Elwood Haynes and the nascent Indiana automobile industry: 1893-1899
By Jeffrey Shively
Appeared in the May-June 2018 issue of the Horseless Carriage Gazette
The origins of the gasoline-powered automobile in America can be a little murky. It is generally accepted today that Charles and Frank Duryea’s gasoline-fueled carriage of 1893 was the first such vehicle of domestic origin to operate in the United States. A little research uncovers other claimants. John Lambert of Ohio built and unsuccessfully marketed a three-wheeled runabout in 1891. While it was dismantled and lost to history, Lambert later produced cars in Anderson, Indiana under his own name from 1906 to 1917. Elwood Haynes of Kokomo, Indiana is a third claimant. With the help of Elmer and Edgar Apperson of the Riverside Machine Works, the “Pioneer” was built from the ground-up as a gasoline-powered horseless carriage in the fall of 1893 through the summer of 1894.
Elwood Haynes, a native of Portland, Indiana moved to Kokomo in the early 1890s to manage the local gas company. The natural gas boom was going strong on the prairie of north-central Indiana, drawing industry of all kinds to the area to exploit the cheap and plentiful energy source. Haynes need a better way to inspect the endless miles of pipeline, so he decided to build a horseless carriage. Research convinced him that gasoline was the wave of the future, so he purchased a single cylinder, one horsepower marine engine produced by the Sintz Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan, while visiting the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. Upon the arrival of the 180 pound engine at his door, Mr. Haynes immediately test ran it in his kitchen. Breaking lose from its moorings, the gyrating and smoking beast nearly demolished the kitchen. Mrs. Haynes expressed her displeasure and banished man and machine to the shed behind the house. Shortly after, the Apperson Brothers, owners of Kokomo’s Riverside Machine Works, agreed to build a horseless carriage chassis rugged enough to withstand the vibration of the single-cylinder Sintz engine.
Due to the novelty of the project, the staff at the Riverside Machine Works labored after hours on it. Mr. Haynes paid dearly for the help, spending 40 cents per hour with the Appersons, eventually investing $1,000 of his own money in the horseless carriage. It should be noted that one of the workers employed for the project was Johnathan D. Maxwell of nearby Russiaville. A few years later he would make a name for himself and become one of the most successful automobile manufacturers of the Brass Era. By the summer of 1894, the carriage was ready to test.
On July 4, 1894, the horseless carriage, now dubbed the “Pioneer,” was towed east of town on Pumpkinvine Pike. Curious onlookers watched as the 920-pound runabout was started and were amazed as it roared down this rural route at speeds in excess of 7 miles per hour with Elwood Haynes, Elmer Apperson, and Warren Wrightsman on board. Several runs that day showed Haynes that he was onto something and that horseless carriages would be practical to produce.
The “Pioneer” underwent a number of modifications in the following months. A muffler was crafted to prevent frightening horses as the carriage drove by them. The single horsepower engine was returned to Sintz and replaced with a two horsepower unit, an act which may have been the world’s first core exchange. The new engine added 130 pounds to the curb weight. The steering mechanism was upgraded to a more modern tiller. Mr. Haynes continued to drive the “Pioneer” from time to time prior to its donation to the Smithsonian in 1910, accruing as many as 1000 miles in the process.
By 1895, Haynes and the Apperson Brothers were hard at work on an engine of their own design and construction. The newer Sintz engine was an improvement over the first, but it was still lacking the power needed to move over even slightly hilly terrain. The brand-new Haynes-Apperson engine was a radical departure from these earlier designs. The opposed two cylinder engine was massive, weighing in at 300 pounds and measuring nearly four feet from front to back. It made use of cast aluminum to save weight. Despite its physically imposing size, it was a quantum leap ahead in power, producing four horsepower while weighing less than the Sintz two horsepower single-cylinder engine.
The new Haynes-Apperson carriage was also a departure from the original “Pioneer.” The first car had been a 2-3 passenger runabout with a single seat. The new machine was much larger, described as a four passenger trap with dos-a-do (back to back) seating. It was much taller, with the engine mounted longitudinally under the carriage. Another improvement was in the use of pneumatic tires. Construction of the new machine continued all summer and into the fall.
The owner of the Chicago Times-Herald thought that hosting a motorcycle (as horseless carriages were sometimes called) race would be a great publicity stunt. Originally slated for earlier in the year, it was set for Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 1895. As word spread through the somewhat limited motoring community, a number of entrants were readied for the 54 mile race around Chicago. The Kokomo Dispatch followed the exploits of the hometown boys and reported them to their readership. Elwood Haynes prepared and shipped the “Pioneer” to Chicago by rail on Tuesday, November 19. The next day, the Dispatch reported that the second car was not finished, but was expected to be completed by the weekend. On Monday the 25th, the “Pioneer” is seen on the streets of Chicago getting ready for the upcoming race. This did not sit well with some of “Chicago’s Finest,” who ticketed Mr. Haynes for driving the “Pioneer” on a public street. This incident would be recreated 15 years later for Haynes Motor Company’s public relations department, with a much pudgier Elwood being stopped by a bicycle riding constable. At long last, the second Haynes-Apperson carriage arrived in Chicago on Tuesday. The new design was a hit with the crowds, so much so that Haynes put the “Pioneer” back on a train to Kokomo the following day.
Thanksgiving in the Midwest can bring a variety of weather conditions, from 65 degrees and sunshine to sub-zero temps and blizzards. Snow fell on the Windy City that Thanksgiving. As a result, only six of the original competitors made it to the starting line. On the way to the race, the Haynes entry skidded in the snow and hit a curb. With a bent wheel and no spare immediately available, the exciting new two-cylinder Haynes was out of the race. Only two cars completed the race, a Duryea and a Benz. Elapsed time for the 54-mile circuit was 10 hours and 23 minutes.
The exact fate of the second Haynes car is unknown to this day. It was immortalized in what may be the first modern automobile advertisement in the United States. Based on the snow on the windowsills, it is likely the picture was taken in Chicago on Thanksgiving Day 1895, just prior to the afore mentioned accident. It is listed for sale for $1,000. As Hayne-Apperson did not incorporate until 1898, there is no surviving record of the sale.
The writers of Horseless Age were quite impressed by the work of Haynes and Apperson. The November 1, 1896 issue devoted pages 18-19 to “Haynes & Apperson’s Newest Model.” Three pictures depict the engine, and the carriage itself, a large six passenger machine riding on wire wheels with smooth pneumatic tires.
The late 1890s brought greater productivity for the Kokomo concern. Three cars were built in 1897, two of which are known to survive today. Elwood Haynes and the Apperson Brothers finally incorporated in 1898, forming the Haynes-Apperson Corporation. Five cars were built that year and an additional thirty for 1899. The partnership would last until 1902, when tensions would rend both personal and professional relationships. One thing that did remain for a time was the two cylinder engine. With some modifications, the original 1895 design would remain in production for a full ten years, being replaced entirely by newer four cylinder engines after the 1905 model year.
By 1912, Elwood Haynes had returned to his first love, metallurgy. He developed the super-alloy, Stellite, and patented stainless steel. Haynes International is a leader in alloy production world-wide to this day. He became less involved with automotive concerns, busying himself in the temperance movement and Republican Party politics. Besides his early use of cast aluminum in the two-cylinder engine, Haynes would go on to pioneer the tilt steering wheel in 1902 and an advanced, though ill-fated shifting mechanism, the “Vulcan Electric Gear Shift” of 1914. Although most of the cars built by Haynes from 1914 to 1925 were inline sixes, a Light Twelve V-12 engine was offered from 1917 to 1922. The last Haynes automobile rolled off the line in 1925, the same year its namesake passed away.
The Apperson Brothers went the performance route, with their famous “Jack Rabbit” of the early ’teens. An inline six was a the most common engine offered by Apperson, but they also built a fine V-8 and a one-year only straight 8. Elmer Apperson, the elder brother, passed away suddenly of a stroke in 1920. Production of the Apperson automobile ended in 1926. Edgar Apperson would live until 1959. He spent much of his retirement in the Southwest, returning to Kokomo in the mid-1950s for the christening of a new north-south street, “Apperson Way.”
Today, the legacy of Elwood Haynes, Elmer Apperson, and Edgar Apperson lives on in the roughly 75 verified surviving examples of their motorcars, spread between the United States, England, and Australia. Visitors to Kokomo can tour Mr. Haynes’ 1915-vintage mansion, now a museum. Another facility, the Kokomo Automotive Museum, displays the largest collection of Haynes and Apperson cars in the world. The Haynes Motor Car company headquarters is now an apartment building. A lone Haynes factory building stands along the railroad track, stacked with junked automobiles and not in the best of repair. Nonetheless, the ghosts of Elwood, Elmer, and Edgar linger on in this industrial city on the Indiana prairie.
Jeffrey Shively is the curator/director of development for the Kokomo Automotive Museum. He is the editor of the Lincoln and Continental Comments and The Self-Starter and has authored three books.