Gottlieb Daimler

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Gottlieb Wilhelm Daimler (b. March 17, 1834, in Schorndorf, Germany, (near Stuttgart); d. March 6, 1900, in Stuttgart) was a German engineer and inventor. Among his achievements was the development of an internal combustion engine. Following his death, the Mercedes brand of the Daimler-Benz firm became established in the automobile industry. His business relationship with William Steinway lasted from 1888 until William's death in November 1896, during which time William's Daimler Motor Company on Long Island produced Daimler motors primarily for use on boats.

A year older than William Steinway, Gottlieb Daimler had a remarkable record as a mechanical engineer by the time he and Steinway connected in 1888. A graduate of a technical school in Stuttgart (1848-1852), Daimler worked at a Strassburg steam engine factory before finishing his training at Stuttgart Polytechnic (1857-1859). Daimler joined Bruderhaus Maschinen-Fabrik in Reutlingen as a manager in 1863 and there met Wilhelm Maybach, with whom he would collaborate for decades. Notably in 1882, Daimler and Maybach established a factory in Stuttgart to produce light-weight, petroleum-powered internal combustion engines. Within three years, they had installed engines on a bicycle (making it a motorcycle) and on a carriage.(2)

Three different accounts exist as to how Steinways and Daimlers relationship began: First, that they became acquainted through Wilhelm Maybach, who during the 1876 Philadelphia Worlds Fair visited his brother, a Steinway employee.(4); second, that Steinway was introduced to Daimler by Steinways sister Doretta Steinway, who was living in Germany at the time (1, p.321); third, that during an 1888 trip to Europe Steinway heard that Daimler was experimenting with self-propelled vehicles.(5)

The first report in the diary of a meeting between Daimler and William occurred on August 22, 1888, in Stuttgart, when William was traveling in Germany. William wrote, Have a long talk with Daimler in the presence of Harry Candidus (Diary, 1888-08-22)

On October 6, 1888, according to Wilkins, Daimler authorized Steinway to act on his behalf in establishing the Daimler Motor Company in New York. Daimler was to receive sixty-six shares of stock and Steinway would hold most of the stock. (6, p. 25) The company was established as a New York firm on January 26, 1889.(6, p. 25) and the board of directors first met on February 2, 1889. (Diary, 1889-02-02)

In 1890, about a year after Daimler Motor Company was formed in New York, Daimler and Maybach established Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft in Stuttgart (Cannstatt) Germany. Almost immediately they were at odds with their primary investors.(3) William, in Germany, notes in his Diary entry for August 6, 1890, Daimler . . . is quite disturbed about his AktienGesellschaft at Canstatt . . . . (Diary, 1890-08-06) Maybach, not given a seat on the board of directors, resigned in 1891; and Daimler was forced out in 1893.(3) William writes in his Diary for November 11, 1894, The long awaited letter of Gottlieb Daimler arrives, and beyond the details of how he stepped out of the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft Stuttgart it does not say one word as to his future intentions about the Daimler Motor Co. here. (Diary, 1894-11-11) Some time after Daimlers and Maybachs victory in an 1894 Paris to Rouen motor car race, which came at the expense of Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, British investor Fredrick Simms conditioned his investment in Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft on Daimlers return to the firm. Daimler did return and brought Maybach back as chief engineer. (3)

William and Daimler had a complicated relationship, as Daimler sought to promote motorized vehicles in Europe and elsewhere and William tried to make the Daimler Motor Company in New York successful. At times, William wrote that Daimler nearly drives me to despair with his ideas,(Diary, 1893-10-25) and that a letter from Daimler is ridiculous, as before.(Diary, 1894-01-29) In early December 1894, William records in his Diary that Daimler is offering to buy $5,000 worth of shares in Daimler Motor Company, the U.S. firm, and that is quite unsatisfactory. (Diary, 1894-12-05). Nevertheless, the money was sent and William notes on December 9, 1894, Daimlers Remittance of $5.000. by cable arrives through Ladenburg Thalmann +Comp. this morning. (Diary, 1894-12-09) They remained in contact up until the time of Williams death in 1896.

Following Williams death in November 1896, appraisers declared the U.S. Daimler Motor Company worthless. Nearly two years after Williams death, in August 1898 a new company was formed, the Daimler Manufacturing Company. Its principal was Frederick Kübler, who had been general manager of Williams Daimler Motor Company.(1, p. 415) This firm obtained the assets and old physical plant of the Daimler Motor Co.(1, p. 415)

Daimler lived until March 6, 1900. Decades later his German company merged with the company of Karl Benz, Benz & Sons, to form Daimler-Benz AG. This company is best known for manufacturing the Mercedes-Benz automobile.(3) Both William and Daimler died before the automobile industry fully developed. However, they were actively involved and contributed importantly at the start of the business dealings that led to development of a light internal combustion engine and a successful horseless carriage.



1. Fostle, D.W. The Steinway Saga: An American Dynasty. New York and London: Scribner, 1995.

2. “Gottlieb Daimler,” available from Web site

3. “Gottlieb Daimler,” available from NNDB Website

4. Reichmann, Eberhard, and Ruth, “Steinway and Daimler-Benz” based on “The History of Industrial Automobile Production in the United States Up to the Time of the Century and the German Influence.” Antique Automobile, vol 35, January-February 1971.

5. “The Steinway-Mercedes connection,”
6.  Wilkins, Mira. “Crosscurrents: American Investments in Europe, European Investments in the United States.”