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Elwood Haynes Museum

Updated on December 13, 2015
Elwood Haynes was a metallurgist & automotive pioneer
Elwood Haynes was a metallurgist & automotive pioneer | Source

The Building

At the northwest corner of Webster & East Boulevard Streets in Kokomo is the Elwood Haynes Museum. It was built in 1915 and Haynes resided here until his death in 1925. In 1965, which was Kokomo's centennial year, this home was up for sale. Descendants of Elwood Haynes purchased this property and donated it to the city for use as a museum of Haynes' accomplishments and the growth of industry in Kokomo. Items in the museum include china dishes, which were a wedding present to the Haynes, and a 1905 Haynes automobile. Cars at that time had a flat area in the rear. If you wanted to haul something, you placed a trunk on this surface and tied it to the car. This is why the rear compartment on a modern car is called a "Trunk".

Elwood Haynes Museum
Elwood Haynes Museum | Source

Elwood's Early Years

Haynes was born in 1857 in Portland, located in eastern Indiana. His public school education stopped after eighth grade, since the town had no high school. When a public high school opened in 1876, Elwood returned to school for two more years even though he was 19 years old. He then attended and graduated from the Worcester County Free Institute of Industrial Science (now Worcester Polytechnic Institute) in Massachusetts. Haynes then worked as a teacher and principal back in Portland, Indiana for a few years before returning to college. In 1884 he attended Johns Hopkins University where he took classes in biology and chemistry, and learned more about metallurgy. Elwood chose Johns Hopkins because the college had opened only a few years earlier and had very modern laboratories.

Elwood Haynes returned to Indiana in 1885 when his mother became ill, and she passed away. He then took a job as the head of the Chemistry Department at Eastern Indiana Normal School (it would later become Ball State University), located in Muncie. In 1886 the Indiana Gas Boom began and Haynes became superintendent of the newly formed Portland Natural Gas and Oil Company. Haynes is considered the "Father of the Natural Gas Industry" in Indiana. In 1888 he invented the vapor thermostat. In 1890 the Indiana Natural Gas and Oil Company hired him to oversee the construction of the first long-distance pipeline in the United States. It ran 150 miles, from eastern Indiana to Chicago. In this job, Haynes traveled a great deal and noted how hard travel was on horses. This would later inspire him to develop an automobile.

Automotive Work

Haynes moved to Kokomo in 1892 after completing the pipeline, and began work on his first car in 1893. He designed the car, and the Apperson Brothers built it at their machine shop. Haynes and the Apperson Brothers began producing one car per year for the next three years, then increased production up to about two hundred by 1900. In those days cars were sold by showing them at county fairs or by advertising them in print. Once an order was received, the car was built. It was then driven to the home of its new owner, who was taught how to drive, as well as maintain the vehicle. Dr. Webber ordered a car to be delivered in 1899, with the contractual requirement that its reliability be proven by driving it from Kokomo to his home in Brooklyn, New York. Haynes and Edgar Apperson embarked upon the first thousand mile automobile trip to fulfill this order. Roads of the day were quite primitive, and one observer said the wheels of the car "Carried fully fifty pounds of mud" when they reached Portland, Indiana. The two men reached Brooklyn, and spent a week teaching Dr. Webber to drive and care for his new vehicle. Dr. Webber was never able to operate the car properly, and informed the Haynes-Apperson Company. They instructed him to ship it back to them by rail, since they had other buyers available. Dr. Webber later wrote in a 1903 Horseless Age magazine article: "In a few days I received a check for the amount I had paid them. I was more than surprised at this, for I had never had any similar experience with a horse dealer."

Elwood Haynes & his automobile
Elwood Haynes & his automobile | Source

Metallurgy Work

Although best known his pioneering automobile work, Elwood Haynes' first love was metallurgy. Eventually, he distanced himself from the daily operations of the automobile company and returned to this work. His greatest accomplishments in this field were stainless steel, created by adding chromium to steel, and Stellite, a cobalt-based alloy. Haynes International, a high-performance alloy manufacturer based in Kokomo, traces its origin to the Haynes Stellite Works which Haynes founded.

2015 Induction to Automotive Hall of Fame

Five men were inducted into Dearborn, Michigan's Automotive Hall of Fame in 2015. Elwood Haynes was part of this class, which also included legendary Indy car owner Roger Penske. Haynes' grandson accepted the honor on his behalf. His video tribute for the induction can be viewed below.


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