Elwood Haynes (1857-1925) was a genius who influenced the direction of the entire automobile industry.
He invented the alloys stellite and stainless steel, and created the earliest American automobile design feasible for mass production.
Haynes always had an inventive mind. At the age of 12, he built his first vehicle from parts scavenged from scrap railroad cars. His human-powered apparatus traveled along the tracks until a railroad foreman saw the contraption and ordered it destroyed.
Educated at Johns Hopkins University and Worcester Polytechnic, Haynes began his career at the Indiana Natural Gas Company, inventing a method to prevent pipeline freeze-up by dehydrating the gas. Business travel required horse and buggy, so he set about planning a “horseless carriage.”
First considering steam and electricity, Haynes chose gasoline power, ordering an engine from Stintz Gas Engine Company. Delivered to his home, the 180-pound “explosive engine” was first tested in his kitchen.
The motor filled the room with smoke, damaged the wood floor, and destroyed the leather harness before it could be shut off. Two things were learned. First, harnessing the power of the gasoline engine required steel, not leather. Second, his kitchen was not a good place to test these devices.
Fortunately, Haynes discovered a more suitable facility, the Riverside Machine Shop. There he contracted with owners Elmer and Edgar Apperson to build their first automobile, the Pioneer. It utilized a “harness” of steel as well as a steel central column to strengthen the wooden chassis and absorb bumps. In 1894 they entered into a partnership — The Haynes-Apperson Automobile Company — which would be America’s first profitable producer of cars.
Looking back to the Pioneer’s first drive, Elwood Haynes saw the future … “As the little machine rolled along at a speed of about seven or eight miles an hour under the power of the tireless little motor, I realized a new era was coming …”
His vision has proven to be today’s reality.