Elwood Haynes in his first car in 1894. Photo courtesy Elwood Haynes Museum Archives
Born in Portland, Indiana, in 1852, Elwood Haynes
invented the first successful gasoline powered automobile, as well
as stainless steel, the thermostat used in regulating temperatures
in houses, the reflector mirror used for ship-to-shore signaling
that can send a light beam 23 miles, used during wartimes, and many
other items. As a young boy, Haynes was curious about how things
worked. At age 12 he read his sister's college chemistry book, and
by age 15 he was experimenting with alloys. He attended the
Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts, and a few years
later, after a brief teaching career, he continued post-graduate
work at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He then
resumed his teaching career. In 1886, natural gas was found in
Portland and Haynes organized a company for supplying it to the
In 1892, he moved to Kokomo, where he designed the
horseless carriage in 1893, and bought a gasoline-powered engine,
which was one-cylinder with two cycles and one horsepower, from the
Sintz Company in Grand Rapids. He paid the brothers, Elmer and
Edgar Apperson, forty cents an hour to build the car from his
diagrams. After it was built and successfully tested, the Appersons
and Haynes created a corporation to build cars until 1902. Haynes
went on to invent the muffler and different metal alloys. His most
important invention was probably stellite alloy, which opened the
door to the development of a series of space age alloys of the
highest melting temperatures, taking the greatest stress, and
virtually eliminating corrosion.
On July 4, 1922, Haynes received the long overdue
honor for inventing the first car from the Indiana Historical
Commission. In 1967, the Elwood Haynes Museum was established in a
small mansion in Kokomo, where Haynes had lived the last years of
his life until 1925.
Documentation includes a report and photographs.
Originally submitted by: Stephen E. Buyer, Representative (5th District).
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.