Mercédès Jellinek

Apr 30, 2017

Born 16 September 1889 in Vienna
Died 23 February 1929 in Vienna

The woman who gave her name to the first modern automobile never held a driving licence. The first photograph depicting her at the steering wheel of an automobile which was discovered in a comprehensive collection of documents and photos from her estate in 2012 was thus regarded as a sensation. The motif is believed to date from about 1906 and shows Mercédès posing especially for the camera. Yet the name of the woman who was born in 1889 as Mercédès Adrienne Ramona Manuela Jellinek remains inseparably linked to the automobile to this day, as it was she who inspired the name of the Mercedes brand as a little girl.

Mercédès was born in Vienna on 16 September 1889 as the daughter of the businessman Emil Jellinek and his wife, Rachel Goggman Cenrobert. Her mother died in 1893. The girl enjoyed a privileged upbringing – in Baden near Vienna and in Nice on the Côte d’Azur. As she was often allowed to accompany her father, little Mercédès experienced the development of the automobile at first hand. Emil Jellinek was a keen champion of the automobile. In 1897 he discovered the products of Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft in Cannstatt, and in the following year he began selling the company’s vehicles as an independent dealer to affluent members of the high society in Nice, such as Arthur and Henri de Rothschild.

Mercédès Jellinek was always around as he went about his business, and she inspired her father to adopt the pseudonym under which he fielded the first Daimler racing cars in Nice Week as early as 1899. Emil Jellinek also named his villa and his yachts after his daughter. It was thus only logical that the Mercedes 35 HP which was developed at Jellinek’s behest and duly launched in 1901 should also bear her name. In 1903 Jellinek even adopted “Mercédès” as part of his surname.

In February 1909, Mercédès Jellinek married the Austrian aristocrat Karl Freiherr von Schlosser at the age of 19. This marriage produced two children - Elfriede (born 1912) and Hans-Peter (born 1916). The couple separated in 1926 and Mercédès married the sculptor Baron Rudolf von Weigl. She died at the age of only 39, on 23 February 1929. She was buried at Vienna’s central cemetery.