Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 24, 2013

Editorial - Jan. 24, 2013: Overlooked for too long

The issue: Elwood Haynes’ exclusion from the Automotive Hall of Fame.

Our view: Pioneering car and metals maker deserves to be among peers.

The Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Mich., currently is accepting nominations for its 2013 class of inductees. The 73-year-old organization recognizes people who “have significantly impacted the development of the automobile or the motor vehicle industry.” More than 200 deserving individuals have been so honored.

About 30,000 visitors to the Hall of Fame rediscover automotive titans such as Carl Benz, Ettore Bugatti, Louis Chevrolet, Walter P. Chrysler, Andre Citroen, Horace and John Dodge, Charles and Frank Duryea, Henry Ford and Ransom Olds every year.

Elwood Haynes is not among them.

On July 4, 1894, Haynes drove his gasoline-powered “Pioneer” along Pumpkinvine Pike right outside Kokomo. “A new American industry had been founded” that day, said Ralph Gray, professor emeritus of history at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

In his lifetime, Haynes was recognized as the builder of America’s first automobile, Gray said in 2009. Haynes drove his Pioneer at the head of a parade celebrating the automobile’s first decade in New York City in 1908. During a 1913 tour of Indiana-built autos from Indianapolis to the West Coast, he was acclaimed as the “father of the automobile.”

And in 1924, the National Vigilance Committee of the Associated Advertising Clubs of the World formally endorsed the claim of the Haynes Automobile Co. as maker of “America’s First Car.”

Haynes’ contribution to the auto industry didn’t end with the Pioneer. Needing a more durable spark plug electrode, he invented a precursor to his alloy, Stellite. He introduced stainless steel because his wife wanted tableware that didn’t tarnish. His work in metals arguably is more important to the car industry than his early autos.

Haynes is more than a deserving candidate for the Automotive Hall of Fame. He’s an overlooked icon.

We hope Kokomo soon celebrates Haynes’ inclusion among his peers.