Mercedes-Benz is probably the most famous German car company in the world, and one of the most recognized and respected luxury brands. The Mercedes S-Class, G-Wagon and Mercedes-AMG GT are icons in the world of high-performance cars. The brand also has a strong racing history. But did you know about the strange side of the history of Mercedes-Benz, and the tragic story of the Mercedes Jellinek?
The history of Mercedes-Benz, Daimler and the Jellinek family
In 1886, two men invented the first automobile: Karl Benz in Mannheim and Gottlieb Daimler in Stuttgart. Benz’s wife, Bertha, is on the first long-haul road trip to convince the masses that this amazing new patented Benz car is safe.
In 1900, Emil Jellinek arrived on the scene. He is a successful businessman who has a lot of money to get rid of and wants a fast car. His love of speed and racing led him to order faster and more powerful cars from Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft. When he became their best customer, he introduced the name Mercedes – the name of one of his sons, which means “mercy”.
In 1926, the two companies merged, becoming Mercedes-Benz. As the exact name itself approaches its centenary, the major company has enjoyed over 100 years of superior luxury and performance.
Who was Mercedes Jellinek?
Mercedes Adrien Ramona Manuela Jellinek was the first daughter of Emil Jellinek. Not much is known about her as an individual – she is known only for her relationship with her father. She was born in Vienna in 1889 to a wealthy family.
By making no specific effort on her part, her legacy served as the spark for the creation of the Mercedes-Benz brand as we know it today.
Jellinek’s obsession with his daughter
Don’t get me wrong – the habit of a father’s love for his daughter warms my heart. But Jellinek’s obsession with his daughter (or at least her name) was frightening.
When the family settled in Vienna in 1889, their sprawling home was nicknamed “Villa Mercedes”. When Jellinek raced in the late 1890s, he would do so under the name “Hare Mercedes”. When he made a deal with Daimler to order 36 cars under an exclusive sales agency, he did so with an express request that those cars be named after his daughter – Mercedes 1901 35 hp (35 hp, in German).
He bought a yacht and named it after his wife. Just kidding, he named those Mercedes too.
And in 1903, racing enthusiasts legally changed his family name to Jellinek-Mercedes. Whether it was a pure obsession with his daughter or a deep-rooted lie that the name brings luck and fortune, Jellinek has taken the Mercedes name as his trademark.
The tragic end of Mercedes Jellinek
Although Mercedes-Benz was a huge success, its name was doomed to a tragic adult life filled with poverty, disease and disappointment. According to a 2001 article in the New York Times, Mercedes Jellinek had two failed marriages with barons, had to borrow and ask for alms from neighbors, and eventually died impoverished in Vienna. She was only 38 years old.
Different sources tell this story differently. Most Mercedes-Benz professionals will quickly mention that Mercedes is the apple of their father’s eye, and then move on quickly. But for the title that brought so much wealth to Emil Jellinek, he cursed Mercedes itself.
Related: Mercedes-Benz: 130 years later, 10 of its greatest cars