April 13, 2005

Today in Automotive History 1925

Today in Automotive History

1925 Elwood Haynes Of Kokomo

Elwood Haynes died in Kokomo, Indiana, at the age of 67. Haynes, the founder of the Haynes Automobile Company, led a remarkable life that began in Portland, Indiana.

The son of pioneer farmers Judge Jacob and Hillinda Haynes, Elwood thirsted for education at an early age. He eventually received degrees in engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and from Johns Hopkins. He returned to Portland to become a high school teacher in his subjects. His career and life turned around as the result of the discovery of vast natural gas deposits near Portland.

Forever curious, Haynes familiarized himself with natural gas containment and piping methods. He became the architect for the Indiana Natural Gas Company's pipe network that provided most of Chicago with natural gas. Haynes was the first man to suggest that natural gas should be dehydrated before it was piped, a principle still in use today.

From his laboratory at the Indiana Natural Gas Company, Haynes began tinkering with internal combustion engines. He completed his first car in 1894, one year after Charles Duryea is credited with having built the first American car.

Such was the dissemination of information at the time that Haynes, even until his death, was credited with building the first American car. After creating his prototype, Haynes started his own car company, which he ran for nearly three decades. He is credited with a number of automotive innovations, including the rotary engine. But Haynes' greatest achievements came as a metallurgist.

He was the first American to pioneer the oxidization of steel and the use of chromium to retard nature's oxidization process. He eventually received a U.S. patent for "stainless steel," although the invention first surfaced in England under the name "rustless iron."

Haynes' biographer, Ralph Gray, described the man succinctly, "Neither exceptionally bright nor a fast learner, Haynes had the capacity to absorb completely that which he had learned... He had an uncanny ability to be at the forefront of the most exciting new industrial and technological breakthroughs in his state during his lifetime." In our age of specialization, it is hard to imagine one man making such an impact in such diverse fields of exploration.

Posted by Quality Weenie at April 13, 2005 07:48 AM

If you have any other information on Elwood Haynes I would be interested in taking a look at it. I have been told that he was my great great grandfather. Please email me if so.

Posted by: Sharon Davidson at August 12, 2005 07:43 PM