Automotive Heritage of Kokomo - Haynes Era

In 1897 the Haynes-Apperson Automobile Company built three cars. Since the cars cost in excess of $1,000 and men were working long hours to earn six to ten dollars a week, there were not many customers. Sales continued to increase and in 1899 the company built 30 automobiles. By the following year, the company had more than 80 employees and built 192 cars. The company had sales offices in big cities, coast to coast. Business was good and in January of 1901, Edgar left the company and began planning for another company. Toward the end of the year, Elmer Apperson also departed. The following year, they opened the Apperson Brothers Automobile Company. The natural gas fields in the area were beginning to dry up and Haynes had more time to devote to the automobile factory. He could make it work without the Appersons.

Wages by now were about twenty cents an hour and the price of cars were still beyond the reach of the employees, but demand was increasing and so were the number of manufacturers. Automobile factories were popping up all across the country and there was no shortage of competition. Haynes retained the Haynes-Apperson name until 1905 for some reason, but then reorganized as the Haynes Automobile Company.

In 1908, The Kokomo Dispatch carried a story that identified how many "Scoot-Carts" were owned by Kokomo people. There were: twenty eight Haynes, ten Appersons, six Maxwells, five Buicks, four Fords and four Cadillacs. Eighteen other models were mentioned and only two people owned more than one car.

In 1910, New York City celebrated the tenth anniversary of the arrival of the first gasoline automobile in that city. Elwood Haynes was requested to lead the parade of the early automobiles and he drove the first car, followed by ten other Haynes automobiles. At that time many felt Haynes was the inventor of the first gasoline automobile. After the New York event, the original Haynes carriage was presented to the Smithsonian Institution and had a placard that read: Gasoline Automobile, Built by Elwood Haynes, in Kokomo, Indiana 1893-1894. Equipped with a one horsepower engine. Successful trial trip made at speed of six or seven miles per hour. July 4, 1894. Gift of Elwood Haynes 1910. That same year, former President Teddy Roosevelt purchased a Model 19 Haynes. Later his daughter tried out several new cars and selected a Haynes.

On March 1, 1911 a fire destroyed most of the Haynes plant and nearby companies that had excess space let the Haynes plant move temporary production into those buildings. The Haynes company had over 500 employees at that time. A group of investors from Warren, Ohio tried to get the Haynes factory to rebuild there and offered 15 acres of ground and a promise to sell enough stock to rebuild the company. Kokomo businessmen, representing the Kokomo Manufacturers Association pushed to keep the company in Kokomo. Haynes thought seriously about the Ohio offer but he did like Kokomo and if the city could raise $200,000, the company would remain in town. By March 26th, $160,000 had been raised locally and Haynes committed to rebuilding in Kokomo. Despite all of the delays, because car building was taking place in nearby buildings, the total 1911 production was 1110 cars.

The 1912 models offered electric headlights, a windshield, folding top and a speedometer as standard equipment. Another new feature was an electric starter. Until now the cars required hand cranking to get them started. That same year, the company introduced a new logo. It read, "Haynes, America's First Car." The Apperson Brothers Company later began using the logo that read, "Building Car's Since 1893." The Haynes claim was questioned by others and General Manager, A.G. Seiberling contacted the Associated Advertising Clubs to have their National Vigilance committee to investigate the issue. The slogan for that group is, "Truth in Advertising." On June 12, 1920, the report was published and clearly gave Elwood Haynes credit for building the first car.

The Haynes automobiles were constantly being improved and the company introduced an electric push button transmission in 1914 (Chrysler introduced a "new concept" electric pushbutton transmission about 50 years later). Haynes also introduced a V-12 engine that was available for auto or marine use.

In 1920, there were 1,905,560 cars sold nationally, produced by hundreds of companies. Haynes production was 3993. The best year for Haynes had been 1916, when they sold 9,813 cars. From that time on, sales had begun to decline. Manager A.G. Seiberling tried to convince the board of directors to produce a lower priced car to increase sales. Elwood Haynes was the only board member with automobile experience while the others had banking or financial experience therefore the board members felt they should continue building more expensive models, which eventually would be the demise of the company. Sales continued to decline and in August of 1924 the Haynes Company was deep in debt and was settling with some creditors at fifty cents on the dollar. On September 2, 1924 all production ceased.

After declaring bankruptcy in October, the court appointed Robert L. Tudor as trustee over the company and its assets. The total number of cars built for 1924-25 was 2459. Of that number 330 were built from new parts still in 1924 inventory. Those cars were considered to be 1925 models.

In January of 1925, the National Automobile Chamber of Commerce paid tribute to several of the early pioneers. Eleven men were recognized, of which three had worked on the original Pioneer. They were: Elwood Haynes, Edgar Apperson and John Maxwell. Elmer Apperson had passed away in 1920. Elwood Haynes passed away in April and some felt that the failure of the company was a contributing factor to his death.

There are several Haynes automobiles in Kokomo Automotive Heritage Museum and at least one Apperson and a Maxwell, as well as Haynes' original office safe. The museum has a fine collection of over 100 automobiles and hundreds of items that were built in Kokomo.


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