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Hiram Percy Maxim (September 2, 1869 – February 17, 1936) was cofounder of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) and originally had the amateur call sign 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 Technologymarker.

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, Connecticutmarker. Columbia later began manufacturing an electric automobile.


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, who married John Glessner Lee, the grandson of John J. Glessner. The John J.marker Glessner Housemarker 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 1909) as well as of a silencer (or muffler) for gasoline engines.

He created the ARRL in 1914 because he saw a need to build up an organized group of "relay" stations to pass messages via amateur radio. Relaying messages allowed them to pass farther than any single station could reach at that 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 abuses by Senator Joseph McCarthy.


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


  • - Motor vehicle
  • - Motor vehicle running gear
  • - Electric motor vehicle
  • - Motor road vehicle
  • - Silent Firearm Issued March 30, 1909.

See also

External links


  1. U.S. Passport Application of Hiram Percy Maxim, 22 October 1923

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