Haynes automobile advertised as America’s first car

Haynes Pioneer, Indiana’s first internal engine powered automobile

The Haynes Pioneer is best known as Indiana’s first internal engine powered automobile. Indiana automotive history begins with Elwood Haynes’ kitchen experiment with an internal combustion engine in the fall of 1893. The historic demonstration of his Pioneer automobile along Pumpkinvine Pike in Kokomo, on July 4, 1894, preceded commercial automobile production by two years. Commercial production in Indiana, and concurrently in the United States, began with the first recorded sale of a Haynes-Apperson automobile in the fall of 1896 (Out-of-staters Duryea and Winton also recorded sales in 1896.)

Haynes Pioneer

Elwood Haynes with his Pioneer automobile

Haynes ordered a one-horsepower Sintz engine that he discovered at the Chicago World’s Fair in the fall of 1893. The engine was mounted on sawhorses in the Haynes’ kitchen, and the gasoline and battery connections were installed. After much cranking the engine started. The machine “ran with such speed and vibration that it pulled itself from its attachments to the floor. Luckily, however, one of the battery wires was wound around the motor shaft and this disconnected the current,” according to Haynes’ The Complete Motorist. Shortly afterwards, Haynes made arrangements with Elmer Apperson to work in the privacy of Apperson’s Riverside Machine Works. Moreover, the intense vibration of the engine prompted Haynes to design and build a much heavier carriage frame than he had planned originally.

According to author Ralph Gray, “Haynes had conceived the idea, drawn up the plans, purchased the engine, worked out the engineering problems–using the higher mathematics he had acquired so laboriously at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, and financed the entire project. The Apperson brothers and their workmen built the car. The Appersons made modifications and offered various suggestions as the work progressed. But primary credit is usually attributed to Haynes.”

While there remains some question about who actually built the first car in America, only the Haynes was advertised as “America’s First Car.” This claim may have been based on the grounds that the 1893 Duryea was only a motorized buggy.

In 1895, Haynes and the Apperson brothers formed an informal partnership and set about building a new car, now known as Pioneer II, especially for the Times-Herald race in Chicago, the first automobile race in America. The new Pioneer II auto was unable to start the Times-Herald race because it was damaged in an accident while proceeding to the starting line on race day morning. The Pioneer II received a $150 prize for its meritorious design feature-the reduction of vibration by balancing the engine.

The Haynes-Apperson Company was incorporated in 1898 and set out to dramatically increase its production. Elmer Apperson resigned from the Haynes-Apperson Company on November 15, 1901. The firm was not reorganized until 1905, and the corporate name was then changed to the Haynes Automobile Company. Haynes relinquished direct managerial control to V.E. Minich to allow the inventor to devote more time to metallurgical research.

In 1903, Horseless Age reported on a few changes on the Haynes. Not only had a steering wheel replaced the lever, but it was designed so that the entire steering column could be tilted forward out of the way of driver or passenger upon entering or leaving the vehicle. Today we might refer to this feature as the tilt steering wheel.

Near the end of 1908, the Kokomo Morning Dispatch reported that 600 employees were capable of producing 400 cars a year (actual production for 1908 and 1909 amounted to approximately 350 cars each year). The “oldest automobile factory in the United States” manufactured two grades of automobiles-the five-passenger, 30-hp runabout selling for $2,500 and the seven-passenger, 50 hp touring car priced at $5,500. In 1911, Haynes became the first company to equip an open car with a top, a windshield, head lamps and a speedometer as standard equipment. The 1914 Haynes was one of the first to offer the Vulcan Electric Gear Shift as standard equipment.

Haynes Model 27

1914 Haynes Model 27 7-Passenger Limousine – $3,850

By September 1920, the company completed a new four-story assembly building, 500 feet by 150 feet, complete with a moving assembly line in the 1100 block of South Home Avenue. (demolished in late 1997.) At one point the assembly line reached a maximum production rate of 60 cars a day. The company also began to build its own automobile bodies in 1920 and in 1921 boasted that its cars were at least “90 percent Kokomo-made.” This post-war exuberance was followed by the contraction of the market for the type of autos that Haynes produced. Manufacturing at the Haynes plants ceased on September 2, 1924.

The Apperson Brothers Automobile Company produced its first car in 1902, building perhaps a dozen for the year. It is said that Elmer Apperson’s passion for speed and open spaces inspired the Jack Rabbit insignia first seen on 1906 racers. The Appersons continued their interest in auto racing, and their autos competed in a number of events including two Indianapolis races. Apperson Plant One was built on the site of the original Apperson Riverside Machine Works in 1910. Plant Two was constructed in the 1700 block of North Washington Street (now a Delphi Electronics plant). The corporate offices were completed across the street from this plant.

Apperson 8

1919 Apperson 8

The company employed its peak year In 1919, employing about 600 people and producing 3,000 units at the two plants. In the early 1920’s, business began to decrease. The Appersons, like many others, were not competitive with the larger manufacturers. Production ceased in 1925, thus ending the pioneering saga of Haynes and Apperson.

I recommend the following Haynes & Apperson books at Amazon.com: Haynes–Apperson and America’s First Practical Automobile: A History, by W.C. Madden, ISBN 0786426756 , The Complete Motorist, by Elwood Haynes, ASIN B0007AN0MI

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