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Elwood Haynes’ automotive innovation began over 100 years ago

Ideas for one of America’s first automobiles formulated in Elwood Haynes’ mind as early as 1888, while he traveled Jay County’s rutted sandy roads in a horse and buggy. He was concerned about the horse’s lack of performance and endurance.

1894 Haynes Pioneer
Elwood Haynes in the 1894 Pioneer
Copyright Elwood Haynes Museum

Haynes’s thoughts stemmed from his formal training at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. He was one of the first automotive pioneers with formal training in engineering and technology. His technical training would serve him well in the automotive and metallurgical industries.

He demonstrated his first automobile, later known as the Pioneer, on July 4, 1894, in Kokomo. Haynes and the Apperson brothers formed an informal partnership to build a new car for America’s first automobile race, the Chicago Times-Herald race in 1895. This auto drew on Haynes’s metallurgical experiments and used an aluminum alloy in the two-cylinder engine. This alloy is the first recorded use of aluminum in an automotive engine. He was also the first to introduce a nickel-steel alloy in automotive use in 1896.

The Haynes-Apperson Company was incorporated in 1898 to manufacture motor carriages, gasoline motors, and gearing for motor vehicles. The 1903 Haynes-Apperson models featured a tilting steering column to allow easy access for the driver or passenger upon entering or leaving the vehicle. In addition to being president of the automotive firm, Haynes continued his metallurgical and mechanical experiments. In 1905, he relinquished direct control of the automobile company and devoted his attention to metallurgy.

In 1907, while he was researching a suitable material for use in the distributor, he discovered the alloy that he patented under the name of Stellite. This alloy proved to be harder than steel and resistant to wear and corrosion even at high temperatures. In 1912, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved Stellite as a tool metal alloy. Stellite had a strategic importance during World War I in machining aircraft cylinder forgings and turning metal shell casings. Stellite is still in use today in space exploration and other highly corrosive environments.

Haynes improved his iron and steel alloys by adding chromium, thus developing one of the first types of stainless steel also in 1912. Stainless steel became popular for cutting utensils and other corrosive applications.

In 1913, he supported road improvements across the country and participated in the Indiana Automobile Manufacturers Association continental tour from Indianapolis to San Francisco, California.

Elwood Haynes’ contributions to industry definitely place him among the high achievers in automotive history. Next time you’re driving your car or working in the kitchen, thank Elwood Haynes for his metallurgical innovations.