242. Kokomo Rubber

David Christopher Spraker, born February 15th 1847, moved to Howard County to live with his aunt and uncle when he was orphaned at the age of eleven. His first job as a young man was working at a general store in New London which he later bought and ran a year later. After he sold the general store, Spraker became involved in the real-estate business and also started to participate in Howard County’s politics.

Things started to change for Spraker once natural gas was discovered in Kokomo. In fact, David C. Spraker was instrumental in furthering its use and even helped to create Kokomo Natural Gas and Oil Co.

Kokomo Rubber Co., founded in 1895 and powered by natural gas, was one of David C. Spraker’s most successful companies. As the president for twenty-two years, Spraker oversaw the manufacturing of bicycle, buggy, automobile, and motorcycle tires.

Originally Spraker was not interested in making tires for automobiles; however, his friend Elwood Haynes asked him to construct a tire that would help to soften the ride of his automobile. Therefore, David created, one of the earliest pneumatic tires, which consisted of 3-ply rubber, canvas, and vulcanized rubber mounted on a 36” spoked rim.

During the company’s height, Kokomo Rubber Co. produced around five hundred tires a day and had branch offices in Missouri, Kentucky, and Ohio. This prosperity, though, did not last forever. When Haynes Automobile Co. went out of business in 1925 and then the stock market crashed in 1929, Kokomo Rubber Co. finally closed its doors in 1930 after 35 years of business.