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Photographic Portraits by Lafayette from the Collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London


Negative No: Laf2806
Dated 20-03-1903

Hon. Rupert Edward Cecil Guinness, later 2nd Earl of Iveagh (1874-1967), photographed at the wheel of the 16 hp, four-cylinder De Dietrich motor car.

De Dietrich, still active today, is one of Europe’s oldest firms having operated for more than 300 years in the Alsace region of France. Against all odds it survived wars and economic depression due to its diversified product range and ability to adapt quickly to changing markets. In the past the company produced iron, weapons, railroads, home appliances, farm and industrial heating equipment.

At the end of the 19th century, De Dietrich – spotting the public attention for a new form of transportation – became also one of the first manufacturers of motor vehicles after acquiring a patent from Amédée Bollée, another manufacturer. A De Dietrich automobile won the first international race from Paris to Amsterdam in 1898, boosting the company’s reputation and bringing so many orders from all over Europe that the waiting period for a De Dietrich car was 20 months.

In Great Britain their cars were sold through a shop in London, set up by Charles Jarrot, a famous racing driver, who drove a De Dietrich in the Paris-Madrid race of 1903. The 1904 Entente Cordiale between France and Great Britain was exploited by Jarrot in his advertising campaign which proclaimed: “France’s best gift to England: the De Dietrich!”

In 1902 De Dietrich employed a young Italian engineer, Ettore Bugatti, and produced the first De Dietrich-Bugatti car the following year. However, always mindful of the bottom line, De Dietrich quickly became aware that keeping one step ahead of technical innovations in automobiles required too much capital and in 1905 its car production was closed down in favour of its core industries.

The company’s headquarters are currently located in Reichshoffen Château, which was built in 1770 by Jean de Dietrich. The château houses the firm’s extensive archive, including drawings and photographs of De Dietrich motor cars, and a lovingly restored car built by De Dietrich in 1898.

All texts copyright Barbara Borkowy and Russell Harris 2007