Maxim Silencer Company recordsCreation: 1912-1956
The Maxim Silencer Company was the first company to manufacture gun silencers for commercial use. The company was founded in 1908 as the Maxim Silent Firearms Company by Hiram Percy Maxim (1869-1936) in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1912, Maxim incorporated his business as the Maxim Silencer Company. Maxim was an engineer and inventor. The records of the Maxim Silencer Company consist of directors' minute books from October 18, 1912, to October 19, 1956. There are a small payroll book showing payments; newsclippings and magazine articles on the company's history; issues of the company magazine from the World War II years; and good selection of the company's trade catalogs, both for the firearms silencers and snowplows and snow blowers.
- Creation: 1912-1956
- Maxim Silencer Company (Organization)
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The Maxim Silencer Company was the first company to manufacture gun silencers for commercial use. The company was founded in 1908 as the Maxim Silent Firearms Company by Hiram Percy Maxim (1869-1936) in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1912, Maxim incorporated his business as the Maxim Silencer Company.
Hiram Percy Maxim was an engineer and inventor. After graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1886, he worked for several companies as a mechanical and electrical engineer, primarily with automobile engines. He invented the silencer, patented in 1908, and the muffler for gasoline engines, patented in 1909.
Maxim was a hunter and a target shooter and wanted a way to shoot at his home without disrupting his neighbors. A Maxim Silencer Company brochure explains how the silencer works: "They [the gasses] are made to whirl around inside the Silencer. This whirling forces the gas to fly out from the center by centrifugal force leaving a central space, just the same as when water is whirled around in a set bowl, a hole or space forms at the center. This leaves the space for the bullet to make its passage. The gas cannot pass through this space, until it slows down. This causes it to discharge into the atmosphere gradually. This absolutely prevents noise and also reduces recoil over two-thirds."
During World War I, the Maxim Silencer Company produced silencers for the United States Armed Forces snipers and sharpshooters. Commercial sales of the silencer ended a few years prior to a 1934 law prohibiting private ownership. During World War II, the company produced engine-exhaust silencers for tanks, submarines, and other vessels. After the war, the company focused on manufacturing seawater-distillation units for ships. The company also produced snowblowers and automobile-mounted snow plows.
Maxim was not the only inventor in the family; his father, Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim (1840-1916), invented the Maxim Machine Gun and his uncle, Hudson Maxim (1853-1927), was the inventor of smokeless gunpowder. Maxim married Josephine Hamilton (dates unknown), a suffragist, in 1898. The couple had two children, a son, Hiram Hamilton Maxim (1900-1992), and a daughter, Percy Maxim Lee (1906-2002). His son was also an inventor, and his daughter was an active civic and political leader.
Like his father, H. Hamilton Maxim attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Upon graduation in 1921, he returned to Connecticut to work at the Maxim Silencer Company. When Maxim died in 1936, H. Hamilton Maxim took over as president until his retirement in 1960.
Hiram Percy Maxim is credited with fifty-nine patents. Maxim was also passionate about aviation, sailing, and radio. He served as chairman of the Hartford Aviation Commission and aided in the construction of Brainard Field, a municipal aviation port in Hartford. He developed the first practical seawater evaporator for providing ships with fresh water. He operated an amateur radio station out of his home and co-founded the American Radio League. Both Maxim and his son worked on improving the portable Ham radio.
In 1956, the Maxim Silencer Company was sold to Emhart Manufacturing Company. Today, the company operates as Maxim Silencers Inc. out of Houston, Texas.
Scope and Contents
The records of the Maxim Silencer Company consist of directors' minute books from October 18, 1912, to October 19, 1956. As with many family firms, the entries are generally perfunctory. There is a small payroll book showing payments to salaried employees from 1930 to 1935, along with newsclippings and magazine articles on the company's history, as well as issues of the company magazine from the World War II years. There is also a selection of the company's trade catalogs, both for the early firearms silencers and the later industrial ones, as well as for snowplows and snow blowers.
This collection is open for research.
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Language of Materials
Maxim Silencer Company photographs (Accession 2015.288), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Intiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Maxim Silencer Company records
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- 2020: Laurie Sather