Today in History: Volkswagen is founded in 1937

Today in History: Volkswagen is founded in 1937
81 years ago today, the German automobile manufacturer Volkswagen was established. The idea for a small, affordable family car was introduced years earlier by engineer, Ferdinand Porsche, who wanted to create an automobile that was easy to build and inexpensive to buy. In 1933, Adolf Hitler got involved and contracted Porsche to design and build the Volkswagen (“People’s Car”) that could fit 2 adults and 3 children, drive 100 km/h (62 mph) and would cost no more than 1,000 Reichsmark (approx. $396). Hitler quickly funded the building of a brand-new Volkswagen factory to create Ferdinand Porsche’s design. Construction began on May 26, 1937. Volkswagen was founded two days later on May 28.

The People’s Car was to be made available to all German citizens through a state sponsored savings plan at a price of 990 Reichsmark (comparable to the price of a small motorcycle at the time). The car was initially called a KdF-Wagen (Kraft durch Freude / Strength through Joy). But by the time the first cars had been produced – the KdF-Wagen was displayed for the first time at the Berlin Motor Show in 1939 – World War II started. All production was halted and re-focused on military vehicles. No cars were ever delivered through the savings plan. One early Type 1 convertible model was given to Hitler on his 50th birthday.

At the end of the war, with the factory plant in ruins, the Allies used Volkswagen to help revive the German auto industry and thus the success story of the VW Beetle began. In 1950, the “beetle”-shaped car sold for approx. 4000 Deutsche Mark (approx. $2000). In 1955, VW had produced its one millionth car. In 1972, the Beetle broke the long-standing worldwide production record of Ford’s legendary Model T with 15 million vehicles. By 2003, when the last original Beetle rolled off the production lines in Puebla, Mexico, almost 22 million Beetles had been sold in over 150 countries – a true world record.

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Today in History: Julius Klinger born in 1876

Today in History: Julius Klinger born in 1876

142 years ago today, the Austrian poster artist, painter and type designer was born near Vienna. Klinger initially worked as a magazine illustrator in Vienna, Munich and Berlin. He produced numerous posters through the Berlin printing company Hollerbaum & Schmidt.

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Happy Birthday, Otl Aicher born in 1922

Happy Birthday, Otl Aicher born in 1922

The German graphic designer and typographer would have turned 96 today. Aicher was best known for his visual designs for the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. His pictograms for the different sports continue to be used worldwide.

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Today in History: Mercedes-Benz founded in 1924

Today in History: Mercedes-Benz founded in 1924

Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz merged their two companies 94 years ago on this day and created one of the greatest automobile companies in the world. It started with two different ideas for two different cars by two different men: both Daimler and Benz manufactured their own cars for some 30 years until the merger that was largely created out of economic sense. Benz & Co. formed in 1883 and its first motor car rode through the streets of Mannheim in July 1886. Daimler who had been working on his own motor carriage founded the Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft in 1890 and marketed the first Mercedes in 1901. Both companies did well until shortly after World War I when the global economic climate of the early 1920s forced the two companies to form an alliance. In 1924, Daimler and Benz began marketing their products jointly while still working under separate trademarks. In June 1926, the two oldest motor manufacturers merged to form Daimler-Benz AG.

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Today in History: Tierpark Hagenbeck opens in 1907

Today in History: Tierpark Hagenbeck opens in 1907

The Tierpark Hagenbeck is a zoo in Stellingen, near Hamburg, Germany. The collection began in 1863 with animals that belonged to Carl Hagenbeck Sr. (1810–1887), a fishmonger who became an amateur animal collector. The park itself was founded by Carl Hagenbeck Jr. on May 7, 1907. It is known for being the first zoo to use open enclosures rather than barred cages, to better approximate animals’ natural environments.

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Today in History: Hindenburg Zeppelin Disaster in 1937

Today in History: Hindenburg Zeppelin Disaster in 1937

81 years ago today, the Hindenburg zeppelin passenger airship went up in flames when attempting to land at Lakehurst, New Jersey. The footage of the colossal fireball engulfing the German airship marked the abrupt end of the zeppelin era. 36 people – 13 passengers, 22 crewmen and one ground worker – lost their lives in the crash.

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Today in History: Walter Schnackenberg born in 1880

Today in History: Walter Schnackenberg born in 1880
The German painter and illustrator would have turned 138 today.

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