Today we mark the anniversary of Ferdinand Porsche, who died on January 30, 1951. One of my favourite Ferdinand images is this three generations portrait-within-a-portrait, but there’s more to this fascinating man than just a memory on the wall of modern Porsche.
Ferdinand was born on September 3rd, 1875 to German parents in Maffersdorf: at that time part of Imperial Austria, now part of the Czech Republic. Middle child of five born to Anton and Anna Porsche (née Erlich), Ferdinand (below, front left) knew his own mind from the start.
Ferdinand’s older siblings were eldest brother, Anton and sister, Hedwig. Younger were Oskar and Anna. Anton junior was the obvious successor to the family tinsmithing/plumbing business, so the pressure was off Ferdinand growing up. Technically talented from a very young age, he attended the local grammar school before joining his father’s business at the age of fifteen. Ferdinand is seen here at front right.
Young Ferdinand had one fascination: electricity. His home village had no electricity, nor did the nearby town of Reichenberg, but Ferdinand knew that this was the future. Anton insisted his son forget the idea, but Ferdinand persisted, carrying out battery experiments in the attic at home. Despite knowing her husband did not approve, Anna allowed her son to continue until one day, Anton found out, crushing his son’s work underfoot before discovering that batteries contained acid.
Dad was understandably upset at the damage to his boots and his authority, but mum knew what to do, persuading Anton to allow Ferdinand (above in 1894) to take evening classes at the Reichenberger Staatsgewerbeschule (state vocational school) trade college. There they could push the young man’s talent and see just what he had to offer. She could hardly have imagined what lay ahead.
To be continued…