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March 5, 2014

Bill Swern Sr. could join list of inventors from City of Firsts

Bill Swern Sr.'s work could be added to Kokomo's list of firsts

(Continued)

But it wasn’t until Bill Jr. returned to Kokomo in 1994 for the 100th anniversary of Elwood Haynes’ test drive down Pumpkinvine Pike that he started to dig into his father’s history.

Eventually, Bill Jr. compiled a scrapbook full of information on his inventor father with the intention of giving it to his niece and nephews. But as a big supporter of the Parke County Historical Society, he also knew there was historical significance to his research, which included records from the U.S. Patent Office.

Broman said even after Swern had sold his patents, there was recognition he’d contributed to modern automotive manufacturing.

The Swernbuild System was displayed at the Century of Progress exhibit, at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, as an example of the modern way to manufacture tires, Broman said.

Swern used the drive and initiative he’d shown in Kokomo to build up his farm after the Depression and his illness were past, and his family remembers him as a quiet man who enjoyed reading and who put a great deal of stock in education for his kids, both of whom graduated from college.

Marianne was 4 years old when the family left Kokomo, but she remembers her father when he was young.

“To me, he was a hero, big and strong with lovely, curly hair,” she remembered. “I think I got my concept of God from him. He was my father.”

Scott Smith is on Twitter @JasonSSmith1 and can be emailed at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com

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