Hagley Museum and Library
PO Box 3630
Wilmington, DE 19807-0630
16 photographic prints : b&w; ; 8 x 11.5 in. or smaller. 2 photographic prints : cartes de visite ; 4 x 2.5 in. 1 photomechanical print ; 8 x 11 in. 5 sound discs : analog, 33 1/3 rpm ; 10 in. 5 items.
Hudson Maxim was born in Orneville, Maine on February 3, 1853, to a poor but mechanically-gifted family. His older brother Hiram invented the Maxim gun, the first truly efficient automatic machine gun, and his nephew, Hiram Percy Maxim, invented the silencer. Hudson was the first to successfully produce smokeless powder in America. In the 1880s, Hudson Maxim worked in his brother’s English gun factory, where he became familiar with a French version of smokeless gunpowder. He returned to the United States in 1888 as the American representative of the Maxim-Nordenfelt Guns and Ammunition Company, Ltd., and began experimenting on his own with high explosives, securing his first patent in 1889. The contract with his brother expired in 1891, and Maxim established the Columbia Powder Manufacturing Company to manufacture dynamite at a plant near Farmingdale, N.J. When the company failed in 1893, he reorganized it as the Maxim Powder Company. Maxim then began experimenting with smokeless powder and received a number of patents between 1893 and 1895. He then returned to England, where he attempted to set up companies to manufacture explosives, calcium carbide, and, at the suggestion of his nephew, Hiram Percy, automobile engines. None of these efforts was successful. Hudson laid the blame on Hiram’s interference, and a permanent rift developed between the brothers. Hudson sold his most important patents to E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. in 1897, and the company established a laboratory and summer home for him at Lake Hopatcong, N.J. Maxim continued to produce inventions relating to explosives, ordnance, and torpedoes through the 1910s, but he also wandered down many blind alleys, including "Maxim-feast," a soybean-based food supplement, and "the Game of War," a supposed "improvement" on chess. Maxim helped organize the Maxim Munitions Corporation in 1915, hoping that it would assume the promotional burdens while he concentrated on inventing, but he soon withdrew when its managers tied his name to a scheme to turn water into gasoline. After 1900 Maxim carved out a second career as a public speaker and inveterate writer of magazine articles and letters to the editor, freely venting his opinions on poetry and language as well as invention, progress, and public affairs. Beginning in 1914 he vociferously argued for American rearmament against a wide array of Progressive-era pacifists. After the war he concentrated on the development of the Lake Hopatcong area and on local affairs. He died on May 6, 1927. The collection consists of photographs and other items relating to the career of Hudson Maxim, inventor and writer. The photographs include pictures of the Maxim gun invented by his brother Hiram; Hudson Maxim playing the "Game of War" with Frank Marshall, chess master; Maxim with Thomas A. Edison; Maxim’s automobiles; and two views of the U.S. Naval Experimental and Research Laboratory, Bellvue, Washington, D.C. There are also two magazines in the collection: Motor Life (November 1918), which includes an article written by Maxim, and the Saturday Evening Post (March 28, 1925), in which Maxim appears in an advertisement for Elgin watches. Other miscellaneous items in the collection include five sound recordings, four of which are recitations of the "The Charge of the Light Brigade," and one of "Mark Antony"; and three silk cloths printed with the flags of the nations involved in World War I. Two of the three cloths have the following statement written on them: "Flags of the victorious nations in the war to make the world safe for democracy."