Thursday, 2 April 2015

long-haul or get your kicks

The first trans-continental road-trip across North America—from San Francisco to New York City, was undertaken by pioneer and doctor Horatio Nelson Jackson on a bet and as a publicity stunt to demonstrate that the automobile was not just a passing-craze. In 1903, when he and his driving partner got off to a start, there was only about three hundred kilometers of paved roadways between the end points, virtually no maps and naturally no filling- or service-stations along the way. Once, a ranch hand misdirected the travelers on a lengthy, dangerous detour so her family, it was later revealed, could see a real live car. After some harrowing adventures and many break-downs, the company—which now included a mascot—arrived on the East Coast to fanfare. Jackson’s feat was certainly an impressive one and parallels the trail-blazing journey of Bertha Benz, whose hundred kilometer trip in the summer of 1888 from Mannheim to Pforzheim marked the first time in history anyone had driven a significant distance in an automobile.
Jackson’s wife, who was also called Bertha but no relation, was a wealthy heiress who helped him finance his hobbies—as was the business partner and later wife of inventor Karl Benz, but Bertha Benz is credited as an accomplished mechanic and expert promoter, feeling her husband was inadequately marketing his prototypes. With the excuse of going to pop off to visit her mother, Benz gathered her children and off they went, without telling her husband. They made quite an impression, and although they fewer hardships that Jackson’s team, did run out of petrol—for which Benz had the wherewithal to get a suitable catalyst from a pharmacy. The success was a great boon for the name and the industry. Incidentally, the make of the car Jackson drove was a Winton—a name not around anymore, though insanely popular after Jackson’s road-trip, was vindictively driven out of business by an upstart named Henry Ford, who the proprietor of the motor carriage company would not hire. Both accomplishments transformed the landscape of the world, how we work and live and paved the paths in between.