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Hudson Maxim papers
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Hudson Maxim papers

Accession 2147

Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

PO Box 3630
Wilmington, Delaware, 19807

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit 2013-04-12T15:08-0400

Finding aid prepared using best local practices and Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Cite items for this collection in the following format:
[Description and dates], Box/folder number, Hudson Maxim papers (Accession 2147), Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, DE 19807


Descriptive Summary

Title: Hudson Maxim papers
Dates: 1851-1925
Accession Number: 2147
Creator: Maxim, Hudson, 1853-1927
Extent: 2 linear feet
Language of Material: English
Repository: Hagley Museum and Library: Manuscripts and Archives Department
Abstract: Hudson Maxim was a freelance American inventor who was the first in the U.S. to produce smokeless powder. His older brother Hiram Maxim invented the Maxim gun, the world’s first truly automatic machine gun. Hudson Maxim was later a somewhat eccentric writer on a number of social, cultural and political issues. His last years were spent developing resort property at Lake Hopatcong, N.J. This collection focuses on his attempts to float his inventions in England during the late 1890s, his anti-pacifist crusade, and his work at Lake Hopatcong.

Administrative Information


The collection was obtained from Maxim's Lake Hopatcong home, which was purchased by Martin Wiener, a local industrialist and collector.


Biographical Note

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. He soon withdrew, however, when its managers tied his name to a scheme to turn water into gasoline.

After 1910 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.


Scope and Content

This collection focuses on Maxim's attempt to float his inventions in England during the late 1890s, his anti-pacifist crusade and war-era activities, and his work at Lake Hopatcong. Also included is an incomplete file of Maxim's patents, as well as a collection of conflicting patents issued to other inventors. A file on Maxim's 1915 book Defenseless America, shows that the entire production was financed by P.S. du Pont, contrary to Maxim's public assertion that he was the only armaments maker urging rearmament. Other documented activities of this period include the Maxim Munitions Corporation, "Maxim-feast," "The Game of War," a Russian munitions contract, and Maxim's work for the Naval Consulting Board.

There is an extensive file of Maxim's writings on a variety of subjects, most importantly his attacks on pacifism and Prohibition. These include newspaper exchanges with progressives like Raymond Moley and the "savage lampoons", William Jennings Bryan and Henry Ford. Maxim also produced a series of letters and articles on the course of the war and its weapons. The writings include a number of short stories and fables that may have remained unpublished.

Family correspondence comes from a variety of siblings and nephews, as well as his wife's parents, Mr. and Mrs. William Durban of London, and describes both family and business matters. There are few letters from brother Hiram, who was shunned by both Hudson and his own son Hiram Percy.



Arranged alphabetically by subject.


Series Descriptions and Inventory

1 Artificial diamonds, 1897
1 Automobile accident, undated
1 Automobile engines, 1896-1900
1 Bureau of Ordnance, 1897-1915
1 Calcium carbide process, 1896-1898
1 Carnes Artificial Limb Company, 1915
1 Defenseless America, 1916
1 du Ponts, 1898-1923
1 Dynamite Stories, 1916
1 Enricht gasoline substitute, 1916-1918
1 Explosives and ordnance, 1888-1906
1 Family, 1875-1925
1 "The Game of War", 1916-1917
1 Graham, William H. and George, Patent attorneys, 1896-1916
1 Huber, James, Mr. & Mrs., 1895-1898
1 Knowles & Maxim, 1881-1883
1 Lake Hopatcong, 1908-1921
1 Maxim, Hiram Percy, 1897-1916
1 Maxim, Hiram S. and family, 1875-1915
1 Maxim-Feast/Soybeans, 1918-1923
1 Maxim Munitions Corporation - Reports and papers, 1915-1918
1 Naval Consulting Board, 1915-1922
1 Neat (Charles) & Co., 1895
1 Odd Fellows, 1884
1 Patents: 12,660 Cartridge, reissued, 11 June 1907
1 Patents: 293,048 Steam cooker, February 5, 1884
1 Patents: 411,127 Method of producing high explosive, September 17, 1889
1 Patents: 428,311 Detachable gas-check for projectiles, May 20, 1890
1 Patents: 465,280 Method of making nitrocellulose, December 15, 1891
1 Patents: 474,778 Process of making nitrocellulose, May 10, 1892
1 Patents: 479,988 Method of restoring nitrating acids, August 2, 1892
1 Patents: 504,736 Cartridge with amorphous explosive shell and charge, September 12, 1893
1 Patents: 512,042 Process of making chlorite blas.ting powder, January 2, 1894
1 Patents: 526,752 Process of nitrating cellulose, October 2, 1894
1 Patents: 529,334 Fulminating compound, November 13, 1894
1 Patents: 538,618 Making exlposive rods or grains, April 30, 1895
1 Patents: 540,326 Cartridge and charge therefor, June 4, 1895
1 Patents: 540,327 Cartridge and cartridge charge, June 4, 1895
1 Patents: 544,924 High explosive, August 20, 1895
1 Patents: 547,222 Cartridge, October 1, 1895
1 Patents: 548,883 Gas check for projectiles, October 28, 1895
1 Patents: 548,884 Gas check for projectiles, October 28, 1895
1 Patents: 549,072 Detonating fuse, October 29, 1895
1 Patents: 549,088 Detonating fuse, October 29, 1895
1 Patents: 552,919 Cellular exlposive charge, January 14, 1896
1 Patents: 640,213 Process of making smokeless powder, January 2, 1900
1 Patents: 641,787 Automobile torpedo, January 23, 1900
1 Patents: 677,527 Cartridge, July 2, 1901
1 Patents: 683,962 Making calcium carbide, October 8, 1901
1 Patents: 694,295 Cartridge, February 25, 1902
1 Patents: 946,943 Machine for perforating and forming cellular powder grains, 1910 January 18
1 Patents: 946,944 Torpedo boat, January 18, 1910
1 Patents: 951,445 Explosive compound, March 8, 1910
1 Patents: 956,813 Apparatus for producing a motor fluid, May 3, 1910
1 Patents: 974,166 Apparatus for producing motive power, November 1, 1910
1 Patents: 974,900 Explosive compound, November 8, 1910
1 Patents: 981,095 A-tube or liner for ordnance, January 10, 1911
1 Patents: 988,798 Apparatus for charging or loading projectiles with high explosive, 4-Apr-11
1 Patents: 988,799 Explosive, April 4, 1911
1 Patents: 988,885 Process of charging projectiles with high explosive, April 4, 1911
1 Patents: 988,886 Process for the charging of projectiles with high explosive bursting charges, 4-Apr-11
1 Patents: 1,005,052 Method of minimizing erosion in ordnance and preventing flareback, 3-Oct-11
2 Patents: 1,512,354 Liquid fuel for torpedoes, October 21, 1924
2 Patents - Other inventors, 1851-1903
2 Poetry and language, 1910-1923
2 Programs for lectures, 1912
2 Prout, Father John T., 1923
2 Reminiscences and Comments - Responses, 1924-1925
2 Russian-American-Asiatic Corporation, 1915-1916
2 Torpedo-proof ship, 1915-1917
2 Writings: Aeronautics, 1909-1918 & undated
2 Writings: Atomic theory, 1889-1921
2 Writings: Automobiles, 1911-1912
2 Writings: Biography and character, 1900-1919
2 Writings: Bolshevism and socialism, 1913-1919
2 Writings: Chinese exclusion, 1918-1919
2 Writings: Economic, political and social issues, 1912-19l9
2 Writings: High explosives, 1909-1919
2 Writings: International arbitration, 1911
2 Writings: Inventions and progress, 1907-1919
2 Writings: Japan, 1912-1913
2 Writings: Mexico, 1905-1919
2 Writings: Miscellaneous talks, 1908-1917
2 Writings: Motion pictures, 1917-1919
2 Writings: Nationalization of armaments manufacture, 1915-1916
2 Writings: Perfume, 1913
2 Writings: Poison gas, 1915
2 Writings: Preparedness and pacifism, 1908-1917
2 Writings: Prohibition, 1915-1919
2 Writings: Spiritualism and religion, 1907-1915
2 Writings: Stories and fables, undated
2 Writings: Warfare and weapons, 1908-1918
2 Writings: Warfare, Aerial, 1909-1915
2 Writings: Women's Rights, 1908-1915
2 Writings: World War I, 1915-1919
2 Writings: The Youth's Companion, 1909