Daimler Celebrates a Century of the Mercedes-Benz Star

November 5th marks 100 years of an iconic badge. Easily identifiable at a distance, let’s learn how and why Mercedes-Benz reigns supreme in an ever-changing market.
Mercedes Logo 2022 8 photos
Photo: Daimler A.G.
Mercedes Logo StuttgartMercedes Logo EvolutionMercedes-Benz 20th CenturyBenz Logo 19091908 Mercedes Ad1890 Daimler Star Trademark1926 Mercedes Benz Ad
For this year’s “Best Global Brands” awards, Mercedes-Benz has earned 8th place. On-par with McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, the judges estimate the brand is worth $50.8 Billion. What began as a signet on a radiator badge, the star has humble origins.

Gottlieb Daimler was a German inventor with a goal of building small, reliable engines. Working on a project for Nicolaus Otto in the 1870s, he realized the path to success was being his own boss. He sent his wife a postcard with a sketch of a 3-pointed star. He wrote that “one day this star will shine over our triumphant factories."

1890 Daimler Star Trademark
Photo: Daimler AG
By the early 1880s, he and his friend Wilhelm Maybach perfected a small gas engine that could be throttled. Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft was incorporated in 1883 as the “Daimler Motor Company” in Cannstatt. Maybach's gasoline engines were utilized to power boats, airships, cars, and small factories, with all divisions united by the star.

Their biggest customer was a wealthy diplomat named Emil Jellinek. He was dissatisfied with other early automobiles, as their engines and bodies were merely prototypes. "I don't want a car for today or tomorrow, it will be the car of the day after tomorrow.” After becoming enamored with Daimler’s creations, he placed an order for 36 cars in 1900. He named them after his daughter Mercedes, and they were an instant hit among the aristocracy.

Mercedes is a Spanish term for godsend, and he painted his daughter’s name on all his Daimler race cars for good luck. Successes on the track quickly outshined DMG’s other products, so they adopted the Mercedes name for the entire DMG product lineup in 1902.

1908 Mercedes Ad
Photo: Daimler AG
His ambitions were to sell “the best or nothing.” so he commissioned Daimler to build a 35-horsepower engine to be placed in a Maybach. The result was the Mercedes 35HP, and it had an average speed of 31.9 mph during a race from Nice to La Turbie in 1901. This shattered the previous record of 19.4 mph and prompted French Automobile Club to state “We have entered the Mercedes era”. Becoming a fixture on all Mercedes cars by 1910, the brand and the star became inseparable.

Meanwhile, their biggest rival was Karl Benz. His Benz Patent-Motorwagen became famous after his wife Bertha decided to put it to the test. Learning her parents had taken ill, she decided to take the unproven design on the world’s first long-distance drive in 1888.

During the 65-mile adventure, she stopped at pharmacies for fuel, they became the world’s first gas stations...oh and she also invented brake pads by having a shoemaker nail hard leather to the car’s brake blocks. To distinguish these cars from lesser imposters, a laurel wreath was emblazoned on the radiator.

Benz Logo 1909
Photo: Daimler AG
Old man Daimler passed away in 1900, but his sons carried on with Maybach to build engines for the Zeppelin airships and the first practical gasoline boat motor. Often these designs were licensed to the customer, such as Daimler Motor Company Limited in England. Founded in 1896, the English brand (Coventry Daimler) was sold to Jaguar in 1960 who kept Daimler was kept as a mid-level English family car. This confusing tale is one for another day.

The most American example of the DMG ingenuity was the cooperation with a German American piano maker. Steinway and Sons used their expertise in woodworking to build a few American examples in their NYC factory, making DMG known around the world. To cement their Mercedes brand, a utility patent for the star was filed on November 5th of 1921. The star of Mercedes and the wreath of Benz were the symbols for the biggest automakers (and the biggest rivals) in the early 20th century.

After the first World War, both automakers were hit hard by inflation. Germany was forced to pay reparations to the Allies, and it led to a terrible economic depression. Pressured by federal and state governments, Benz merged with DMG in 1926.

Daimler would remain a holding company for all the brand’s assets, and it would go on to become one of the largest conglomerates in the world. The Daimler star was incorporated into the Mercedes wreath, and the rest is history. The press release serves to kickoff a week of celebration for the brand, so stay with us for complete coverage.

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