Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

September 7, 2012

A city to brag about

By Ray Day
For the Kokomo Tribune

— You know, anyone who doesn’t like Kokomo must have his thoughts scrambled so tight that he just doesn’t appreciate the things that have made this city one to be proud of.

As fellow writer Tom Hamilton has said so many times, “I love this town.” I can go back in time as he does and remember the things of my childhood that have made a mark in my memory.

The city of Kokomo got its name from its founder, David Foster. He named it after a Miami Indian chief, Ma-Ko-Ko-Mo. Mr. Foster built and lived in a log cabin, from which he traded with the tribe. In exchange for stocked goods, he got furs.

That cabin also served as the first to hold court, and the first school and church. Mr. Foster also gave 40 acres to be the site of the county seat. He was a great friend to the Miami, and often invited them in to stay over night. His portrait can be seen on the door of the courthouse. He and his wife had 11 children.

There have been many dignitaries visit here: Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Richard M. Nixon, John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy.

Kokomo is the home of many inventions, and thus is known as the City of Firsts. In 1893, Elwood Haynes, with Elmer and Edgar Apperson, built a “horseless carriage” in their Kokomo machine shop. On July 4, 1894, Mr. Haynes made the first trial run. He first used a horse and buggy to pull the car out into the country on Pumpkinvine Pike, 3 miles east of the city. He then drove his car about 6 miles, at about 7 miles an hour, making a successful run.

He also joined up with the Apperson brothers and formed the Haynes-Apperson Automobile Co., and started production of the automobile. This started others to form factories all over the state. Indiana has been home to 256 different makes of cars.

Haynes also invented the first stainless steel and the first cobalt-based alloy, Stellite, which is used today for blading the small turbines that power the fuel pumps in liquid-propelled missiles, such as the Atlas rockets.

The first pneumatic rubber tire, invented by D.C. Spraker at the Kokomo Rubber Tire Co., was made of strips of three-ply rubber, canvas and other wrappings of vulcanized rubber, wound around a slender pole.

The first aluminum casting was made by William “Billy” Johnson. The first carburetor was developed by George Kingston. The first Howitzer shell, the first aerial bomb with fins, the first mechanical corn picker, the first canned tomato juice and the first push-button car radio were made in Kokomo.

Kokomo also has several landmarks that are great to see and visit.

The stuffed steer called Old Ben is on exhibit in Highland Park. Old Ben is a part of the history of Kokomo. Old Ben was the offspring of a registered Hereford bull, and an ordinary shorthorn cow. He weighed in at 125 pounds at birth in 1902.

Ben had to rest on his knees to nurse at less than a week old. At the age of 4, he weighed two tons and was quite a sight to see.

He was stuffed by a taxidermist in New York and was displayed at the Murphy farm, until he was brought to Highland Park.

Now that is a city to brag about.

• Ray “Uncle Ray” Day is a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at uncleray@earthlink.net.