show the capability for visionary and constructive development as well as documenting a multi-facetted economic and social history.
Officially, the archive history begins 75 years ago with Administrative Instruction No. 1145 from the company then called Daimler-Benz Aktiengesellschaft (public limited company). It refers to a Management Board announcement on 9 December 1936, stating that engineer Max Rauck had been asked to “gather and inspect our historical written material and picture material, with the aim of creating and administering a historical archive.” Rauck had already spent almost two years in-house sorting out material suitable for archiving at the request of the Management Board.
But the search for evidence of the company’s history was and remains by no means easy. There are still a few surviving documents from Gottlieb Daimler’s time, but documents relating to Benz & Cie are extremely thin on the ground. One exception is the collection of patents from Daimler-Benz AG and its predecessor companies: the oldest patents from Daimler and Benz, which can almost be considered the automobile’s birth certificates, are now part of the archive.
The company archive contains documents and artefacts relating to the company’s employees and history, while the product archive documents the history of passenger cars and commercial vehicles since the invention of the automobile by Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler.
The media archive contains around 3 million photographs from the very early years of automotive engineering right up to the present day. Then there is the large reference library containing some 10,000 books and 220 magazine titles, with the focus on automotive technology and economics. In addition to numerous books dealing with the Mercedes-Benz brand, Daimler AG and the companies that preceded it, there are also extensive works about general aspects of automotive and technological history.
Over and above all of this, the Mercedes-Benz Classic vehicle collection forms the basis for all automotive activities linked with the unique tradition of Mercedes-Benz. An in-house vehicle collection has been kept since 1921, and it now contains more than 900 vehicles, of which around 160 are exhibited in the Mercedes‑Benz Museum.
To this day, the archive team is committed to the increasingly important task of gathering and filing sources from various forms of media. This challenge is also relevant on a productive level, as the users are given tools with which they can extrapolate archive content using several different forms of media. For want of direct descendants, the legacy of Mercedes Jellinek is therefore in precisely the right place – the memories of the entire “Mercedes family”.