H. Jay Hayes
H. Jay Hayes is another of the many Michigan sons who have made enviable records in the development and management of mercantile and industrial enterprises. Though he now maintains his residence in the city of New York, he makes frequent visits to Grand Rapids, where one of the two big plants of the Ionia-Hayes Company, which he founded, is situated. Mr. Hayes enjoys the distinction of having made the first metal bodies and fenders now in universal use on automobiles; and the corporation, which he heads, is today manufacturing enormous quantities of these parts. H. Jay Hayes was born on the Hayes’ family homestead, in the North Plains district of Ionia county, Michigan, on April 23, 1869, the son of Nathan B. and Mary A. (Olmstead) Hayes. He completed the course of study in the Ionia county schools and for a short time studied at the Michigan Agricultural College. Later he completed a course in the Cleary Business College at Ypsilanti. Mr. Hayes, however, attributes his success to the excellent training he received on the farm and in the lumber business under his father’s supervision. In these occupations, he acquired a lasting appreciation of the value and dignity of honest toil, and he has always taken a deep interest in the affairs of the workingman. This understanding and interest has been of great value to him in his business career and has helped him to deal intelligently with the men who are employed in his huge industrial plants. Through his father’s wide business interests, H. Jay Hayes was able to gain valuable experience in the lumber camp, in the Hayes-Spaulding wholesale hardware establishment at Ionia and the Hayes-Olmstead Bank at Muir. He helped to promote the sale of the Clipper Bicycle Company’s products; and while manager of that company’s branch office at Cleveland, Ohio, he became associated with Henry F. Eastman in the building of a three-wheeled electric motor car equipped with a metal body. They obtained a patent on this vehicle and incorporated the Eastman Automobile Company in 1898 to manufacture these vehicles. Later the concern was incorporated under the laws of West Virginia, and the manufacture of the Eastman steam automobiles, with metal bodies, was begun at Cleveland. In 1900, Mr. Hayes drove one of these early motorcars from Detroit to Grand Rapids, attracting much attention, as it was the first automobile to be driven across the state. At the automobile, show held in Chicago in the same year the car was a center of interest. Of the Hayes-Ionia Company, a prominent hardware journal in a recent issue said: "The automobile is fairly youthful, and few body makers have a history which goes back beyond the present century. One to claim this distinction is the Hayes-Ionia Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan, manufacturers of automobile bodies and sheet metal parts. The electric three-wheeled car shown in the accompanying illustration has what is regarded as the first metal automobile body every build. It was constructed in 1898, by H. Joy Hayes, president of the Hayes-Ionia Company, then manager of the Eastman Auto Company at Cleveland, Ohio. The batter used in this machine was the first ever made by Willard for automobile use, and would go about twelve miles on each charge. We spent several weeks in Detroit, Michigan, during our organization period and visited the Edison Electric Company on Willis avenue, to have the battery recharged, and Henry Ford was employed there and would connect the wires onto the battery in the automobile and we would visit while the battery was being charged. He later told me he was working on his first automobile in the basement of the Edison Company during the time we were in Detroit." Mr. Hayes also pioneered in the use of sheet metal for automobile fenders, his first efforts having been greeted with ridicule. Today the production of the Hayes-Ionia Company is restricted to closed bodies, which are built for the Durant, Flint, Maxwell and Overland companies. The Ionia plant covers eleven acres of ground, with three hundred and fifty thousand square feet of floor space, while the Grand Rapids factory extends over five hundred thousand square feet of floor space. Three thousand employees turned out each year approximately one hundred and twenty thousand bodies with a value of thirty millions of dollars. When the original Eastman Company began the manufacture of metal bodies, its title was changed to the Eastman Metal Body Company, which later became the Wilson & Hayes Company. In 1903, the factory was brought to Detroit, because of the fact that the Olds Motor Company had placed the first factory order for the metal mudguards. In 1904, Mr. Wilson sold his interest in the business, which then became the Hayes Manufacturing Company. Still later expansion forced the incorporation of the Hayes-Ionia Company; and in 1917, production facilities were greatly augmented by the purchase of a new plant in Grand Rapids. In 1922, at the suggestion of W. C. Durant, one of the leaders in the automobile industry, Mr. Hayes organized the Hayes-Hunt Corporation, which established a large plant, with a half-million square feet of floor space, at Elizabeth, New Jersey. Mr. Hayes is president of this corporation and is a member of the Michigan and the National Manufacturing associations, the Westchester-Biltmore Club of New York, the Detroit Club, the Detroit Athletic and Gold clubs, the Kent Country Club of Grand Rapids, and the Ionia Country Club. He married, on October 28, 1891, Florence N. Frain, of Ovid, Clinton County, Michigan. They have one daughter, Esther Frain Hayes.
Pages 208-210 History of Kent County
Transcriber: Mary Huizen
Created: 7 February 2003