The same technology that gave birth to the first mass-produced automobile also helped put a rover on Mars, and its inventor is now getting credit for his industry-changing accomplishments. Kokomo native Elwood Haynes was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in July, recognizing his contributions that moved the automobile industry forward some 130 years ago. The company he co-founded in Kokomo in 1912, now Haynes International, Inc., says his spirit of innovation lives on, leading the operation to new frontiers—including outer space.
Headquartered in Kokomo, Haynes develops and manufactures high-performance metal alloys that are used in aerospace, power generation and chemical processing. The HAYNES 230 alloy was used in the rocket engine thrusters of the Sky Crane that lowered Curiosity onto the surface of Mars in 2012.
The foundation of these high-tech metals lies in Elwood Haynes’ invention of the alloys stellite and stainless steel in the early 1900s, which led him to co-found Haynes Stellite Works in 1912, now Haynes International.
“He was looking for metals that would resist tarnishing,” says Haynes Vice President of Corporate Affairs Jean Neel. “[Highly corrosive-resistant alloys] are alloys that are going to be put into an environment where [metal] is going to corrode very easily. Our materials go in there to avoid that corrosion.”
Elwood Haynes had a curious mind even at a young age. When he was just 12 years old, he used scraps from railroad cars to build his first vehicle. He rode his human-powered contraption along the tracks until he was caught by a railroad foreman who ordered it destroyed.
Haynes began his career in Indiana, where he tested a 180-pound gasoline powered engine in his kitchen. The engine filled the room with smoke and damaged the wood floor when a leather harness broke; Haynes concluded that steel should be used to harness the power of an engine instead of leather.
In 1894, Haynes created the aptly-named Pioneer, America’s first mechanically successful gas-powered automobile, and drove it down Kokomo’s Pumpkin Vine Pike (now Boulevard) on the Fourth of July. He co-founded The Haynes-Apperson Automobile Company, America’s first profitable producer of cars, and went on to earn eight patents for his improvements to the automobile.
His work as a metallurgist extended his contributions far beyond the automotive industry. His discoveries led to the development of superalloys that are corrosion-resistant and withstand high temperatures. They were used in 70 percent of all turbine blades in WWII fighter and bomber aircraft engine superchargers.
“He was an innovator, and we are still known worldwide as probably the foremost innovator in our business,” says Neel. “We still invent alloys that are around us every day, but most people don’t know it. For example, if you’ve ever flown on a commercial airliner, you’ve flown with the alloys invented and manufactured right here in Kokomo, Indiana.”
Haynes International says the HASTELLOY X alloy has been used in almost all large commercial airline jet engines from the Boeing 707 to modern jumbo jets. The manufacturer notes its metal tubing is used in more U.S. fighter aircraft than any other supplier’s products. Additionally, the company plays a critical role in space exploration; a long list of contributions includes Haynes’ alloys being used in critical rocket engine components for every U.S. manned space flight.
“[Elwood Haynes’] inventions were used as building blocks, and we just improved upon the concepts of some of his discoveries,” says Neel. “We continue to invent more [corrosive-resistant] alloys and expand those. He absolutely served as the foundation for that.”
Neel says Haynes’ induction into the Hall of Fame has put the company in the national spotlight, attracting recognition to the operation and the city of Kokomo.
“Something that he started so many years ago—over 100 years ago—is still growing and thriving today,” says Neel. “We’re proud of our heritage and excited about the future we have here.”
Neel says the company celebrated the induction with the Kokomo community.
Neel says Elwood Haynes was known as a “serial inventor.”