Celebrating 122 years of Indiana automotive innovation

On July 4, 2016, Indiana celebrated 122 years of Indiana automotive innovation. That’s right, fellow Hoosiers, Elwood Haynes demonstrated one of America’s first automobiles on July 4, 1894.

1894 Haynes Pioneer
1894 Haynes Pioneer

In 1890, while working as a gas field superintendent in Greentown, Indiana, Haynes hypothesized “Wouldn’t it be a fine thing if I didn’t have to depend on the horse for locomotion?” With his training from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, he began thinking about how to build a self-propelled vehicle. He first considered a steam engine and then an electrical motor for propulsion, but these were rejected because of their weight.

While attending the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, he ordered a one-horsepower gasoline engine from the Sintz Gas Engine Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan. When the engine arrived at his home in Kokomo, Indiana, in fall 1893, he immediately set it up for a test in the kitchen. After considerable cranking, the engine started and ran with such vibration that it pulled itself from its attachments to the floor.

This early experiment prompted Haynes to design a sturdy chassis for his automobile. He conducted further experiments to design the gearing and other requirements. When completed, the total weight of his machine was about 820 pounds.

On July 4, 1894, when the machine was removed from the shop for the trial run, men, women, and children surrounded the vehicle. For the safety of the spectators, Haynes towed it about three miles into the country along a level stretch of Pumpkinvine Pike. Haynes and two other men clambered aboard and moved off at a speed of about seven miles per hour, and were driven about one and one-half miles further into the country. They then turned around and drove all the way into town without making a single stop.

Haynes later recounted an observation about the trial run. “At that time the bicycle was very popular as a pastime, especially among the young ladies. I remember as the little machine made its way along the streets we were met by a ‘bevy’ of girls mounted on wheels. I shall never forget the expression on their faces as they wheeled aside, separating like a flock of swans and gazing wonder-eyed at the uncouth and utterly unexpected little machine.”

Between 1894 and 1897, Haynes and Elmer and Edgar Apperson built six automobiles. In 1898, they incorporated the Haynes-Apperson Company. They produced nearly 200 automobiles in 1900, the year in which total United States production amounted to about 4,200. During the next seven years, Haynes-Apperson maintained an annual production of approximately 250 automobiles.

1923 Haynes Sports Sedan
1923 Haynes Sports Sedan

In 1914, Haynes noted, “Frankly, I did not realize on that Fourth of July, when I took the first ride in America’s First Car (Haynes’ claim), that a score of years later every street and highway in America would echo the sound of the horn and the report of the exhaust.”

So, now you know the story about celebrating 122 years of Indiana automotive innovation. Thanks to Elwood Haynes for his pioneering work developing his “little machine” in 1894.

For more information on our automotive heritage follow this link.

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