City unveils monument to automotive heritage

Written on 06/28/2024
Patrick Munsey

Haynes Apperson Festival kicks off with unveiling ceremony along Wildcat Creek

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Haynes Apperson Festival weekend got started with some revving engines and a little celebration of Kokomo’s automotive heritage. A parade of classic cars crept along Main Street just south of downtown, ushering in the festival. But they made a quick stop at the bridge over the Wildcat Creek to recognize the reason for the occasion.

There, along the Walk of Excellence which wends its way on the banks of the creek, members of the Pioneer Auto Club bore witness to the unveiling of a new monument honor of the community’s leadership in creating automotive history. Haynes Apperson Festival chairman Paul Wyman was joined by Mayor Tyler Moore and Greater Kokomo Downtown Initiatives Manager Susan Alexander to put the monument on display.

“Over the next three days, we get to celebrate everything that's great about Kokomo and Howard County,” said Wyman. “One of the greatest things about our community is our automotive heritage; inventing, manufacturing, and marketing new products.

“Elwood Haynes had big ideas for a lot of things, and the automobile was one of them. The Apperson brothers were the engineers who did the research, development, and hands-on manufacturing. On July 4, 1894, they test drove America's first car right here in Kokomo.”

During the boom of the automotive industry, Haynes and the Appersons were second only to Henry Ford when it came to introducing the U.S. to the automobile. From 1893 to 1925, more than 60 automotive manufacturers chose Kokomo and the place to develop and market their products.

Moore explained that the location of the new monument was chosen at random. It sits at a convergence point between history and the present day, just feet away from the new Automotive Heritage Museum which will begin construction later this summer.

“It's only fitting that we're here on the banks of the Wildcat,” said Moore. “Just up the creek is where Kokomo was founded, and it's also only fitting that this memorial be placed here along the Wildcat in the shadows of where the Apperson factory once stood.”

Alexander invoked a quote used often by scholars and scientists as they make new discoveries, using it to embody Kokomo’s automotive innovation.

“’If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,’” said Alexander, adapting the quote often attributed to Sir Isaac Newton. “All advances in knowledge are incremental, with each new idea ultimately building on earlier ideas. The first vehicles were made here in Kokomo and were refined and perfected by Elwood Haynes and the Apperson brothers, Elmer and Edgar.

“Kokomo has leveraged that innovation, and it is again at the forefront of the automotive history with StarPlus Energy’s $5.7 billion investment to build lithium ion vehicle batteries to power the next generation of vehicles. We stand on the shoulders of giants.”

As the monument was unveiled, Wyman and Moore made sure to offer thanks to several who were instrumental in the creation of the monument, including Troy Caldwell of Caldwell Monument, Jerry Jenkins and Gary Lovelace, and the Pioneer Auto Club.