Hiram Percy Maxim

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Hiram Percy Maxim

Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Son of Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim and Jane Maxim
Husband of Josephine Maxim
Father of Percy Maxim Lee

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Hiram Percy Maxim


Hiram Percy Maxim (September 2, 1869 – February 17, 1936) was co-founder of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) and originally had the amateur call signs SNY, 1WH, 1ZM, (after World War I) 1AW, and later W1AW, which is now the ARRL Headquarters club station call sign. His rotary spark-gap transmitter "Old Betsy" has a place of honor at the ARRL Headquarters.

Early years

He was the son of Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim, inventor of the Maxim Machine gun. In addition, he was the nephew of Hudson Maxim, an inventor of explosives and ballistic propellants. He had two sisters, Florence Maxim, who married George Albert Cutter, and Adelaide Maxim, who married Eldon Joubert, Ignace Paderewski's piano tuner. Hiram was a mechanical engineering graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (then a two-year course) at age 16.

Maxim tinkered with internal combustion engines before contacting the Pope Manufacturing Company about the possibility of manufacturing a gasoline-powered automobile. Albert Augustus Pope hired Maxim to run his Motor Vehicle Division. In 1899, with Maxim at the controls, the Pope Columbia, a gasoline-powered automobile, won the first closed-circuit automobile race in the US at Branford, Connecticut. Columbia continued to produce gasoline cars until 1913, and was also a major manufacturer of early electric automobiles and trucks.

Marriage and family

He married Josephine Hamilton, the daughter of the former Maryland Governor William T. Hamilton December 21, 1898, in Hagerstown, Maryland, and had a son, Hiram Hamilton Maxim, and a daughter, Percy Hamilton Maxim, who married John Glessner Lee, the grandson of John J. Glessner. The John J. Glessner House designed by Henry Hobson Richardson is now a Chicago landmark. Percy Maxim Lee was president of the League of Women Voters from 1950–1958, and testified in the U.S. Senate against Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1955.


Maxim is also noted as the inventor of the "Maxim Silencer", a suppressor for firearms (patented in 1908) as well as of a silencer (or muffler) for gasoline engines.

He created the ARRL in 1914 as a repsonse to the lack of an organized group of "relay" stations to pass messages via amateur radio. Relaying messages allowed them to travel farther than any single station's reach at the time.

Maxim wrote an amusing account of his youth in the book A Genius in the Family: Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim Through a Small Son's Eyes. This book was adapted to the screen as So Goes My Love. H.P. Maxim recounted his days as an automobile pioneer in his book Horseless Carriage Days and also wrote the book Life's Place in the Cosmos, an overview of contemporary science that surmised life existed outside of earth.

His daughter, Percy Maxim Lee (1906–2002) became President of the League of Women Voters of the United States and was appointed by President Kennedy to the Consumer Advisory Council, which she later chaired. She was an advocate for debates by presidential candidates, and an opponent of the abuse from Senator Joseph McCarthy.


Hiram Percy Maxim was returning to his home in Hartford, Connecticut, in February, 1936, from a trip to California to visit the Lick Observatory. He fell ill and was taken from the train to a hospital in La Junta, Colorado, where he died the following day, February 17, 1936. Hiram P. Maxim was buried in the Rose Hill Cemetery in Hagerstown, Maryland, in the Hamilton family plot belonging to his wife's family.


U.S. Patent 594,805 - Motor vehicle

U.S. Patent 757,941 - Motor vehicle running gear

U.S. Patent 772,571 - Electric motor vehicle

U.S. Patent 845,106 - Motor road vehicle

U.S. Patent 916,885 - Silent Firearm Issued March 30, 1909.

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Hiram Percy Maxim's Timeline

September 2, 1869
Age 36
February 17, 1936
Age 66