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. ' •- 

• - • » 

« m 



First Published in igij 

• • • 
• • •■ 

: • .; .•; • •'• 

• * m ^ •••• •• • 



My ancestors and early childhood in the State of Maine — ^Early 
settlers — Red Indians — ^Bears — ^Millerites — ^My first bear hunt 
— ^Drowning in a flume — Felling a tree — ^Sap-ill-su-sip — ^Lake 
Boyd Page i 


I decide to become a sea captain — ^The arrival of a sea captain at 
Omeville — ^Making my nautical instruments — ^Working for 
Daniel Sweat — ^Sweat's household — Flap-jacks — A transaction 
in playing-cards — Catching minks — ^Working for Daniel Flynt 
— My first invention ....•••• 15 


I leave home to seek my fortune; — Beat all previous records as a 
wood-turner at Dexter — The giant blacksmith — ^My first 
boxing match with the thermometer at loi*^ F. — ^Persuaded 
to give up boxing — ^The War — Boy Scouts .... 34 


On the St. Lawrence River — Arrive at Malone, N.Y. — ^Lively times 
in Northern New York and Canada — The wonderful disappear- 
ance of many tons of heavy machinery — Dealing with an 
informer — One week as a bar tender — Remarkable sale of 
weedy horses ......... 41 


St. Jean Chrisostome — A crown official calls me " A French Canuck " 
and attempts to give me in charge^A good-natured magistrate 
— Some dealings with the village bully — ^Luminous hair-oil — 
Encounter with Ned Lynch the champion bully of the county — 
Capturing a bull — ^McGill's Hotel — Old Vinegar and the biggest 
frog in the world — Inventing a blackboard .... 53 




Brasher's Falls — Reading the dictionary through — ^Painting and 
decorating carriages— A drink of pure alcohol — ^Flooring the 
village wrestler — ^A fight with Louis Hentz the local bully — 
Fight for the championship with John Tester — A discussion on 
Hydraulics — Return to the State of Maine • . • Page 71 


Working a big lathe on cast iron at Fitchburg, Mass. — ^A record job 
on a brass finisher's lathe — Computing the power of an engine — 
Working as a mechanical draughtsman and a coppersmith — 
The grand worthy patriarch of the Sons of Temperance goes 
on a drunken debauch and what came of it — Spiritualism — 
Obtain work in Boston — ^Density regulators — Inventing gas 
machines — ^Automatic sprinklers . • . • • .81 


Working in New York City — ^The Novelty Iron Works — Big wooden 
ships — ^The all-knowing German — Inventing a steam trap — 
Locomotive head-lights ....... 93 


A trip to the Southern States — Extraordinary state of affairs — 
The reign of the revolver — ^The girl in the chain gang — Act as 
hotel engineer ••••••••• 99 


The large gas machine at Saratoga — Stopping a leak — Putting a 

steam fire-engine in order ....... 105 


Lifting competition with an Irishman — General O'Neal's invasion 
of Canada — Proposed conquest of England — ^The brave general 
arrested — O'Connor and the earthquake — ^Wonderful display of 
gold watches— Five years for drawing the badger — Red Jersey 
mud and the envelope swindle — A wonderful old bruiser — ^The 
insurance man — ^The engine-driver's fortune . . . .111 


Electric lighting — A slow boat and a fast boat — ^Brandy and milk — 
The first platinum lamp— Report as to how an incandescent 
lamp might be made — A terrific explosion prophesied — De- 


positing carbon from gasoline vapours — ^Professor Van der 
Weyde — Edison starts — I make the first electrical regulator 
and receive the decoration de la Legion d'Honnenr — Only 
a sausage stuffer — ^First electric lights at Saratoga — ^A storm 
of beetles — ^Projecting the light seven and a half miles — 
Illuminated fountains a great success .... Page 120 


£dison's lamps — ^Edison forced to use my process — ^Troubles with 
glass-blowers — ^Phosphoric Anhydride — Consulted on carpet- 
making — ^Demagnetizing watches — An Irish wake — Jersey 
lightning — ^The tale of two boilers . . . . • 140 


I sail for Europe — Examine the French patents — Arrival in 
London — ^The Maxim-Weston Company, unbelievable state 
of afEairs — ^BCaking a job last — ^A big gas bill — ^Loss of patent 
worth one million pounds — Commence on the gun — ^A Russian 
officer turns a somersault — Stick to your last — Purchasing 
metallic mercury and mucilage — ^How the best became the 
worst — ^Doctoring American wheels — ^The first automatic guns — 
Two hundred thousand rounds fired 154 


H.R.H. The Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh with 
many of the nobility visit my little factory — ^Lord Wolseley — 
Sir Andrew Clark and the powder mystery — A thirty-five 
thousand pound secret — ^Solution of the riddle — ^Mr. Pratt in 
London — Introductions by the Duke of Cambridge — ^A week-end 
with the Duke of Sutherland — ^Henry Stanley — A misleading 
book — Six-pounders for the Navy — Gun suggested by Lord 
Wolseley — ^The Pom-Pom • • • • • • .172 


Gun trials in France, my hand badly damaged — The champion 
gunmaker — Huit bouteilles d la fois — Picking the pocket 
of a drunken man — Gun with a regulator — One shot per 
minute — ^Lord Wolseley and the gun at Pirbright — ^Machine 
gun trials in Switzerland — Firing at very long range— Maxim 
guns on postal cards — Gun trials in Italy — Gun trials in Austria 
— ^The Archduke William explains — A short nap of a workman 
that caused me a lot of trouble — ^The Boston philosophical 
instrument maker — ^I design a non-recoiling field gun — ^My gun 
at Fiume — ^Amalgamation with Nordenfeldt — The Emperor, 
the Prince, and the gun ....... 186 

via MY LIFE 


The automatic system in St. Petecsburg — How I became a Pro- 
testant — A visit to the Emperor — A visit to holy Moscow — A 
jSI big praying machine — A Tartar with many wives — Li Hung 
Chang's visit to London — ^The King of Denmark and the Pom- 
pom — The Shah of Persia fires the gun . . . Page 21 1 


A trip to Constantinople — ^A monkey and two interesting old 
women on the boat — How I discovered that I was an infidel — 
Remarkable honesty of the Turkish soldiers — Falling stars — 
Cholera — Dogs — My seven -foot dragoman — My Turkish 
secretary .......... 222 


Gun trials in Spain — ^A remarkable target — A broken muscle — ^The 
tobacco factory at Seville — ^Trials in Portugal — Snubbed by 
Americans 232 


Lord Wolseley suggests smokeless powder — I conduct experiments 
and succeed in producing the best powder in existence — 
The great cordite case — Engineering on smokeless powder — 
The French commence experiments with the Pom-pom — 
Great reduction in the cost of gun barrels — ^The ;fiooo coat 
collar — A wonderful explosive — Why American big guns have 
been destroyed — ^A dangerous powder . . . . .239 


Remarkable test of old boilers — ^Troubles in housekeeping — Car- 
buretting coal gas on a very large scale — ^The Maxim gun and 
the Arabs .••......• 252 


The Whitehead torpedo ; its efficiency disputed — A big big gun — 
A very efficient air-gun — A gun fifty thousand times as 
effective as any other — A great gunmaker who never made a 
gun — ^Bringing my mother's grey hairs down to the grave in 
sorrow .......••. 260 


A neat little swindle — Chicken thieves — ^Trials of strength — Firing 

out a big blacksmith ........ 270 



The bullet-proof cuirass — ^The German tailor — ^Mushroomed bullets — 

The great fake — ^The journalists give me a dinner . . Pag$ 275 



Some experiments with coffee — Remarkable phenomena — Un- 
reliable tests — Bursting bottles — ^Various valuable opinions (?) — 
A mission to the Boers . . . . • • • . 280 


Training a big gun by electricity — Commence experiments on a 
flying - machine — H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, now King 
George, pays me a visit and takes a run on the machine, screw 
thrust 2000 lbs. and lifting efiect much greater than weight of 
machine — A transaction in hay ...... 290 


Captive flying - machines — The boat that went too high — ^The 
machine at Earl's Court — Phenomenal takings — ^Working at 
night and what came of it — ^The tale of a furnace — Disastrous 
breakdown caused by ignorance — Beset by showmen and 
lawyers — ^The hungry gang — Bogus claims — Some of my 
unfortunate experiences with lawyers — Blackmail . . . 297 


A rapid descent from the zenith of fame — Killing machines versus 
Iife>saving — Severe treatment for bronchitis — I study the subject 
and make a discovery and an invention . • . . • 3^3 

Index . . . . . . . . . -317 


The Author. From a Photograph by J. Russell and Sons FrontispUce 


The favourite decoration for sleighs, very highly coloured 24 

Sir Hiram at the age of seventeen, taken while working for 
Daniel Flynt, Abbott, Me. . ... 

Lady Maxim ...... 

The first automatic gun . 

The very much simplified Maxim gun, the standard for 
the world ...... 

The LOCK of the standard gun . 
The feeding apparatus dismantled 

Semi-automatic six- and fourtben-poundbrs for firing on 
torpedo boats ..... 

The BUSINESS end of the Maxim gun showing the bullet 

PROOF shield ...... 

The late King Edward, when Prince of Wales, fires the 
Maxim gun ...... 

*' The Rev. Hiram Maxim." From a drawing by George A. Stevens 









Chinese officials . . . ... 220 

Showing the gun to my grandson. By permission of Noshes and 

Pall Mall Magazine . . . ... 238 

My favourite occupation. By permission of Naslis and Pall Mall 

Magazine . . . . ... 256 

The flying-machine with the side wings removed . . . 292 

The Author at the present day. From a photograph by Elliott 

and Fry . . . . ... 312 


- • • * 



WHEN we are called upon to give evidence in a 
Court of Justice we are required to swear in some 
conventional form that we will tell the truth, 
the whole truth, and nothing but the truth ; it is then the 
business of the lawyers to see to it that we do not tell the 
whole truth. I shall have to observe the same rule in pre- 
paring this little account of the events of my life. I shall 
tell the truth and nothing but the truth as far as I go, but 
it would not be advisable for me to tell the whole truth, as 
it might entangle me in numerous lawsuits which I wish 
to avoid. 

The ancestors of the Maxim family were French Hugue- 
nots. They were driven out of France and settled in 
Canterbury, England, from which place they emigrated to 
Plymouth County, Massachusetts, where " they could wor- 
ship God according to the dictates of their own conscience 
and prevent others from doing the same." My great- 
grandfather lived at Wareham, Massachusetts, where my 
grandfather was born. He married a large and very strong 
young woman by the name of Eliza Rider — who was also a 
descendant of the very early EngUsh settlers — and with 
another member of the Maxim family, they emigrated to the 
district of Maine, which was not then a State, and took 
possession of a tract of land on the shores of Androscoggin 

• • 

¥ / '•;••,•-•. 


- - - •. 


• ' MY LIFE 

Lake in full view of the White Mountains. At that time 
there were no roads in that part of the country, and the 
little party had to find their way through the primeval forest 
as best they could. My grandfather built a house and out- 
buildings, cleared the land for a farm, and managed in some 
way to get cattle, sheep, and pigs from Massachusetts. 
When we consider the length and severity of the winters, it 
is certainly very difficult to understand how they managed 
to exist so far away from civilization. 

There never were many Red Indians in that part of the 
country, and the few that did exist were of a comparatively 
harmless variety. There were, however, plenty of black 
bears, which were easily captured in traps or killed with 
firearms. The skins of these animals sold for ready cash, 
and the flesh was a regular article of diet ; moreover, there 
was a premium paid for every bear killed. 

My grandfather had seven children, my father — Isaac 
Weston Maxim — being the youngest. The middle child of 
the family was Eliza, who, like her mother, was a physical 
giantess, and also very intellectual. For many years there 
has been a tradition that there was always one very strong 
member in the Maxim family, and I think I am entitled to 
be recognized as the strong member of the generation in 
which I was bom. I have a nephew who is in a fair way 
to continue the line of strong men and women. 

My father was 5 feet 8 inches in height and weighed 
182 lbs. (13 stone). When a young man he assisted on his 
father's farm ; later on, he went to Massachusetts, where he 
earned a Httle money, returned to Maine, and married 
Harriet Boston Stevens. Together they went Xo Sanger- 
ville, Maine, cleared a farm, erected buildings, and started 

This Uttle farm was completely surrounded by a dense 


forest. Not a house was in sight, but we had one neighbour 
about half a mile away, while my uncle, Captain Samuel 
Maxim, had a farm one mile from ours. In those early 
da}^ the bears had not learned to fear mankind so much as 
they did later on, and did not hesitate to come out into the 
clearing. When about five years of age I remember seeing 
a black bear chasing our sheep early in the spring. My 
mother's screams stopped the bear ; my father ran for his 
gun, but before he could get out of the house the bear was 
very near the woods and my father said : " There, Harriet, 
if you had not screamed I could have killed that bear." 

There have been several epidemics of Millerites in the 
State of Maine, sometimes called " Second Advents " or 
" World Burners." On one occasion, having ascertained, 
by diUgent search in the Bible, the exact day, hour, and 
minute that the world would come to an end, the " saints " 
disposed of their property. Some failed to plant their 
crops, as they had enough to last until the fatal day. 
When everything was in readiness for the final end 
of all things, which was fixed for a certain day in 
February, there was a lot of snow on the ground. Some of 
the " saints " took great care to have their watches and 
clocks corrected so as to know the exact minute the final 
crash would come. The hour fixed was about nine o'clock 
at night, and most of the women appeared in their ascension 
robes. The " saints " met at a place called Gillman's 
Comer, in front of Gillman's little store. Some repairs had 
recently been made to the roof, and a ladder was still in 
position. A few minutes before the final send-off, an old 
and very fat woman climbed up the ladder, got on to the 
ridge-pole and walked forward to the end of the roof. She 
stood there with her arms extended and her ascension robes 
fluttering in the wind like a pair of wings. One of the 


" saints " had his watch out and called off the time as it 
passed, and when the exact minute arrived, the old lady 
on the roof started to fly. She gave a jimip and landed in a 
big pile of snow which had a decidedly cooling effect, and 
knocked every particle of superstition out of her. She never 
had a relapse. 

There was no one in the State of Maine that ridiculed this 
movement with more reason and vigour than my gifted 
mother. She had a lot of brains in the top and front of her 
head, and made the best use of them. 

When I was only six years of age my father gave up his 
farm, sold his cattle, and started a wood-turning establish- 
ment with two lathes at French's Mills in the same township. 
Here I commenced my education in the little school-house. 

At French's Mills there was said to be a jamb some 
distance down the river where the debris from the saw mill 
had formed a dam in the swamp. I was always very anxious 
to see this jamb, but my mother would never allow me to 
go into the swamp, saying, " You're only a little boy, any- 
way, and the bears in the swamp might attack you." 

One Sunday, however, I persuaded my father to go 
down to the jamb with me. We were picking our way be- 
tween the trees and bushes when I saw a pole, that my 
father had stepped over without touching, commence to 
move. I naturally looked at the other end, and, sure 
enough, there was a big bear. He was walking so softly 
that my father did not hear him, and when I shouted, 
" There is a bear," my father would not believe me. I got 
hold of his coat, however, and pulled him along to the other 
end of the pole, when he saw the big track in the soft earth. 
We at once turned about, my father saying, " Let us go to 
the house and get the gim as quickly as possible ; perhaps 
we may kill him." It was very slow work getting through 


the underbrush, and when we got out and into the clearing we 
saw a man coming out of our house with our gun. We then 
learned that the bear that we had dislodged had passed very 
near the Uttle school-house where Sunday-school was in 
session, and the instant the bear was seen every man ran for 
a gun. Soon all the men and dogs in the neighbourhood 
were on the track of the bear ; but they didn't get him ; 
they seldom did at that time. The next day it was foimd 
that dogs were not quite so niunerous as they had been. 

The bears, that were so plentiful in Maine at that time, 
weighed about four hundred pounds each, and I think had 
the finest fur of any bears in the world. My uncle, Hiram 
Stevens, after whom I was named, captured a small cub 
and brought it up as a pet. It would eat almost anything 
and about as much of it as a pig, soon attaining a consider- 
able size and having very peculiar ways of showing its 
affection. At that time my uncle was paying his respects 
to the young lady who afterwards became his wife, and she 
objected very strongly to the bear. The next Sunday night, 
therefore, my uncle locked the bear securely in the wood- 
shed, but he had not been very long with his lady-love when 
the front door was burst in and the bear landed in his lap. 
This brought matters to a crisis : the young lady delivered 
her ultimatimi — ^he must either break off the engagement or 
kill the bear — and so the interesting pet was sacrificed on the 
altar of Cupid the next day. 

Bears do not make safe pets. If you step on a dog's 
foot, the dog has brains enough to know that it is an accident, 
and actually expects you to pet and pity him for your 
blunder, which no doubt you will do. But if you step on a 
bear's foot, the bear will retaliate by taking about a pound of 
steak out of the calf of your leg. 

As a rule these bears never attack a himian being unless 


provoked. If one approaches a female with cubs, she will 
get up on her hind legs, make a great noise and appear 
very ferocious : but as she approaches very slowly, there is 
plenty of time to get away. 

I had a brother Leander who I think was a natural 
hunter. I purchased an old double-barrelled shot-gun that 
had had the muzzle of one of the barrels blown off and the 
breech injured so that it could not be fired. The other 
barrel was also injured at the muzzle. I cut off about ten 
inches of the muzzle and gave it to him ; and with this 
little old gun he would kill more game in a day than the 
city sportsmen with their beautiful outfits could kill in a 
week. One day while out hunting he thought he would 
visit a trap that a neighbour had set for a bear. He found 
the trap and a bear smelling about it, and it at once occurred 
to him that he might capture the bear himself. So he 
approached the bear and fired a charge of bird shot into its 
face and then ran ; and by the time he had reloaded, the 
bear had stopped turning somersaults and scratching his 
face and had started off in pursuit. As it approached he 
gave it another charge full in the face, again running away ; 
but the bear apparently did the same thing, for he was never 
seen afterwards. 

While living at French's Mills I was always collecting 
sticks and bits of wood, and attempting to build a saw mill 
over a little stream of water that leaked through the dam. 
I had a mud dam and a pond with several fish in it that 
seemed to be quite tame ; they were, however, much too 
large for the pond. Of course, mud and turf played a large 
part in the erection of my mill, and my clothes got in a very 
dirty condition, the result being a severe scolding. 

One day when dressed in my best clothes, I was told 
that I should receive a whipping if I returned with them wet 


and muddy, but I forgot all about this, and got them very 
wet by wading too far into the water. I tried to get the 
water out with sawdust, but it was a failure, so I thought 
I would he down in a warm place and allow the sim to dry 
them. The place selected was on some planks that were laid 
on the top of the flume. I fell asleep, and waked up in the 
flume. The water was about ten feet deep and the sides 
smooth and vertical. I remember the sensation perfectly ; 
my eyes were wide open and I could see the sunbeams 
coming down and making streaks in the water. The fish 
came very near to me, some of them taking my fingers in 
their mouths. I then appreciated that I was drowning, and 
flopped about and tried to swim. I raised my head above 
water several times and got a breath of air, but soon I 
began to sink. Suddenly my hand came in contact with a 
long plug that projected about three inches inside the flume, 
having been driven in to stop a hole, and by holding on .to 
this I was able to keep my head above the water, although 
the plug itself was below the water-line. At last, after several 
attempts, I managed to clutch the edge of the top plank 
of the flimie. Exerting all my strength, I pulled mjrself up 
so that my chest rested on the top edge of the plank. Our 
house was very near the flume, and every time I had raised 
myself out of the water I had screamed for help. While 
resting on the top plank the first thing I saw was my mother 
running rapidly to my assistance. She soon rescued me from 
my perilous position and took me home. I was nervous 
and frightened, but I remember distinctly how safe I felt 
when I found myself folded in the strong arms of my father. 
We were living at French's Mills when I was eight years 
of age. At that time at least three-quarters of the coimtry 
was covered with primeval forest, and, consequently, trees 
were not considered of much value. There was a large 


balsam fir standing all by itself in Mr. Lucien French's 
pasture, and I was very ambitious to fell this tree. We had a 
large butcher's knife made out of a mill-saw file, and when I 
had ground this very sharp I commenced operations, but 
found it a very tough job. However, I kept hacking away 
eight or nine hours every day for about a week, when it 
appeared to me that with a very little more cutting the 
tree would fall, so I invited my sister, who was eighteen 
months younger than myself, to come and see the sport. 
I worked vigorously, but the tree refused to fall, and my 
little sister went to sleep. I thought the next day would 
certainly finish it, so my sister came again, but with the same 
result. I had cut a deep groove all round the tree, but there 
were five or six inches still left that were very difficult to get 
out. The next day I ground the knife very sharp at the 
point, so that it could be used like a chisel, and again my 
sister put in an appearance, but the tree still refused to go 
down. The following day my sister would not go with me ; 
she had become discouraged. I, however, worked on the 
job imtil about four o'clock in the afternoon, when I heard 
a crackling noise at the point of the knife, and, looking up, 
I saw the big tree toppling over. This was the proudest 
moment of my long and eventful Hfe ; nothing since has 
equalled it. 

Shortly after I saw Mr. Lucien French approaching at a 
gallop. I expected he would pat me on the back and tell 
me what a wonderful boy I was. Instead of that he was 
extremely indignant and scolded me for having cut down a 
tree that afforded shade to his cattle, but when he saw that 
I had done it with a knife he commenced to laugh. Soon 
a lot of the neighbours came to see what was the trouble, 
and I was not at all pleased with what one of them said. 
One called the chips that I had cut out " saw-dust " ; 


another said, " Poor little fellow, just look at him, he is all 
covered with pitch ! " I was asked how long it had taken 
me to cut down the tree, and I replied, to their astonishment, 
that I had worked on it every day for about two weeks. 

Many years later I visited Maine, and while staying with 
my imcle. Captain Samuel Maxim, I took a short cut through 
the woods to French's Mills. When I emerged from the 
woods I saw a very old man working in the fields, and as I 
approached him he looked up, stared at me, and finally 
walked to meet me. 

He seized me by the hand and said, " I believe it is 

He then commenced to laugh, and when I asked him what 
he was laughing about he said, " You were such a curious 
kind of a boy." 

" But I must have been very much Uke other boys ? " 
I said. 

" No, not a bit," he replied ; " there never was another 
boy like you. On one occasion, when I called at your 
father's house you had a big bottle-fly by both wings. 
Gradually you pulled them apart until one of them gave 
way. Then you said in a very thoughtful manner, ' This 
fly's wings are not put in even ; if they had been they would 
both have pulled out at the same time.' Tou are the only 
boy in the world who would ever have thought of cutting 
down a big tree with a butcher's knife. Then again you 
managed to catch every fish in the river, leaving nothing for 
anybody else." 

My father was not satisfied with living in such an out-of- 
the-way place as French's Mills, so he moved his machinery 
to the village of Milo. We had not lived there very long, 
however, when he learned of an excellent site with splendid 
buildings and water power in Omeville — ten miles distant 


— where there was an abundance of timber that could be 
had for the cutting. Shortly after setthng in Omeville my 
father took over the local grist mill. It was a very fine mill 
equipped with three runs of stones and all the necessary 
machinery that goes with a first-class grist mill. 

While living at Milo there was an encampment of Pen- 
obscot Indians in the swamp near the village, who made 
baskets and other squaw work which was very pretty and 
brought a fair price. In those days the white people as a 
rule built their houses on the hills ; they would never build 
in a valley if they could help it, and would cut down all the 
trees near the houses. The Indians, on the contrary, sought 
out the densest swamp they could find in which to pitch 
their tents and build their wigwams. Once when the local 
blacksmith gave me a small steel trap to take over to the 
Indians' camp, I remember that I found the wind very cold 
on the high ground where the white men lived ; the sun, 
however, was shining brightly and the snow was very deep. 
When I entered the thicket where the Indians were encamped 
the Sim shone between the tree-tops ; there was no wind and 
the snow was actually melting in the sunshine. It then 
occurred to me that the Indians are much wiser in some 
respects than the white men. 

The principal camp was made of small logs built up like 
a log-house, the cracks between the logs being filled with 
mud and bog moss. The log work was about four feet high 
and from this a large number of poles ran up at an angle of 
about forty-five degrees, and these were fastened together 
at the apex, leaving a hole about four feet in diameter. On 
top of these poles was placed a quantity of cedar boughs, 
after the manner of a thatched roof, which shed the rain 
beautifully. The fire was built in the centre of the house 
under the hole, and around the fire and up to the walls 


spruce and cedar boughs were laid flat on the ground to a 
depth of about four or five inches ; on top of this was a lot 
of straw obtained from the farmers. There were no chairs 
and only one small table ; however, some billets of wood 
answered for chairs in case of white visitors. Every one 
slept with head to the wall and feet towards the fire. A 
very thick and dirty blanket served for a door. 

The Chief of this particular branch of the Penobscots was 
Sap-ill-su-sip. He was a great friend of my father, and from 
him I learned many of the secrets of trapping. He said : 
" Hiram, if you wish to catch a mink, use a log trap and make 
it up of old stuff, nothing that is newly cut ; the older the 
better. If you set a steel trap for a fox, boil it with spruce 
boughs and don't touch it afterwards if you can help it, 
but cover it up with grass. The best bait for a mink is a 
fish, and the best for a fox, a bit of meat. If you wish to 
catch musquash, use a steel trap. If you fasten it so that he 
cannot drag it into the water, he will gnaw off his legs and 
escape. If you set it near the water's edge he will pull it 
off into the water and be drowned. The best bait for a 
musquash is a parsnip cut so as to look white." 

On one occasion my father asked Sap-ill-su-sip what 
animals were good to eat. The list seemed to include almost 
everything, the best being the flesh of a musquash. He said : 
" Every animal that will eat meat will eat a musquash, but 
no man nor animal will eat the flesh of a mink." 

Sometimes the white men would go into the Indian camp 
in the evening to play cards. As none of the squaws knew 
how to play, and only two Indians took any interest in the 
game, I was sometimes invited to make up a four-handed 
game. The game was " poker." A white bean counted for 
a dollar and a kernel of yellow Indian com for five dollars, 
but these were not redeemable in real money. 


The summer following the visits to the camp of the 
Indians my father ordered from Sap-ill-su-sip, a very large 
basket for taking the shavings out of his workshop. For 
the purpose of making the basket Sap-ill-su-sip hired a 
room in a small house, but when he had made it he found 
that he could not possibly get it through the door. 

The State of Maine at that time was a wooded country, 
with many saw mills. A peculiar flat file was used for 
sharpening the saws, but when these were worn out they 
were of no value and were given to the Indians, who would 
put them in the fire, take out the temper, and then bring 
them to my father's mill, where we had a large power-driven 
grindstone. The teeth would be ground off, the files made 
smooth on both sides, and then taken to the blacksmith, 
who converted them into various kinds of knives. The 
knife most used was bent up like a hook at the end and was 
used for scooping out wooden dishes. 

At Orneville my people were fairly prosperous. I was 
twelve years of age and attended the local school, and 
between terms I enjoyed myself very much fishing on Lake 
Boyd. There were plenty of fish in those days, and I 
became fairly expert in catching them. I had no boat, and 
had to depend on a raft made out of logs. One of the farmers 
who lived on the other side of the lake about two miles 
distant had built a large, clumsy, flat-bottomed boat. Not 
being satisfied with the climate of Maine, he emigrated 
to the West, leaving the boat without an owner. It then 
became the correct thing for everybody living about the 
lake to steal the boat from the man who was in possession. 
I was anxious to take part in the game, but as I was only 
thirteen years of age I could not very well undertake it 
alone. After a good deal of time and trouble I succeeded 
in talking a young man into joining me in the plot. Although 


twenty-two years of age, he was little or no stronger than 
myself ; however, it was the best I could do, and so early 
one Sunday morning we visited the lake, found an old raft 
and some poles, and after slight repairs succeeded in poling 
and paddling this affair across about a mile of water to what 
was known as the "Jack landing." We found the boat 
about one hundred feet from the water, bottom up. With a 
great deal of trouble we succeeded in righting it and working 
it down the bank to the water. As there were no oars or 
paddles we had to be satisfied with the poles that we had 
used on the raft. 

We started out gaily, but we had not gone more than 
half a mile when we were struck by a terrific squall ; the 
water became feather-white in no time, and we had aU we 
could do to bale out the boat with a piece of board that we 
had found. 

It was then that my twenty-two-year-old partner-in- 
crime repented. He said that it was a judgment that had 
been brought upon us, and that I was to blame for it ; it 
was bad enough to steal the boat, but to steal it on Sunday 
was something more than a crime — it was a sin ; we should 
probably lose our lives, and I was to blame for it all. He 
stopped rowing and baling and commenced to pray, but I 
continued baling out the water and managed to keep the 
boat afloat. 

The wind being very much in our favour, we were quickly 
blown into the river leading from the lake, where the water 
was quiet, and sopn reached the dam which had been built 
to regulate the flow from the lake for the mills. We 
attempted to get the boat over the dam, but it refused 
absolutely to come out of the water ; it was too heavy for 
us. After tugging away for fully an hour my accompUce 
thought we had better abandon the job. 


At that time the water was high and pouring in torrents 
over the dam. I suggested that we should run the boat 
over the falls, but my accomplice was sure that such an 
attempt would only result in loss of life. However, I 
jiunped into the boat, got a good hold of one of the seats 
and went over. I found myself completely buried in white 
spray, but a wooden boat will always float, even if full of 
water, and I was soon again above water and going down 
the rapids, where I managed to effect a landing. By the 
time my friend arrived I had baled the water out of the boat. 

An hour later I had it safely landed on the banks of my 
father's mill pond. I at once ran up to the house and 
brought my sister down to see the prize, but her remarks 
were most discouraging. 

" How foolish of you, Hiram, to go through so much 
trouble and danger to get possession of such an ugly old 

But I was satisfied to know that Johnnie Robins, the 
previous owner, would not be able to get it back over the 
Falls, and I found it much better than a raft for fishing 
purposes in the mill pond. 


MONEY was extremely scarce in the part of Maine 
in which we Uved. Trade was largely a question 
of barter. The local merchants took grain, eggs, 
butter, cheese, hay, and potatoes in pajnnent for what was 
euphoniously called at the time " dry goods, groceries, and 
grindstones," boots, shoes, etc. 

One day a very good-looking man appeared in Omeville. 
He was a sea captain, the first I had ever seen. He had little 
to say, but I admired him immensely, and my amazement 
was great when I learned that he received the enormous 
salary of one hundred dollars a month for commanding a 
big and beautiful three-masted ship. 

At that time the shipping of the United States was rather 
large. It was before the days of the Alabama, and no 
less than two-fifths of the tonnage was built in the State of 

Encouraged by the possibilities of enjoying such an 
enormous income, I at once determined to become a sea 
captain. The following evening, managing to get my father 
all by himself, I asked him many questions. He said if I 
were to be a sea captain it would be necessary for me to 
study navigation. I was already expert in geography, and 
was quite able to understand all that my father said. 

He explained how latitude and longitude were found at 
sea, that the compass only indicated the north and that there 
were several ways of finding the latitude. One was to take 



the height of the sun at noon with a delicate instrument, 
but the sun was a different height every day in the year. 
The simplest way was to find the height of the North Star. 
If one were at the North Pole the North Star would be 
directly overhead ; if one marched southward the North 
Star would become lower and lower every day and finally 
disappear below the horizon at the equator. It was there- 
fore only necessary to find how high the North Star was in 
order to determine the latitude. Longitude was found by 
comparing the noon of the ship's chronometer with the 
noon on board the ship, which was obtained by taking the 
greatest height of the sun above the horizon for that par- 
ticular day. As one sailed eastward noon would occur earlier 
each day while the noon of the chronometer would remain 
constant; the difference between the two indicated the 

I understood all of this perfectly. The next day I told 
my sister that I had fully determined to be a sea captain, 
and thought it was time I commenced to get ready. I could 
not purchase the chronometer, but felt quite sure that 
I should be able to make an instrument that would determine 
the latitude. I obtained a piece of board about half an inch 
thick, planed and sandpapered it on both sides, took a pair 
of dividers, struck a half-circle, and spaced off an index, 
figuring it with a lead pencil. My mother furnished me with 
a piece of black linen thread, to which I attached a bullet 
and passed the thread through the hole made by the dividers. 
That night I took the instrument out and sighted it to the 
North Star, while my sister, with a candle, examined the 
reading, and fomxd that the black thread was directly 
over the figure 45. Going into the house I told my father 
what I had done, and showed him the instrument. He pro- 
nounced it very good and said that the reading indicated 


that we were at 45'' north latitude. We then examined a 
map of the State of Maine and fotmd that my instrument 
was correct. But I did not go to sea. 

Shortly after this my father obtained for me a book on 
astronomy, also Comstock's Natural Philosophy, both of which 
I eagerly read and reread. Books were very scarce in those 
, days, so I made the most of those that I could obtain. 
) There were several saw mills in the town of Omeville. 
One of these belonged to a man by the name of Lord. As 
he was a lay preacher and a great exhorter in the munerous 
prayer meetings, he was called Elder Lord. In connection 
with his saw mill he had a small store, and used to deal with 
all the farmers in the vicinity. A peculiar thing about 
Elder Lord was that he could neither read nor write, 
which was very exceptional in the State of Maine. He was 
probably the only man in the county completely without an 
education of some kind. 

On one occasion a neighbouring farmer was settling 
accounts with him and found that a cheese had been charged 
to him. He maintained that he was a producer of cheese 
himself, that he made them for sale and had never bought 
one in his life. However, the Elder pointed out that a cheese 
was charged in the book, for was there not a drawing of it ? 
He showed the book, and sure enough there was a pencil 
sketch apparently of a cheese. After a lot of dispute the 
Elder said : " Oh, I see, I've made a mistake, it was a 
grindstone, but I forgot to put the hole in it." Years later 
this story, which was quite true, found its way into the 

At the age of fourteen and some months I was put to 

work with a carriage maker by the name of Daniel Sweat, 

at East Corinth Village. When my father took me to old 

Sweat's place he called his attention to the fact that I was a 



very large and strong boy. He said I had been brought 
up to the use of wood-working tools, that I had built an 
excellent boat, and was a natural all-round mechanic ; 
very handy with machinery and able to tend a grist mill 
as well as an expert. 

Old Sweat looked me over, said he thought I would do, 
and I commenced work. 

Ordinarily a boy is put to do something simple at first, 
but old Sweat gave me a journeyman's job. I was to make 
six wheelbarrows such as were used by the farmers in Maine 
at that time, and were very much finer than any to be found 
in England to-day. I got on with the work splendidly, 
being much interested in it, and when I had finished the job 
old Sweat brought in a lot of men to look at the result. He 
said, " This is the boy's first job ; they are the best lot of 
wheelbarrows I ever saw." 

At that time farm wagons and carts were provided with 
wooden axle-trees made out of four-inch seasoned rock 
maple plank as hard as horn, and it soon became my job 
to take out the old worn-out wooden axle-trees and replace 
them with new ones. First I had to get the right pattern 
and mark out on a plank the axle-tree required, then saw it 
out by hand, form it into shape, take off all the iron on the 
old axle-tree, put the shafts and irons on the new axle-tree, 
and give it a coat of lead colour — all in one day. A job of 
this kind would last the average British mechanic at least a 
week, and by careful nursing imder the supervision of a 
highly trained labour leader it might be made to last two 

It was summer, and we commenced work at five o'clock 
in the morning. At seven we went to breakfast. Work was 
resumed at seven-thirty, and continued imtil the dinner- 
hour — twelve to one. I used to appreciate the short mid- 


day rest very much indeed. At five o'clock we had supper, 
after which we again worked until sunset. In after years 
when there was a strike of my men in New York for an 
eight hours' day, I told them that the eight-hour system 
was nothing new to me ; I used to work eight hours in 
the forenoon and eight in the afternoon. 

As soon as the sun had disappeared it was my duty to 
go into the woodshed and chop the wood for the next day ; 
then to bed, which I reached at about half-past eight. 
When I first went to old Sweat's I was hungry all the time. 
It was always " flap-jacks " and treacle, and nothing but 
" flap-jacks " and treacle, for breakfast. At first I was lucky 
if I got one, but I had not been a week in the place before I 
became as expert as any at the table in capturing " flap- 
jacks " as they were brought from the frying-pan to the 
table. Dinner in the middle of the day consisted of fried 
pork and salt fish, boiled potatoes, bread and treacle. 
This was a sumptuous repast ; very few could afford it. 
For our five o'clock supper, we had bread and treacle, and 
occasionally enjoyed the luxury of a bit of butter. 

While working for Sweat I had the enormous salary of 
four dollars (i6s.) a month, but this was not paid in cash. 
That would have been altogether too much, and I had to 
take it out in trade at the local stores. On the whole I had a 
very rough time while at Sweat's. 

One evening I was pressed by young Mr. Sweat and a 
friend of his to join in a four-handed game of " seven up." 
My partner was rather stupid, but I understood the game 
perfectly, having played cards a good deal in the Indians' 
camp at Milo. Sweat and his friend beat us ten consecutive 
games straight off. In the meantime I had detected that 
both Sweat and his partner were cheating. My partner 
got discouraged and wanted to stop, but Sweat insisted on 


continuing the play, sa3ang that they would cease when 
they had beaten us twenty times. I was sitting on a very 
low stool, and the table on which we were playing had a 
little shelf underneath. Very soon I had quite a store of 
aces, knaves, and two-spots stored away, after which we 
beat the Sweat party every game, and beat them 

While at East Corinth I learned that a boy by the name 
of Rand Bean, living not far away, had a pack of cards. 
I wanted that pack of cards badly, but money was very 
scarce ; grown-up people had very little indeed, while 
children had none. After taking an inventory of my 
property, I found that the only things I had that were 
negotiable consisted of a sailor's song book, a buckle, and a 
leather shoe string. Placing this valuable property in my 
pocket, I sought Rand Bean, but didn't venture to ask 
him out and out if he had a pack of cards, believing that it 
would be better to beat round the bush a bit. I commenced 
by showing him the song book and reading to him such songs 
as "The Blue Bells of Scotland," "Black-Eyed Susan," 
" The Colleen Bawn," etc. He seemed to be delighted and 
said he would very much like to purchase the book if he 
had anything that I would take in exchange. He had a jack- 
knife that originally had two blades, but one was gone and 
one side of the handle was missing. I looked at it with 
contempt. Then recollecting his pack of cards, he produced 
them. Counting them over, I told him that two were missing, 
but as they were unimportant ones it was not long before I 
succeeded in making the exchange. 

It was Saturday night, and when I took my cards home 
I found my father reading, my mother busy, and my sister 
peevish and fretful. The next morning, Sunday, I took 
up a position where I could watch old Deacon Hunting's 


house, and it was not long before John, his son, saw my 
signals and met me behind the wood pile. He was learning 
his Sunday-school lesson and had the book with him. I 
took the pack of cards out of my pocket and showed him 
some of the picture cards. 

" Are those the cards that are so dreadfully wicked ? " he 

" Yes." 

"J have never seen any before," he replied. 

I would say in parenthesis that playing cards at any 
time was considered very wicked by the Puritans in the 
State of Maine, but to play cards on Sunday was nothing less 
than a criminal offence. 

John was very much interested. He said he would nm 
down under the bank of the river where they couldn't see 
him and get into the saw-mill, while I went back of the bam 
to the river below the saw-mill, and we would meet at the 
nigger wheel. Everything turned out as we expected, and 
John was most anxious to become acquainted with the pack 
of cards on account of their extreme wickedness. The game 
essayed was " seven up," sometimes called " High Low 
Jack and the game," the most common at that time of all 
card games. But John was very slow to learn. After several 
attempts at a game, all of which failed, I laid the cards out 
on a plank between us, and just as I was explaining tha 
ace would take a king, a king would take a queen, a queen 
would take a Jack, etc., I espied old Deacon Himting 
approaching with a club in his hand. 

John gave a yell and instantly shpped down the place 
where the sawed timber was discharged, but I stopped to 
gather up my precious cards, and by the time I had the 
last of them, the Deacon was within ten feet of me and 
between me and the hole where John had escaped. He then 


cornered me up, shouting, " Oh, you bad, wicked. Sabbath- 
broaching boy/' 

By shifting his club from one hand to the other he drove 
me out on to the slip which ran out into the pond, and as he 
followed me up he said, " Now I've got you, you wicked 
little wretch, you Sabbath-broacher," but I dipped my 
bare feet in the water and took my chances, skipping very 
rapidly over the floating poles and small logs, not giving 
them time to sink, and finally reached the shore in safety. 
I looked across the water at the old Deacon and held up my 
pack of cards while he shook his club at me. 

My father finally moved back to Sangersville village, and 
so one day I told old Sweat that I was going to leave him. 
I packed up my belongings in a large red cotton handker- 
chief and started for home. 

After covering twenty miles I found myself at the 
house of my uncle. Captain Samuel Maxim. My cousins were 
very glad to see me, and I remained several days. Then 
walking to Sangersville village I at once obtained a situation 
where they were making hand rakes for farmers, and did a 
joiurneyman's work from the first day. I continued this 
work until the winter term of school commenced. 

While attending school at Sangersville village the youaig 
men and boys used to get together in the evening and box. 
A yoimg gentleman who had been to Boston had brought 
home a set of very good boxing-gloves. I used to box with 
boys of my own age or a little older, but my brother Henry, 
after he had had a little practice, was such a hard hitter 
that none of the boys of his own age would put the gloves 
on with him a second time, and he was matched against 
boys considerably older and bigger than himself. On one 
occasion he was asked to put on the gloves with a boy four 
years his senior. He objected strongly, saying, " He is 


four years older than I am, it isn't fair." The good-natured 
wag of the village was present and said : " That's nothing, 
I've often put the gloves on with old Elder Clark, and he is 
four times as old as I am." 

This reminds me of the doings of this ancient clergyman. 
He was a cousin to my mother, a Universalist and eighty- 
four years of age. He had plenty of hair, but it was as white 
as cotton wool, which it very much resembled. His wife 
died in the spring following our boxing lessons, in which he 
took a lively interest, putting on the gloves himself with 
young men. 

About two weeks after his wife's death I saw approaching 
me in the main road what I took to be a young gentleman 
from the city. His hvely and dapper figiure was rigged out 
in a fine black broadcloth coat, a white vest, hght grey 
trousers, and patent leather boots, the whole siumoimted 
by the shiniest kind of a silk hat. He wore gold-rimmed 
eye-glasses, pale yellow kid gloves, and carried a light gold- 
motmted cane. His teeth were very even and shiny and his 
hair as black as night. I had never seen any one so beauti- 
fully attired before. He was a very striking figure, and was 
tripping along Uke a girl of sixteen. It was old Elder Clark. 
But there was one drawback to the tout ensemble. Although 
he was rather fleshy, his face was about the colour of a 
bladder of lard and with not a few wrinkles. Two weeks 
later he married a maiden lady of the tender age of 

By the way, this remarkable parson was a relative of 
the Captain Clark who commanded the U.S. battleship 
Oregon on her voyage from the Pacific coast through the 
Straits of Magellan, to take part in the Spanish-American 
War. On that occasion it was foimd that the Oregon was 
able to keep alongside of the Italian-built Spanish cruiser 


that was supposed to be at least five knots an hour faster 
than the battleship. 

In the autiunn that I arrived in Sangersville village all 
the boys were attempting to catch minks, their skins being 
very valuable. Acting on the advice of old Sap-ill-su-sip, 
I set a trap at the foot of the lake and caught all the minks 
that were on the river : in fact I was the only one that 
caught a mink that year. 

As soon as school finished in the spring, I went to Abbott 
Lower Village, where there was a rather fine carriage shop 
equipped with many machines all driven by water-power. 
This belonged to a man by the name of Daniel Flynt, who 
was quite a genius in his way. My father gave me a very 
good recommendation, called the attention of Mr. Flynt 
to my large size, and told him that I could do a man's 
work and do it well. Fl5nit put me to work, and we remained 
the greatest of friends from that day until his death. The 
power-driven machinery in Flynt's place made the work 
much easier. He had a good house, everything was neat 
and clean, and the table all that could be desired, but 
the hours were the same as the Sweat system — practically 
eight in the forenoon and eight in the afternoon. In the 
early spring when I entered Flynt's employ there w£is not 
much doing in carriage-making. There were others employed 
about the premises, but I was the only one in the wood- 
working shop for a considerable time. 

For several years previous to my engagement at Fl5ait's 
I had been studying drawing, that is, simply drawing faces, 
etc., with a lead pencil, and every new face I saw that was 
at all odd I attempted to draw out and remember. I had 
not been very long in Flynt's employ when a man came in 
who had a very peculiar face, at least I thought so, and 
while he was talking I sketched him. He was anxious to 


find Mr. Fljoit, but I was unable to tell him where he could 
be found. 

An hour or two later Flynt came in, and I told him that a 
gentleman had called to see him. 

" Who was it ? " he asked. 

I said I didn't know. 

" You certainly should have taken his name/' he replied ; 
" don't let this occur again. When any one calls to see me 
you should always write down the name." 

I thereupon picked up the sketch that I had made and 
said, " That is the man." 

Flynt fairly shouted, " Oh, that's Charles Leman," and 
he ran out to show it to his friends. 

I got on very well at Flynt's. We confined our work to 
making and repairing carriages ; but Fljmt had a relative 
living at a distance who made sleighs ; he had a factory 
and turned them out very cheaply all ready ironed, but not 
painted. Fl3mt bought a lot of these, brought them to 
his own factory, and painted them. At that time it was the 
fashion to have some kind of a picture, such as a bouquet 
of flowers, a landscape or some animal, painted on the dash- 
board ; the back and sides were also ornamented with 
some sort of a painting, small in size but very showy. 
Flynt was able to do the striping himself, but not being an 
artist he could not paint the pictures that were required, 
and had to depend on a man who lived three miles away 
and charged a very high price for his work. One day, when 
Flynt was anxious to send out some of the sleighs, the 
man failed to put in an appearance ; he had another job. 
Flynt was greatly disappointed, so I suggested that perhaps 
I might do the job myself. He laughed at first, but after 
some hesitation allowed me to try my hand at it. He 
was much elated at my success, and within two weeks 


he said, " You can beat the other fellow out of his 

After that I did all the decorative painting. The favourite 
piece for the dash-board was a small oval landscape showing 
a few trees in different degrees of dilapidation, a body of 
water, and about three mountains in the distance, the sky 
being very brilliant. On each side of this landscape were 
painted roses and rose-buds with green leaves, some of 
them tinged with brown. The colours that I used had been 
obtained direct from Windsor and Newton, 38 Rathbone 
Place, London, and were the very best. They were a great 
improvement on the colours that I had made myself when 
twelve years old, while the brushes were much better than 
those I made from hairs cut from the baby's head and drawn 
into the quills of a domestic fowl. I would say in this 
connection that no human hair is of any value for a brush 
if it has ever been cut — you must have the clippings of the 
first crop if you wish to succeed. 

One day while I was working at Dan Flynt's the driver 
of the stage-coach stopped in front of the shop and called 
but, " I just now saw a bear cross the road in front of my 
horses, and I had all I could do to prevent them from 
running away." About two minutes later a little boy ran 
up and said that his mother had just seen a bear, and in a 
few more minutes another woman sent a message that she 
had seen a bear enter a little clump of trees about ten acres 
in extent, very near the village and completely surrounded 
by cleared land. Every one was after a gun at once. As I 
had no gun I armed myself with a hatchet and joined the 
procession. Those who had guns, and all the dogs, were 
very soon in the woods, while those who had only axes, 
hatchets, and clubs surrounded the woods. The hunt had 
not proceeded very far when out came the bear, and as he 


ran up to the fence alongside the road a man with nothing 
but a big felt hat faced him. He kept on the opposite side 
of the fence, and every time the bear attempted to get over, 
he hit him in the face with the hat. Finally, however, the 
bear ran along the fence a Uttle too far and got over before 
the man could face him, but of course there was a fence 
on the other side of the road. As it was rather a high one 
the bear attempted to crawl through. He got his head 
through all right, and then stuck for a time. The man came 
up with some rotten wood and broke it all up on the bear s 
back. The bear gave a grunt, raised up the fence and got 
through, ran up and over the top of the hill and disappeared 
into the dense swamp, followed by about twenty dogs. 
In going up the hill he passed within thirty feet of the two 
women who were watching the hunt ; they did not appear 
to notice him. I ran up in pursuit with my hatchet, but 
soon gave up the chase. I asked the women why they had 
not looked at the bear, and one of them said to the other, 
•* I do beUeve that the largest of those dogs was a bear." 

Many bear himts took place in that part of Maine, and 
in nineteen cases out of twenty the only result was a few 
dead dogs. It was the greatest ambition of my father's 
life to kill a bear, but he never succeeded. My grandfather 
Stevens, however, was very successful, capturing about 
four bears a year. Each was worth about five dollars for 
the bounty and skin, and the meat, of com^e, was worth 
something. But that bears can be successfully hunted is 
witnessed by the fact that an old htmter who lived in the 
dense forests on the shores of Moosehead Lake had actually 
killed over ninety before I left the States, and he said he 
hoped to live until he had killed one hundred. 

I worked for Flynt for about four years except during 
the long term at school in the winter. In the meantime my 


father, evidently wishing to be near me, and hearing of a 
grist mill without a miller, moved the family to Abbott. 

About nine months in the year I lived with the Flynt 
family, and three months, while attending school, with my 
father. I was the eldest of the family, and often, after 
being at school all day and working on my simis at home 
up to nine o'clock in the evening, I used to go over to the 
grist mill and take charge until morning. 

In those days there were many men working in the woods 
about Moosehead Lake, and large and heavy sleds drawn by 
four horses would pull up at the grist mill at about six 
o'clock in the evening with a load of oats, peas, and barley, 
in separate bags. The oats and peas had to be mixed with 
the barley and the whole groimd together. Each bag held 
exactly two bushels, and there were a good many bags. 
Ordinarily the miller takes toll — two quarts to the bushel — 
but in these cases they paid cash instead, and it was therefore 
very difficult to get the meal back into the bags that held 
the grain. The run of stones used for grinding this fodder 
was driven by a very powerful water-wheel, and the output 
was just a bushel a minute. The bags had to be seized and 
thrown on to a table about five feet high, untied, the 
contents mixed in the hopper, and the meal shovelled 
back into the bags, every ounce of it, and beaten in with a 
rammer. This was very lively work. 

I imagine it would take at least three men to-day to 
attend to a mill of this kind ; but I used to continue it all 
night and go to school next day. My father, however, came 
early in the morning, so that I got a few hours of sleep before 
school time at nine o'clock. Moreover, this didn't happen 
every day, but only about two or three times in the week. 

It is interesting in this connection to note that during 
the last year of this vigorous exercise I was the only scholar 


that never lost a minute at school, and I kept what was 
called the " tally *' of all the other scholars. The master 
said that I was the only one that could be reUed upon to be 

Years later, when I had an opportunity of showing off 
my physical strength, I was asked if it might not be the 
result of long and laborious training. I said, " Quite so," 
and told what the training was. 

On one occasion a big sled had a row of barrels of pork 
on its rear end, and it was necessary to remove them to 
get at the bags of grain. The driver asked me if I had a man 
to assist me. I said, " No, I can do it alone." He laughed 
and said it was impossible, but when I took up a barrel of 
pork, walked off with it, and set it down in the snow, he 
shouted, " Look out, young feller, yer legs'll break off and 
stick into yer." These barrels were very heavy indeed ; 
I do not know how much they weighed, but it must have 
been somewhere in the vicinity of 400 lbs. The pork itself 
weighed 200 lbs., the brine was nearly as heavy, and the 
barrel also very large and heavy. 

The grist mill at Abbott, like all other grist mills, supported 
a swarm of mice. There were no rats in Maine in those days 
except in seaport towns. While working in Flynt's carriage 
factory I used to make a few box traps in the noon hour 
and on Sundays, but the trouble with these traps was 
that when they had caught a mouse they were full and could 
not catch another until the first had been taken out. I 
therefore decided to make an automatic mouse-trap, one 
that would wind up like a clock, and set itself a great 
number of times. This trap was to be worked by a coiled 
spring after the manner of a clock. At that time the women 
were wearing hooped skirts. The hoop itself was usually 
made of hard rolled brass, very thin and light and susceptible 


of being made into a suitable spring. I attempted to 
buy a single hoop at the village store, but they were only 
sold in sets of three. After a great deal of negotiation the 
store-keeper agreed to let me have the three hoops for 
thirty cents. With considerable trouble I raised the money, 
purchased the set, and attempted to sell two of the hoops 
for twenty cents, but failed. By getting up very early on 
Sunday mornings and going to work at daylight and 
working all day, I succeeded in making a trap that was 
quite automatic in its action. The body part was made of 
very white crinkly basswood, which is very beautiful when 
varnished, and this was ornamented with dark mahogany 
strips which made the basswood appear like panels. When 
it was finished it certainly had the appearance of a very 
pretty piece of cabinet work. 

It was about four o'clock one Sunday afternoon when I 
finished it, and I took it round to the store-keeper to see 
what he would think of my work. He said it was splendid, 
wonderful, and would, he believed, work perfectly. So he 
cut off a bit of the butt-end of a candle, attached it to the 
double hook that was made for holding the bait, and put 
the trap in a place where the mice were numerous. On my 
return from supper we went into the store to see what had 
happened, and found five mice in the cage looking at us 
with their noses projecting through the bars. The trap was 
a success. It was shown to every one in the village, and 
borrowed to be put on exhibition in the neighbouring 

Although this trap was successful, it was too expensive 
and elaborate to make and sell ; so I studied out another 
plan, and made one that required no coiled spring, the 
mouse himself doing all the work. His mouseship walked 
in, and, touching the bait, shut himself in ; this frightened 

thf; authok at the a<;k ok seventki 

.• • • 


him ; he would attempt to escape, and did escape into a 
small cage, but in doing so he set the trap for the next 
customer, and so on. 

Many years later I went into a shop to purchase a mouse- 
trap. On being shown the one which the dealer recom- 
mended as the very best, I was surprised to see the very 
thing which I had invented when a boy. 

After another winter at school and in the grist mill, I 
resimied work in the carriage factory, doing both woodwork 
and painting. 

In the olden days every one was expected to attend 
public worship at the local meeting-house on Sunday, and 
before the Indians had been exterminated or subdued, every 
man took a loaded musket with him to church and a quantity 
of anununition. The pews were long and narrow, and the 
man with the gun always had to get out of the pew to allow 
others to enter. It was necessary for him to have the 
end seat so as to get out of church quickly in case of an 
attack. This habit continued long after the men ceased 
to take their guns to church. 

Deacon Stevens, my mother's father, lived near Abbott 
Upper Village, and I used to pay him an occasional visit. 
On week-days the family were up at five o'clock ; breakfast 
was generally served at six, but before breakfast the Deacon 
asked the blessing, which occupied about ten minutes. 
After breakfast, with all of the family present, he would 
read a long chapter in the Bible, very deliberately ; and 
then all would kneel down for family prayers, which lasted 
about three-quarters of an hour. At noon about twenty 
minutes were spent in asking the blessing at the table and 
again at five o'clock supper another twenty minutes were 
consumed in the same way. In the evening we had another 
long chapter from the Bible, and another very long prayer. 


In fact, the whole day was one series of religious devotions, 
and my grandfather had so much rehgion to the square 
inch that the neighbours called him " Old Brimstone 

Early in the season I decided to make myself a tricycle, 
and by getting up every Sunday morning at dayUght, 
working until dark, and working a whole day on the 4th of 
July, I succeeded early in September in producing my 
tricycle. It is a curious and interesting fact that the wheels 
of this tricycle were the first ever made in America in 
which two sets of spokes widely divided at the hub supported 
the rim of the wheel by tension instead of by compression. 
The spokes were of white ash and very slender ; that is, 
they were wooden wheels made on the same plan as the 
bicycle wheels of to-day. This tricycle was used by my 
younger brothers and other boys about the village, and for a 
time was a nine days' wonder. 

About a year later while my tricycle was being ridden 
rapidly by my brother Leander, Farmer Clark's horse became 
frightened and shied, but did no damage. As the tricycle 
stopped in order to allow the farmer to get away with his 
horse, he improved the opportimity by smashing it. He 
said the wheels were the toughest things he ever saw. He 
soon found out, however, that he had made a great mistake 
and was liable to a heavy penalty for stopping and destroying 
a vehicle on a public road ; and to keep the thing from 
getting into the courts, he took the broken machine to Dan 
Flynt's carriage factory and ordered it to be repaired. 
Fl3mt put his best man on the job, but after two or three 
weeks of fruitless work he reported that it was too much for 
him ; there was only one man in the world who could pro- 
duce that kind of a wheel, and he had left Abbott for good. 
So the beautiful machine that had been such a nine days' 


wonder remained at the carriage factory, and was finally 
destroyed when the place was burned down. 

The following February I was twenty years old, and my 
father told me that if I would tend the grist mill during the 
winter and allow him to work in the wood-turning shop, he 
would give me the remainder of my time, which would be 
about nine months. I agreed to this and took full charge 
of the grist mill during the winter. Many times I had to 
work both day and night. 

In the spring I again went to work for Daniel Flynt in 
order to earn a Uttle money to purchase clothes and get out 
of Abbott. I wished to go to a larger place where I could 
get more money for my work. My freedom notice was 
published in The Piscataquis Observer, according to the 
habits of the country, my fathet relinquishing all claims 
on my earnings. 


WITH a few dollars in my pocket I started for 
Dexter, Maine. I had heard that one Ed, Fifield 
was in want of a decorative painter, and I hoped 
to get the job. I arrived in Dexter at about two o'clock in 
the afternoon and applied at once for the situation, but was 
told that an excellent man had already been engaged ; in fact, 
the best decorative painter in the State, which I think was 
true. He was sorry that he couldn't give me a job as a 
painter, but told me he was very much in need of a good 
wood-turner, and asked me if I knew anyone whom he 
could employ. I told him that I would take the job myself. 
He laughed and said that anyone could put a piece of wood 
in a lathe and scratch it off a bit, but nothing less than a 
first-class professional wood-turner was any good in a 
cabinet shop. When I told him that my father was a wood- 
turner, he wanted to hire him ; but that was impossible. 
I informed him that as I had worked in a carriage shop four 
years, and done all the wood-turning, I felt certain that I 
could do the work. He finally consented to take me to the 
wood turnery to show me the work and the lathe. It was 
the finest lathe I had ever seen and I assured him that I 
could do the work. 

He said, " Very well, I will give you a trial." 
I asked him what the first job would be. " Ten sets of 
bedstead posts," he rephed. 

I asked how long it generally took a wood-turner to do 



such a job, and he said, " The cleverest turner in the State 
is a man who can do ten sets in a day ; the next best is one 
that can do eight sets in a day." 

The head cabinet-maker laid out forty pieces of seasoned 
rock maple, four inches square, all cut the proper length, 
and furnished me with a specimen bedstead post. I asked 
if I might be allowed to put everything in order then and 
there, so that I could commence to work the lathe the first 
thing in the morning. 

" Certainly," was the reply. 

I then swept the floor, cleaned the lathe, and laced the 
belts, as they did not seem to be taut enough for the pur- 
pose. I marked the centres on all of the blanks for the 
posts and put a drop of oil on the end that was to run on the 
dead centre. I took all the tools to a power-driven grind- 
stone, and made the edges of them thin and keen. I was 
particularly pleased with a very large gouge such as was 
actually used by my father for rough work. When all the 
tools had been made as keen as a razor, I mounted the 
specimen bedstead post in the lathe, found the rest that 
would fit it, filed the rest perfectly smooth, sandpapered it, 
then drew with a lead pencil a half section of the post on 
the white wood rest, and, removing the specimen post, placed 
one of the square joists in the lathe, and everything was ready. 

The next morning at the first turn of the water-wheel 
the chips conmienced to fly. At about two o'clock in the 
afternoon the head cabinet-maker came down to tell me 
that they had just received an order for two cribs for 
children. He brought down eight pieces of elm, consider- 
ably longer than the bedstead posts, with a specimen to be 
used as a pattern. Of course, I had to alter the lathe to fit 
the longer object, and to put on a longer rest. However, 
I went at it "hammer and tongs," turned out the eight 


posts, shifted the lathe back, and went on with the rest 
of the bedstead posts ; and when the wheel stopped after 
eleven hours' work, which was the rule in Dexter, the 
last bedstead post was finished. 

Fifield and an old hand came down into the turning- 
room and examined the work. The old hand pronounced 
it to be perfect. " Nothing could be better," he said ; 
" that young man has broken all previous records. It is 
the biggest day's work that has ever been done on a wood 
lathe in the State of Maine." 

Everything was all right at Fifield's shop except the pay. 
Very little money was going and I was obliged to take 
my pay largely out of the local stores, receiving things that 
I didn't really need. 

Dexter was a fairly large and very prosperous village. 
There was a pond about a mile wide and three miles long, 
in which sufficient water was stored to keep the mills and 
factories running the year round. There were three woollen 
mills. An EngUsh firm sent out a representative, and 
finding that the wool was of good quality and abundant, 
and that it could be purchased for a low price for cash, he 
took over two of the mills and started to make bed blankets. 
But it was necessary to import a lot of machinery from 
England, and to bring over a considerable number of men 
as instructors and foremen. 

Up to that time it had been a curiosity to see a foreigner 
of any kind in Dexter village. The English operators were 
from Lancashire, and were a thoroughly sporting lot. They 
introduced among the people a good many English games, 
such as jimiping, putting the stone, etc. At that time there 
was a most remarkable man — Allen by name — employed 
in a blacksmith's shop ; he was the curiosity of the village 
on account of his enormous size. He was about thirty years 


of age, had a clear, bright complexion, dark hair, and was, 
I think, as handsome a man as I have ever seen, notwith- 
standing his great size. From the very first the imported 
Englishmen took a great interest in this giant. He used 
a haromer very much larger than that commonly employed 
by blacksmiths, and on account of his enormous strength 
he never employed a striker to assist him with a sledge. 

The EngUshmen were of the opinion that if he could be 
induced to take up prize-fighting he could easily be the 
champion of the world, and this question was very much 
discussed at the time. But they wanted to see what he 
was made of. Did he have any courage ? Would he fight ? 
Finally they induced their employer to send out to England 
and bring over a skilful pugiUst by the name of Taylor, who 
was acknowledged to be an expert mechanician on weaving 
machinery. This was noised about the town and many 
were anxious to see what sort of man Taylor would be. 

At last he arrived and was given a position in the big 
stone mill. They told him marvellous tales about Allen, 
whom he was very anxious to see ; so they gave him a 
broken bit of iron to take up to the blacksmith to have 
it welded. 

While Allen was attending to the job he said to the man : 
" I hear that Taylor has arrived." 

" Yes," was the reply. 

" Have you seen him ? " 

" Yes, I have." 

" Do you think he could lick me ? " 

" I doubt it very much." 

The job was finished and as Allen handed the iron to 
Taylor he put out his big foot, saying, " Did you ever see 
anything hke that ? " 

Taylor replied that he had not. 


" Well," said Allen, " you just send Jim Taylor up here, 
and I will put him into one of those shoes and give him 
a sail on the river." 

Allen was quite content to be a village blacksmith. He 
had no ambition to be known as a prize-fighter, and he con- 
tinued to pursue the even tenor of his ways. However, 
when Christmas came, the Englishmen had managed to 
smuggle in a quantity of beer, and on Christmas Eve, when 
they were all feeling very jolly with both Allen and Taylor 
in their company, Taylor commenced to dance round Allen 
and gave him a few taps with his fist, very much to Allen's 
amazement. It was something like Don Quixote fighting 
the windmill. , Allen knew nothing of boxing and had 
probably never had a fight in his life, but he thought he 
ought to do something, so he struck a blow after the manner 
of a woman. His big fist came down on the top of Taylor's 
head and Taylor collapsed. He did not get up, and it was 
thought that his neck must be broken. Allen was much 
upset ; he picked Taylor up in his arms like a baby, took 
him into an hotel and nursed and took care of him imtil he 
recovered, which he did in about a fortnight. 

I had not been long in Dexter village when I learned that 
the young men were very much interested in boxing. The 
great international fight between Heenan and Sayers seemed 
to have caused an epidemic of boxing all over the State. 
Some of the sports examined me very much as a man 
examines a horse before he purchases it ; looked me over, 
examined my muscles, and all agreed that I had the exact 
make-up for a successful boxer. I had already thought of 
taking up the art, feeling convinced that I could very soon 
become a champion. As the 4th of July was approachmg 
the young men asked me if I would box with Livingstone, 
the best man in town, on Independence Day. I replied that 


I would, and we met in the livery stables, where there was 
plenty of room, with the thermometer registering loi degrees 
in the shade. Livingstone was supposed to be very skilful. 
He was about my age but slightly smaller. He gave me all 
I could attend to for a few minutes, but as the weather was 
very hot, and I was at him all the time, he soon got winded, 
and I knocked him out with the greatest ease. Without 
taking off the gloves or wasting a minute, I knocked out 
the second best man. I was deUghted. I looked in a mirror 
and would not have known myself, my face being as red 
as a beet. 

Shortly after, I was told by an Englishman that I was 
not at all suitable for a prize-fighter. He said, " Your 
eyes are altogether too large and prominent ; moreover, 
whoever saw a prize-fighter with such a big head ? They are 
generally about the shape and size of a cocoanut." Later 
on, I saw old Dr. Springall, who had been my mother's 
physician, and was the only foreigner in town before the 
mill hands arrived. He was very wise, and I looked up to 
him with the greatest respect. He said, " Don't think of 
it ; it is altogether beneath you ; never give it a second 
thought." And I didn't. 

While I was at Dexter the Civil War broke out ; there 
was great excitement and no work, or if there was any 
work, there was no pay for it ; every one seemed to go crazy. 
A lot of young fellows got together and formed a company, 
something like the Boy Scouts in England. The local shoe- 
maker was the captain and we marched up and down the 
street with sticks exactly as the Boy Scouts do to-day. 
I very soon got sick of it, went back to Fifield's shop and 
began to work. But the Boy Scouts didn't like my leaving 
their ranks, and I was persecuted to some extent for not 
continuing to march. In the meantime I had had some 


further conversation with old Dr. Springall. He told 
me that he thought I was altogether the most promising 
young man in Dexter ; that I was a very hard worker, 
without any bad habits ; that it might be all right for those 
less gifted than myself to go to the war, but it was my duty 
to stay at home and work ; also that I would find soldiering 
a very hard job indeed. So I made up my mind to give it 
up and refused to go on. 

The young men expected to offer their services to the 
Government for three months, when they thought the war 
would be over ; but the Government didn't want any 
three months' men, and so the little company was dis- 
banded. A few of them went to a distant town and enUsted 
in the regular way, but I was not among the number. 

I speak of these events because some years ago a con- 
temptible blackmailer attempted to make it appear that I 
had enlisted in the United States Service and deserted, 
running away to Canada. He succeeded in publishing this 
in some of the American papers ; whereupon I wrote to 
the Adjutant-General of the State of Maine, who gave me 
a certified statement that the names of all the enlisted men 
were on file at Augusta, the capital, and that he had found 
the names of Leander and Henry Maxim — my brothers, 
but that my name was not on the records, which was proof 
positive that I never enlisted and was never in the service. 


IT has often been said that Maine is the best State in 
the Union to emigrate from, and I had long wished to 
get out of it, and go to some place where I could get 
more for my work, and have all my pay in money instead 
of partially out of the local stores. I had read a book about 
the St. Lawrence River and Montreal, and I wished very 
much to see the great river. Accordingly I took the train 
one day, and after many hours' travel I found myself in 
Montreal — ^the first time in my life that I had ever seen a 
large city. After seeing all the sights, including the great 
tubular bridge about which I had read much, I took a 
steamboat for Fort Covington, New York State, and had 
my sail up the river ; and very gratifying it was. 

In less than a week after leaving Dexter I found myself 
in Northern New York. Two of my cousins had a rather 
large threshing-machine factory not far from Fort Coving- 
ton and I expected to get work in their place, but thought 
I would first try in Fort Covington, as my capital had 
been reduced to 25 cents, 

I applied at the wood-working establishments without 
success. Finally, I saw a paint shop ; I went in and asked 
the head-man for a job, but he had none to give. I noticed 
that there was a large white spot where he had tried his 
brushes on the side of the shop, so I produced my colours 
and brushes and painted an oval landscape, with roses at 
each side, the same as I had painted on the sleighs in the 



State of Maine. The man was delighted, and at once hired 
me, sending me to another shop that he had at Malone, N.Y. 

At Malone I simply did carriage painting and decorating, 
and only remained a few months. While there I learned 
that my cousins were attempting to open a threshing- 
machine factory in Hmitingdon, Canada, which was only 
a few miles over the line. They were doing this in order 
to avoid paying the duties. I also learned that there was 
an American making sewing-machines in the same place, 
who wished to find some one to decorate them. So I left 
Malone, which was a very uninteresting place anyway, and 
went to Huntingdon, where I found that the threshing- 
machine factory had not commenced work ; in fact, a very 
curious state of affairs existed. 

It appears that my cousins had made a special arrange- 
ment with the Canadian Government whereby they were 
allowed to import American tools free of duty, providing 
that they would start up their factory within twelve months. 
Under this arrangement, they had sent a number of lathes, 
drill presses, and wood-working machines to Huntingdon, 
and had taken a large building provided with water-power. 
But it was not all smooth sailing. Interested Canadians, by 
various legal tricks, injunctions, etc., prevented the use of 
the water-wheel, the object being to hinder the starting of 
the works until the year had elapsed, when they expected 
to be able to purchase the tools very cheaply and run 
the factory themselves. Months went on, and there was 
always an obstruction to prevent the actual commencement 
of work. 

Finally, when the end of the year came, a custom-house 
officer, whose business it was to search out and prosecute 
smugglers, put in an appearance and seized the machinery. 
Having done this he turned the whole thing over to the 


local custom-house oflftcer, who was a rather old man, 
an Englishman, and exceedingly fleshy. 

A portion of the factory was built as it were out over the 
river ; there was only one large door connecting it with the 
land, and the first night after the seizure the local custom- 
house officer took up his position in this single entrance 
where he was expected to watch all night. 

During the evening a Mr. Sam Ide, a very jolly Yankee 
from Vermont, who had worked many years for my cousins, 
put in an appearance. He told the custom-house officer 
a lot of very funny stories, and pointed out what a shame 
it was that a man of his age should have to stay on guard 
in such a cold and dreary place all night ; he was sure to 
get his death of cold. So he got a bottle of whiskey rein- 
forced with '* high wine," as it is called in Canada — a 
liquor which is just twice the strength of whiskey. He 
brought this over and supplied the officer with all that he 
wanted to drink. Not only that, but he went into a neigh- 
boiu-ing carding mill, got some wool sacks and made up 
a very comfortable and warm bed for the officer of the law, 
who was soon in a profound slumber. 

The next morning every one was astonished to find that 
all of the tools were missing. All the heavy lathes, drill- 
presses, and saws had disappeared completely, and the 
most extraordinary thing about it was that there were no 
tracks to show that any heavy carts or wagons had been 
near the place. 

I was living at Milne's Hotel at the time and was much 
interested in listening to the discussions regarding the dis- 
appearance of the machinery. It was a mystery for which 
nobody could account ! Some went so far as to say that the 
Yankees must have been assisted by the devil. 

As a matter of fact, when the custom-house officer had 


been put comfortably to sleep, Sam Ide, assisted by some 
strong Americans, had oiled and sunk the tools in the 
flume where they remained under water for several days, 
imtil one dark night some vans arrived from the New York 
side, with the necessary apparatus for Ufting the machines 
out of the water and loading them on to the vans. In a few 
hoiurs they were safe on the New York side of the line. 

The owner of the building was the principal man working 
the obstruction scheme. He expected to get possession of 
the machinery and tools and to nm the factory himself. 
After the tools had been removed he told me that he in- 
tended to convert the place into a grist mill. I told him, 
however, that there was not power enough ; while there 
was plenty of water in the river, the fall was not great 
enough, and the farmers who lived on the river above the 
dam would not consent to have the dam made any higher. 
However, he did not feel like taking advice from a " boy/' 
and so he equipped his grist mill, only to find that, like those 
of the gods, it groimd very slowly ; so he had to abandon it. 

Up to the time I went to Himtingdon I had not seen much 
of life ; I had always worked, and worked very steadily ; I 
had never seen any fights between men, had never seen any 
drunkenness, and had never been inside of a drinking-place. 
The kind of life led by the people of Huntingdon was quite 
new to me, but after I had become used to it I f oimd it very 

I had not been long in Huntingdon before a county fair 
was held in the town, when in and about the hotel every one 
was drunk, and there was much fighting and bloodshed. 
Like the good boy that I was at the time, I remonstrated 
with the fighters. I tried to reason with them, showing them 
how wrong it was on highly moral grounds ; but I very soon 
found that they had no interest in the State of Maine 


morality that I was trying to impress upon them, and one 
old fellow actually wanted to lick me for interfering, but I 
refused to fight, which I have always thought was a mis- 
take. I afterwards learned that he was a great bully, and 
a good thrashing would have done him a lot of good. 

One evening while I was walking along the street I saw 
a very dilapidated specimen of hmnanity limping laboriously 
along the sidewalk on the other side. His pace was slow and 
painful, and he was much bent. As he approached three 
youths about seventeen years of age, they all set about him 
at once, hustled him, knocked him about, and abused him 
generally. He begged of them to let him alone, but they 
persisted in their persecution. When they had satisfied 
themselves, they allowed him to pass on. The sight of this 
made my blood boil, so I walked up the street, crossed over, 
pulled my coat up on my back and my soft hat over my 
eyes, and took up the old man's painful limp. As I ap- 
proached * the youths, who were still skylarking, they 
shouted, " Here's another of the same kind," and they were 
soon about me, treating me exactly as they had the old 
man. I straightened myself up quickly, gave three blows 
in about two seconds, and the three big boys were laid out 
on the sidewalk. This was the first time in my life that I 
had ever struck anybody without having on boxing gloves. 
I told the young fellows that I had seen them abuse the 
poor cripple, and that I had punished them for it. 

I decorated the sewing-machines and painted a good 
many signs while in Huntingdon, but I was always looking 
for something to do that would enable me to make a Uttle 
more money. On one occasion a man had several thousand 
wooden kitchen chairs that he wished to have painted, and 
he was willing to pay six cents a piece to have it properly 
done. I accepted his offer, and everybody said I had taken 


it much too cheap. However, I finished the job so quickly 
that the owner of the chairs thought that he was paying 
me altogether too much. 

I did not remain long at Milne's Hotel but changed to 
Brackett's, which was a much better place, and while I was 
there, I got a great reputation for pencil drawings. I re- 
member one night about twelve o'clock, two men, whom I 
had never seen before, came into my room with paper and 
pencil, waked me up, and demanded that I should make 
some drawings for them. I consented, sat up in bed, and 
did the drawings, with which they were quite satisfied. 

About ten miles from Huntingdon there Uved a very 
quiet farmer who always kept whiskey in his house. One 
day one of his neighbours called in and asked for a pint of 
whiskey, saying that he wanted it for his wife, but didn't 
want the trouble of going to the public-house, which was 
a long distance away. The farmer reluctantly let him have 
the whiskey, but refused to take pay. However, the man 
on departing laid down the money and the farmer kept it. 
This was a trap ; the fine for seUing alcoholic drinks with- 
out a licence was, I think, one hundred dollars, and if I 
remember rightly half of it went to the informer. The 
farmer, who was poor, was very much upset, and did not 
know what to do. However, there Uved in the vicinity an 
American, and at that time it was usual, if there were any 
Americans about, to consult them as we consult a solicitor 
in England. The American told the man not to worry about 
it : the matter could be fixed up all right. He then began to 
cultivate the acquaintance of the informer, and just before 
the case was to be called at Huntingdon, he met him and 
said he would take him down in his sleigh if he liked. The 
informer was only too glad to accept the invitation. There 
were many drinking places on the road, and when they 


arrived in Huntingdon the informer was dead drunk. They 
put him away in a comer, and when the case was called there 
was no one to respond and the charge was withdrawn. 
Things were very hilarious in Huntingdon that night, and 
some malicious person cut off one of the lobes of the in- 
former's ears. 

Brackett's Hotel was a very lively place. Among the 
boarders was a young theological student, who was attend- 
ing the seminary for the purpose of becoming a preacher. 
Some of the boisterous yoimg men who frequented the 
hotel went out to the stables one night, brought out a calf 
that was about one month old, took it upstairs and put 
it ia the parson's room. Later on the parson went up- 
stairs with a candle in one hand and a book in the other, 
trying to repeat something ia the book without looking at 
it. When he opened the door of his room the calf gave a 
loud baa, and rushed out of the room ; and calf, parson, 
book, candlestick, and all tumbled down the stairs together, 
making a terrible rumpus. 

The landlord's father-in-law soon put in an appearance 
and asked, " What's up ? " 

He was told that the calf was in the minister's room. 

" What, a calf in the minister's room ? Very much out 
of place," was his only reply. 

I think Mr. Brackett, the proprietor of the hotel, took 
a fancy to me. His wife was an American and very much 
of a lady for those parts. An English gentleman who 
visited the place told her that the yoimg countrjnnan of 
hers was the only gentleman staying in the hotel. 

Mr. and Mrs. Brackett wished to visit some friends in 
a distant town, which would necessitate their being absent 
a whole week, and they asked me if I would take charge 
of the hotel and act as bar-keeper. As they had been very 


nice to me, I consented. Mr. Brackett said he had selected 
me because he believed I was a thoroughly honest young 
man, and as I didn't drink, I would not be apt to get drunk. 
He took me into the bar and explained things to me, show- 
ing me how I could tell one liquor from another by the 
smell ; but as I had never tasted any of them in my life, 
his lecture was of little use, and so I got some sticky 
paper and labelled the bottles " Scotch Whiskey," " Irish 
Whiskey," " Gin," etc. He told me that the principal 
liquor consumed was called "high wines," which was 
practically whiskey of double strength, and that this was 
kept in very large casks in the cellar ; all that was necessary 
was to mix a gallon of " high wines " with a gallon of water, 
when we should have the brand of whiskey most in demand. 
I made up some of it myself so as to understand exactly 
how to do it, and he actually left the place in my charge. 
I had a chance to think of the matter over-night, and I 
saw no reason why I should not be a first-class bar-keeper. 
I certainly was very well qualified as a " chucker out," but 
fortunately I did not have any of this to do. 

It occurred to me during the night that seUing the same 
kind of whiskey all the time to all kinds of customers in all 
degrees of inebriety was not exactly the thing ; it was like 
a landscape all in a flat grey tint. Why not have some 
variation ? Why should the whiskey always be of the same 
strength ? I therefore decided on a new departiu'e ; I 
would make my whiskey to suit my customers. 

The first day came and I sold the conunon stuff over the 
counter all day. Nothing happened, but at night the usual 
crowd came in. I knew nearly every one of the customers, 
and knew the ones best qualified to start the ball rolling ; 
so when these gentlemen called for whiskey with a Uttle 
water in it, I allowed them to turn their whiskey out of the 


bottle themselves and handed them a little water jug, which 
contained " high wines " instead of water. They did not 
seem to notice very much the increased strength, but re- 
marked occasionally that it was an exceptionally good 
brand of whiskey. As it was twice the usual strength, they 
were soon ready for business, and the fun commenced. As 
the evening wore on I dealt to the ordinary customers, who 
were well imder the influence, a liquor which was only half 
the strength of that usually sold ; this was a good thing for 
the house and a good thing for them. Everyone was getting 
very merry and the noise caused a lot of others to come in 
from the street, until the bar-room was full of drunken men, 
tobacco-smoke, and noise. 

It was not long before a fight commenced ; this was ex- 
actly what I wanted, and when it came time to shut up I 
congratulated myself on having done a very good day's 
business. I had taken a good deal more than the usual 
amount of money, and as I had treated others several times 
myself near the end of the evening, when they were all 
drunk, with a diluted form of whiskey, it may be imagined 
that the next night I had plenty of customers. Everybody 
said that Brackett had left town, that the American artist 
had turned bar-keeper, that there was a lot of fun, and that 
the young man had treated the crowd several times during 
the evening. 

The next night was the same, singing and fighting, 
noise, bloodshed, and smoking. So things went on ; 1 
had a crowded house every night ; dealt out diluted whiskey 
when it suited me to do so ; got the principal actors and 
fighting men dnmk early in the evening ; and so made 
things generally interesting to my customers. It was a 
great success ; nobody found any fault except the other hotels, 
who had lost temporarily some of their best customers, 


When Mr. Brackett returned I turned over to him a lot 
of money, mostly in twenty-five cent silver-pieces, and 
then took account of stock. He said that I had done 
remarkably well, and that the quantity of liquor I had 
sold was decidedly small, taking into consideration the 
amount of cash I had taken. He suggested that I should 
continue to act as his barman — in fact, that I should become 
his partner. I admitted that I had had an immense amount 
of fun out of it, but I declined his too generous offer. 

Huntingdon was a particularly lively place in those 
days. It was just at the beginning of the American Civil 
War. There were three in our family who were suitable 
to serve as soldiers and two of them, Henry and Leander, 
enlisted. My mother and my sister objected very strongly 
to my enlisting, and as it was the law that only two could 
be taken out of a family of three, I was exempt. 

At that time some people expected that Canada might 
be mvolved in the war, and several regiments of British 
soldiers were sent out. One day it was announced in the 
newspapers and also on placards posted about the town 
that two officers in Her Majesty's Service would visit 
Huntingdon on a certain day for the purpose of purchasing 
horses for the cavalry and artillery. Everyone was very 
much interested and looked forward to the day. Finally, 
two officers arrived a day earlier than the one advertised ; 
but instead of going into the dining-room of the hotel with 
the others, they hired the best room in the house, had their 
meals served in their room, carried their heads very high, 
and did not associate with anyone. They were the con- 
ventional type of young officers of that day, and quite a 
curiosity to the Canadians. 

On the appointed day and at the appointed time 
Huntingdon was full of horses, from the little Canadian 


pony with hairy legs, to the tall horses of the American 

The two distinguished visitors, who spoke with a peculiar 
drawl that was decidedly new in those parts and wore kid 
gloves and eye-glasses, examined the horses and decided 
that not one in the lot was fit for Her Majesty's Service. 
They said they were the weediest lot of brutes they had 
ever seen ; and no doubt they were correct in this respect, 
for certainly I had never seen anything like them before in 
my life. Everyone was disgusted and the men that had 
horses were disappointed and furious. They had planned 
a glorious time for the night as soon as they had received 
their money. There was some talk of riding the two EngUsh- 
men on a rail as I had seen them serve another unpopular chap. 

Suddenly a change came over the scene ; gloom, despon- 
dency, anger, and despair passed away and everyone 
seemed to be very jolly indeed. At first I could not imagine 
what had taken place. Early in the morning I had seen 
a quiet little American gentleman dressed in simple grey ; 
he was moving about among the horses without saying a 
word, but it seems that he had his pockets full of money, 
for as soon as the English officers had refused the horses he 
and his assistants actually purchased some hundreds, had 
them strung together on a long rope, and marched them to 
the other side of the line, where they very soon entered the 
American Service. 

I had already seen some very lively times in Canada, 
but nothing like the night that followed the sale of the 
horses. Everybody seemed to have plenty of money and 
soon nearly everyone was screamingly drunk, so that by 
ten o'clock at night, drunken men were stored away in 
every hole and comer of the hotel. There was not so much 
fighting as usual ; they were too drunk to fight. 


The people of Huntingdon were nearly all Scotch or of 
Scotch descent, with a fair sprinkling of North of Ireland 
Irish who were Orangemen. They wanted a flag painted 
with King William crossing the Boyne. It was a very large 
one and had to be painted on both sides. As I was the only 
one considered an artist and a painter, I got the job, and 
did it very much to their satisfaction, for which I was paid 
fifteen dollars in cash. 


SHORTLY after, a French Canadian who had a 
carriage shop at St. Jean Chrisostome wished to 
employ me to paint and decorate his carriages. I 
accepted his offer, and half of the fun of my lifetime was 
enjoyed in that httle out-of-the-way village. It was a very 
lively place. The people were very neariy all French, with 
a few Roman Catholic Irish ; but four miles out there was 
a colony of Orangemen, who I think were about the best 
fighters in the worid. 

I lived at McGill's Hotel, McGill being the magistrate 
of the place, and the very first night I was there he played 
a trick on me. The next day there was a great flood ; the 
snows were melting and the river had overflown the land. 
I got my feet wet and went to my room to change my boots, 
but found they were not there. McGill having but one pair 
of boots to his name, and those being very wet, managed 
to squeeze his big feet into my best boots and went out 
into the mud and snow. I was disgusted, for the boots were 

The first Simday I was in Chrisostome I walked one mile 
out of town to attend the Enghsh Church ; I wished to see 
what the service was like. The clay roads were dreadfully 
muddy, and everyone walked on the grass at the side of the 
road where there were no fences. The next day, wishing to 
consult a Scotch doctor who lived near the church regarding 
smallpox, which was prevalent, I walked over the road 



again. On returning, just as I entered the village, I heard 
someone behind me shouting loudly, and soon saw an old 
man without any hat, and of very fierce aspect, yelling at me 
at the top of his voice and shaking his fist. He called me a 
" d French Canuck." 

It was all about my walking on his grass. I made no 
answer, but simply whistled, whereupon he rushed after 
me, but by that time I was on the sohd jdank side-walk. 
He was a large, tall man, and came at me like a veritable 
hurricane, aiming many blows at my face, none of which 
took effect. I knocked his arms away with my left arm, 
and putting my fist right up to his nose, said : " You see 
I could knock your head off if I felt like it, and I will if you 
don't behave yourself ; your white hairs will not save you." 

He drew back and said, " You're a d prize-fighter, a 

pugilist ; anyone can see that." 

I rephed that I was not a prize-fighter, but that I knew 
how to take care of my own face. " You called me a 
French Canuck ; I am a red-hot Yankee.'^ There was a 
stone weighing about a pound lying near the side-walk, and 
he made a rush for it. I pushed him aside and took it 
myself and said, " If there is to be any stone-throwing, 
there'll be two in the game."^ 

He suddenly turned and ran for his house at full speed. 
A pretty young lady put her head out of the window and 
shouted, " Young man, run for your life ; he is after the 
gun." But I didn't run. 

Afterwards I learned that the girl managed to get the 

^ During the two and a half years that I was roughing it in Northern 
New York and Canada I saw many fights and was in some of them my- 
self, but this was the only instance that any attempt was made to use 
sticks, stones, or arms of any kind. Fighting was purely a game of 
fisticuffs, no kicking being allowed, and what is more the man thsLt got 
the worst of it harboured no grudge against the man who had beaten 
him at the game. 


gun ahead of her father and dropped it down the cesspool, 
so the old man had to content himself with an old flint-lock 
pistol, of formidable size. 

But I didn't run away, I waited for him. When he had 
come within twenty feet, he aimed the pistol at my head, 
but I laughed at him and said, " Fire away, old man ; the 
idea of trying to frighten me with an old flint-lock pistol 
that isn't loaded ! " 

He then seized the pistol by the muzzle and attempted 
to hit me on the head with the breech-end, but I raised the 
stone, which I had kept in my possession, and we faced 
each other for a time. 

Finally he said, " Come on, I am going down to see the 
magistrate, McGill, and give you in charge." So we walked 
down together, I keeping possession of the stone and he of 
the pistol ; but just before we reached McGill 's Hotel the 
old man put the pistol in one of his coat-pockets. It was 
rather too large for the pocket, and the muzzle of it pro- 

We went in and faced the magistrate, and the old man 
proceeded to make his complaint. It was rather serious. 
He said, " This young man has been walking on my grass ; 
he has trespassed on my property, and has threatened my 
life. As you see, he has a big stone in his hand now, and I 
wish to give him in charge." 

McGill evidently knew his man, for he gave me a sly wink 
which reassured me, and said, " Young man, what have you 
got to say for yourself ? " 

I told the magistrate exactly what had happened, and 
that the old man had pointed a pistol at me and snapped it. 
Whereupon I grabbed the pistol out of the old man's pocket, 
and showed it to McGill. 

McGill laughed and said, " Mr. Charlton, I should advise 


you strongly to drop this job, as your offence is much mote 
serious than his. You had better ask his pardon and go 

However, he did not ask my pardon, but left very sud- 

McGill then told me all about him. " This man Charlton," 
he explained, " has some kind of an official position under 
the Crown. He has to look after the public lands, and 
prevent the timber from being cut off by those who will not 
pay for it. He has had many fights with French Canadians, 
and while in the execution of his duties he has shot and 
killed two of them. He has also killed a great number of 
the neighbours' dogs. Altogether he is a dangerous man.*' 

The affair was the talk of the town for about three weeks. 
Many praised the wisdom and forethought of the girl who 
dropped the old man's gun down the cesspool. 

My work at Chrisostome was nearly all decorative paint- 
ing, striping carriages, etc. One day I saw a lame man 
about thirty years of age being abused by a very much 
larger man ; they were both Canadian French. I interfered 
and rescued the man who was being assaulted, taking him 
into the shop for protection. This was at noon. During 
the whole of the afternoon the bully stood on the opposite 
side of the street, shouting, shaking his fist, and telling 

everybody what he was going to do to the d d Yankee 

when he came out. I was told that this particular bully 
could lick all the Frenchmen in the village, but that there 
was another Frenchman hving about a mile out that could 
lick him. 

When the day's work was finished, while someone was 
engaging the bully in conversation I rushed out, got on 
to the side-walk and walked up behind him. The French 
Canadians have a strong sense of humour, and anything 


that is comical amuses them immensely. I walked up very 
close to the bully, in fact imtil I almost touched him, and 
as he walked about I walked lock-step with him. This 
caused everyone to laugh. Finally someone said something 
to him in French, and he turned his head suddenly round 
and saw my face within six inches of his. He was simply 
amazed. Here was the man he had been wanting to Uck 
for five sohd hours. He didn't speak, but I did : 

" You have been standing here for five hours shaking 
your fist at me, threatening me and telling the bystanders 
what you were going to do to the Yankee when he came out, 
and here I am. I am going home to my supper now, and I 
have no doubt that as soon as I am out of sight you will 
again conunence to repeat your threats, but don't forget 
that I have friends here who wiU tell me every word you 
say, and if I find that you have said anything about me 
I shall not spare you, but will give you the worst licking 
you ever had in your life. I will do it very quickly too, and 
don't you forget it." 

When I returned from supper he came to me, and assured 
me that he had not said a word ; so the whole affair was 

All along the frontier between Canada and the United 
States everyone knew whom he could Uck and who could 
lick him, and people began to discuss what place I held 
among the fighters. 

One night there was a dance at McGill's Hotel when the 
French farmer who hved a mile from the village and who 
was the only one who could lick the village bully put in an 
appearance. It was a warm summer evening. He took up 
a position in front of the hotel, and issued a challenge in 
professional terms which were well understood in those 
parts : 


" I can lick any d d Englishman, Irishman, Scotch- 
man, or Yankee in this town, and if you don't beUeve it 
just come out and try it on/' This was finished up with a 
shout something Uke an Indian warwhoop. 

At that time I had three friends, all young men. One 
was a Scotchman by the name of Alec Macdonald, about 
twenty-five years of age but rather small in size. He was 
up to every kind of devilry that one could think of. Another 
was a very small German about the same age, who was an 
agent for musical instruments. The third was an English- 
man, about thirty years of age, but partially paralysed on 
one side. We were all together that night, and Macdonald 
asked if it were not possible to have a little fun out of the 
fighting Frenchman. 

" Very well," I said ; " follow me and lend a hand." 

I approached the Frenchman as though I were going to 
fight him. He naturally thought I had accepted his challenge 
and prepared for action. Instead, however, of striking 
him, I gave him what is known as the Irish hoist ^ — I 
threw him over my hip. Being a big and heavy man, he 
came down very heavily on his back. It seemed nearly to 
paralyse him, and instantly my three assistants lent a 
hand. We drew him up to the side-walk, where I held his 
head and shoulders. The Englishman held one arm, the 
German held the other, and Macdonald ran into his shop 
and got a quantity of pulverized indigo, which he rubbed 
thoroughly into the bully's face. He seemed to be satisfied 
and went home. 

About a week later, one noon, I was in the store where 
Alec Macdonald was employed, when who should approach 
but the fighting man who had had the dose of indigo. He 
recQgnized Alec Macdonald at once by his red head, and said 

^ Cross buttock. 


to him, " Come out here, you little red-headed devil, and 
I'U break every bone in your body." 

He did not recognize me at first, so I said, " Why not 
take the biggest one first ? After you have licked me it 
will be a very easy matter to lick the other three." 

The Frenchman put up his fists and made a rush at me, 
only to receive a powerful blow in the face which he didn't 
like. He stepped back and felt his face to see what had 
happened. He stood about twelve feet away. I knew he 
was preparing to make a rush, and I was ready for him. 
I met him half-way, also on the rush, and gave him a blow 
straight out from the shoulder with a very stiff arm. It 
took him on the cheek-bone and laid the cheek open for a 
considerable distance. The blood simply poured out, and 
he at once conmienced to cry, saying, " YouVe licked me 
now." And that was the end of the fight. Dr. Livingstone, 
who was present, said it was the neatest little fight and the 
quickest over he had ever seen. 

It was soon the talk of the town, and my reputation 
spread. Now it so happened that there was an Irishman 
by the name of Ned Lynch, living four miles out of the town, 
who had licked the two French fighting men already referred 
to as well as several others of less repute, and he claimed 
to be the champion fighter for that part of the country. 
Someone told him that his reputation was at stake, as there 
was a yoimg Yankee in the village who had settled the best 
French fighting man with a single blow. Lynch didn't 
like this, so he thought the best way would be to come up 
to the village and straighten matters out. If he were not 
the champion he would just like to know the reason why. 
So he harnessed his old horse into a farm wagon and drove 
up. Fastening the horse to a tree, he proceeded to fire up 
for the occasion. Hearing a noise in the street, I looked out 


and saw a man of very fierce aspect with a long black beard. 
His shirt was unbuttoned, exposing a broad and hairy 
chest ; his sleeves were rolled up to display his muscles 
and his black hairy arms ; his trousers were inside of his 
boot-legs ; and he was walking in the middle of the road 
instead of on the side-walk, swinging his arms and shouting 
the conventional challenge in those parts, i.e. that he could 
lick any man quite irrespective of nationality. 

The three leading men in the town were Mr. Stewart, 
who had a large store, Mr. Ross, who had a small store 
(both Scotchmen), and Dr. Gamon, an Irish phj^ician and 
a very learned man for the locality. It seems that these 
three men had met to talk over the Lynch matter, and Dr. 
Gamon as a committee of one came to see me on the subject. 
He said, " These country buUies stand no show at all when 
matched against a skilful boxer. This was witnessed by 
the ease with which you knocked out the French bully. 
Ned Lynch is not so large a man as the Frenchman, but 
he is an Irishman, very fierce, and a good fighter, but he'd 
stand no chance against you ; therefore, we want you to 
come out to-night at eight o'clock and give him a lesson. 
He has come up to town to-day for the sole purpose of 
thrashing you, so we all wish that you would give him the 
opportunity, and teach him better manners." 

I remonstrated and said I did not wish to masquerade 
as a fighting man. It would certainly be very undignified 
for me to go out into the street and have a stand-up fight 
with a half-drunken Irish bully. But the doctor persisted, 
and at last I consented. 

A French Canadian who was employed as a wood-worker 
in the carriage shop was very fond of calling on me at the 
hotel. He was engaged to a nice yoimg Canadian girl, 
whose father was in a much better position than himself. 


and he was alwaj^ extremely anxious to put in a good 
appearance. At that time young men used highly perfumed 
hair-oil, and this Frenchman used so much for the sake of 
the perfmne that his hair was actually dripping. He 
evidently liked my American brand much better than his 
own, so whenever he was going to visit his girl and take 
her out for an evening walk, he used to go into my room 
for a supply of the precious oil out of my bottle. Seeing 
that it was disappearing very fast, it occurred to me that 
I might play a joke on him. Having read in some American 
scientific paper how a luminous hair-oil could be made, I 
succeeded in getting a piece of phosphorus from a man 
who had been experimenting on matches. It was about the 
size of a bean, and I kept it in a bottle of water. With this 
I made the luminous hair-oil, which I placed in my bottle, 
from which he suppUed himself as usual. 

It was a dark night, and when he took his girl out for a 
walk on one of the quiet lanes she noticed something 
peculiar about his hair. She took off his hat and, lo and 
behold ! his whole head was luminous and seemed to be 
surrounded by an incipient halo. Both were devout Roman 
Catholics and extremely superstitious ; it appeared to the 
young lady that her lover was on the road to becoming a 
saint, as he had a distinct halo around his head. Phosphorus 
gives off luminous fumes in the dark. The experiment was a 
great success. 

Although I had promised that I would attend to Mr. Ned 
Lynch at eight o'clock in the evening, I didn't seem to 
like the idea of having a real stand-up fight with the fellow. 
I thought of the poor Frenchman whom I had struck, of the 
blood running down over his face and clothing, of his 
piteous look and of his crying like a baby ; and I felt it 
would have been better if I had not struck him so hard, 


but had thrown him on to his back. It then occurred to me 
that I might play the hair-oil trick on Ned Lynch. He 
had a regular forest of black whiskers fully twenty inches 
long. But I wanted to make the mixture a little stronger ; 
so I put in another bit of phosphorus, and after melting 
it over the chimney of a lamp, I shook the bottle very 
violently until the phosphorus had mixed with the oil, and 
cooled. The little phosphorus that was not dissolved was 
in minute globules about the size of a pin's point. 

At eight o'clock promptly I walked up to Stewart's store ; 
there was a large open space in front. It was a very warm, 
dark night, and the streets were not Ughted. The only Hght 
was that which escaped through Stewart's windows from a 
few kerosene lamps of small size and from a few candles. I 
found about one hundred men and boys waiting to see the 
fun. I think they all sympathized with me and expected to 
see an expert American boxer knock out a very objection- 
able bully. 

Someone whispered to Lynch that Maxim was present, 
and pointing to me, said, " It is that big fellow over there 
in a light-coloured coat," whereupon Lynch rolled his 
sleeves up a little higher, marched out into the centre of the 
square, and issued the conventional challenge in a loud 

I accepted the challenge, and walking up to him with the 
little bottle in my right hand, made a feint with my left 
hand ; and while he was warding off an expected blow, 
which he had every reason to beUeve would be a very 
dangerous one, I saturated his whiskers with the oil. No 
sooner was the oil on his whiskers than a great cloud of 
luminous vapours rose high in the air. In the dark he actu- 
ally appeared to be on fire. 

I stepped back to enjoy the fun. In attempting to 


smother the imaginary fire in his whiskers his hands appeared 
to take fire. 

Everyone was amazed. Some of the superstitious thought 
it was a judgment from heaven. A Frenchman ran up to 
him and said, " Mon Dieu ! Mon Dieu ! " and attempted 
to smother his whiskers, but one blow from Lynch's powerful 
hand landed the Frenchman flat in the street, and set his 
back on fire — not real fire, however. After about five 
minutes a considerable number of the bystanders came to 
Lynch's assistance. They took him to the mill-pond near 
by, the water of which was nearly on a level with the street, 
and sunk him, that is, they gave him complete immersion, 
which, of course, extinguished the supposed fire. When he 
came out of the water he was thoroughly sober, with all of 
the fight knocked out of him, but he had not been long 
out when again a large cloud of luminous smoke rose high 
in the air. By that time they seemed to have got the oil 
all over him, while a good many of the Frenchmen had some 
of it on their hands. They had no trouble in extinguishing 
it by putting their hands under water, but no sooner were 
their hands out of water again than they gave off a luminous 

I thought at first I had overdone it, but subsequent events 
showed that I had not. 

Ned Lynch was so upset that he forgot all about his 
old horse and walked home four miles. The next morning 
his wife walked up to the village, foimd the horse and wagon 
and drove back home. 

Everyone congratulated me for the beautiful exhibition 
that I had given them.^ 

^ If any of my young readers should wish to make luminous hair-oil 
it is only necessary to take any kind of ordinary hair-oil, drop into it a 
piece of phosphorus the size of a small pea, and then heat it over the 
flame of a lamp until the phosphorus is melted and the oil warm. By 


As far as I can remember I had no other fights in Chrisos- 

Dr. Livingstone, who Uved near the Episcopal Church 
about one mile out, had three pretty daughters, and one 
beautiful summer evening my three friends suggested that 
we should walk out to the doctor's and see if we couldn't 
get a peep at the girls. Before arriving, however, we 
found the doctor, his hired man, and the three girls all 
armed with clubs attempting to get a three-parts-grown 
bull, that belonged to one of his neighbours, out of his 
pasture. As we approached the young ladies ran home. 
It was then suggested that the four of us should assist, 
but I hinted that they should leave the bull to me and I 
would see what I could do alone. The bull, having been 
pursued with clubs, was in a great state of excitement, but 
soon cooled down and commenced to eat grass. I got over 
the fence very cautiously and approached the bull with 
nothing but my bare hands. The bull looked at me and gave 
a snort. I then sat down and commenced to pull the grass 
up with my fingers. The ground had never been ploughed, 
and consequently, was all hills and hollows known locally 
as cradle-knolls, which are not very favourable for speed 
either for horses or cattle. Without rising from the groimd 
I gradually worked mj^elf along in the direction of the 
bull, never looking at him when he was looking at me. He 
kept on feeding until I had got within twenty yards of him. 
I then made a dash for him, and before he could get up 

shaking the bottle violently the oil will dissolve a portion of the phos- 
phorus. It should then be set aside and allowed to settle, when the oil 
should be decanted ofi leaving the undissolved phosphorus at the bottom 
of the bottle. Hair-oil made in this way is fairly luminous in the dark, 
but if you wish to make a brilliant exhibition it is necessary to add a 
small quantity of carbon bisulphide. The oil may be made of any 
strength by the use of this chemical, and care should be taken not to use 
too much phosphorus. 


speed I had him by the tail, and taking advantage of the 
cradle-knolls I made it very difficult for him to run fast, by 
pulling his hind-quarters down the hills, so that sometimes 
he would be heading up the little hills instead of down. 
After this had been going on for some time the bull seemed 
to think the matter over, and stopped and kicked. A horse 
kicks out quickly with great violence and withdraws his 
foot at once ; but the bovine species do not withdraw their 
foot unless it hits something ; they keep vibrating it for a 
second or so. While this vibration was going on, I let go of 
his tail and caught hold of his foot, raised it about six feet 
in the air, and down went the bull. Before he could recover 
himself I had the thumb of my right hand up one of his 
nostrils and three of my fingers up the other. I caught 
him by the horns, twisted his neck so that he could not get 
up, and held him there until they obtained a long and 
strong rope. They tied the middle of this aroimd his horns 
with several men on each side. When, however, I allowed 
him to get up, he ran away with the lot of them until I 
caught him again by the tail and got him out of the 

When the job was finished the doctor said, " If I had been 
told that anyone could go into a field with a bull of that 
size, with nothing but his bare hands, throw him down and 
hold him, I would not have believed it, no matter who had 
told me. It is the greatest feat of strength that I have ever 

There was boarding at McGill's Hotel at that time a real 
old typical English schoolmaster. He looked as if he might 
have been cut out of Dickens. He always wore a blue coat 
with brass buttons, a tall silk hat and gold-rimmed spectacles, 
He was of a very siu'ly and combative disposition, finding 
fault with everjrthing, nothing being good enough for him. 




The fact was he was not used to that kind of rough life. 
The people in the hotel named him " Old Vinegar." 

One beautiful Sunday afternoon, while walking along the 
banks of the river looking for snakes and frogs, I discovered 
a frog which was at least six times as large as the French 
frogs, and more than three times as large as any I had ever 
seen before. Stepping up very slowly, I succeeded in 
capturing him, took him back to the hotel, and emptying 
out about half the water from Old Vinegar's water-jug, I 
replaced it with the frog, which was quite unable to get out. 
The old man heard noises in the night that he couldn't 
account for, and in the morning, when he went to turn out 
some water, the frog managed to flop out into his basin, 
made a jump, and landed on the floor, secreting himself 
under the bed. Old Vinegar dressed without washing and 
went rapidly downstairs to tell Mr. McGill what had hap- 
pened. I heard the conversation. He said he had found a 
frog about the size of a cat in his water-jug ; that it had 
flopped out and was now under the bed. Somebody must 
have put it in for a joke, and he strongly objected. 

McGill, of course, knew it was a trick, but he attempted 
to explain to the teacher that it might have been all acci- 
dental, that the servant in getting the water might have 
carelessly bailed up a frog. But Vinegar was of the opinion 
that she could not have bailed up such a large frog without 
seeing it. McGill attempted to satisfy him by saying that 
frogs grew very quickly and that it might have been just a 
little speck and had grown during the night. But it was no 
use. Old Vinegar refused to listen to such an explanation, 
and the frog was caught and returned to the river. 

Mr. McGill had a daughter about fourteen years of age 
with the reddest kind of red hair, the bluest of eyes and the 
finest collection of freckles that I have ever seen. She was 


clever and witty for her age, a wonderfully talented pupil 
at school, and chock-full of mischief. On one occasion she 
dressed up in Old Vinegar's Sunday-go-to-meeting suit, but 
unfortimately met Old Vinegar on the stairs, and there was 
a great row. 

One day the hotel cat caught a mouse ; I managed to 
wheedle it from her and gave it to Shorty, as the girl was 
called. She put it in Vinegar's water-jug, but his experience 
with the frog made him look before he turned out the water. 
On seeing the mouse he dressed rapidly and ran downstairs 
to find Mr. McGill. He was furious. He said he had found 
a mouse in his water-jug, and he wanted Mr. McGill to come 
up and see it. 

Mr. McGill said, " Oh, the poor little thing ; he must 
have climbed up there in the night to get a drink and got 
drowned. What a shame I " 

But Old Vinegar insisted ; he actually caught hold of 
McGill and led him upstairs into his room, and then pointing 
his finger into the jug said, " There you are, see for your- 
self ! " 

McGill looked and saw no mouse — Shorty had removed it. 
He then returned to his office, only to be followed by Vinegar, 
who protested that there was a mouse in his jug. 

" Yes, an imaginary mouse — you should stop drinking," 
was McGill's reply. 

But Old Vinegar declared that he had seen a mouse 
there, that it was not imagination at all. After a good 
deal of grumbling he returned to his room, when, lo and 
behold ! there was the mouse again. He ran down to 
McGill and forced him up once more, saying, " The mouse 
is there after all, there is no imagination about it." On 
entering his room he said, " There you are, look for your- 
self," but there was no mouse in the jug. 


This gave McGill his opportunity. " You really must 
stop drinking,'^ he said. " I have no doubt that you 
actually believe you saw a mouse in your water-jug, but 
there is no mouse there. If you don't stop you will be seeing 
snakes in your boots ; you had better stop before it is too 

But the teacher was not satisfied. He again followed 
McGill half-way down the stairs, and then reluctantly went 
back to his room ; and when he attempted to turn some 
water out of the jug a mouse came out with it. It was no 
use, McGill would not return to the room again, he only 
delivered another temperance lecture. 

The school-house was a very small affair, and the scholars 
were very much given to looking out of the windows. The 
blackboard had been repainted by a local painter, and was 
so soft and gummy that it could not be used. Old Vinegar 
was very anxious to have the lower panes of the windows 
frosted and the blackboard put in a condition to be used. 
I was approached on the subject and assured them that I 
could do the job to their complete satisfaction. There was 
a short vacation, and I went to work. I frosted all the 
lower panes very quickly, and then drew some fine lines 
by way of ornamentation, just as they did in the States. I 
thought over the subject of the blackboard ; I never had 
painted one, and it occurred to me that I might do something 
quite original. I scraped off the soft and gununy paint and 
rubbed the board down with a very coarse sandpaper. 
I then mixed up a paint that was largely made up of flower 
of pumice and fine emery, but with sufficient lamp-black 
to give it a dark colour. This was mixed with a liquid 
which is used in America as a dryer for paints, and if used 
by itself it dries quickly and is very hard. I added a little 
quick-drying varnish with some turpentine, and painted 


the blackboard with this mixture. I gave each coat two 
days to dry, and at the end of a week it was as hard as a 
brick. I then told the three head men, Stewart, Ross, and 
Dr. Gamon, that the job was finished, and we all met at 
the school-house in the evening. The old Enghsh teacher 
was also present, and he said I had made a beautiful job of 
the windows, the best he had ever seen. I then delivered a 
little speech, saying : " Gentlemen, I think I have done 
something quite new in the way of a blackboard. I am 
giving you one with a much harder surface than you have 
ever seen before. It is as hard as a slate." I then wrote 
on the board with a slate pencil ; the others came forward 
and foimd that they could really write on it with a slate 
pencil just as if it were a slate, and that the writing could 
be removed in the same manner. I had really made the 
first siUcated blackboard that was ever made in the world, 
and the old schoolmaster complimented me highly. 

I then presented my bill. I think that I charged about 
six dollars for the job, or say twenty-four shillings. Stewart 
was on his feet at once. He protested against such a pre- 
posterous bill. He went on to say that the materials that I 
had used would not cost over twenty-five cents ; that he 
had a very good man working on his farm to whom he only 
paid four dollars a month, or a dollar a week, that the work 
I did was nothing like so laborious as that on a farm ; that 
certainly I could not have taken more than a week to do 
the job ; and therefore he thought one dollar and a quarter 
— ^five shillings — quite ample. Mr. Ross agreed with him. 

Then came Dr. Gamon 's turn. He was a very able man. 
He said that I had done a job that no one in the place could 
do, something imique and very valuable, that I asked the 
exceedingly moderate price of six dollars for the job, and 
that now they wished to cut my price down to one dollar 


and a quarter, putting my skilful work on a level with 
that of a farm labourer. He said that I was the kind of 
man that was required in Canada, if they wished to compete 
with the States, and he strongly protested against such 
treatment. But they were obdurate and would not agree 
to anything more than one dollar and a quarter, which 
happened to be the exact price I had paid for the materials 
I had used. A few years later someone in the States 
commenced to make the same kind of blackboard. It was 
a very important invention, and many thousands were 
sold all over the States and in Canada. This was indeed 
the first valuable invention that I made, but I did not 
appreciate it at the time. 

A few days after this I left Canada for Brasher's Falls, 
New York. Afterwards, as my name became known in the 
world, I got letters from Dr. Gamon recapitulating the events 
that took place in St. Jean Chrisostome, and the con- 
temptible meanness of the two Scotchmen, who paid me one 
dollar and a quarter for the work in the school-house. 


ARRIVED at Brasher's Falls I went to the house of 
my old friend Samuel Ide, who was stiU in the 
^employ of my cousins in the threshing machine 
factory. He had a beautiful wife, but no children. A niece 
was living with them, a very fine girl of seventeen ; also 
the milliner of the village, a handsome young lady of 
twenty-two. At first we were rather a happy family, but 
I do not think that I was particularly interesting to these 
yoimg ladies ; I was too studious to please them, and spent 
too much time over books. During the winter I was there 
I read through lire's Dictionary of Arts, Mines, and Manu- 
factures. On the back of the book was printed in large 
letters "DICTIONARY," and it amused the girls very 
much to see me reading a dictionary. They asked me if it 
was interesting ? Was there a murder ? — What had become 
of the heavy villain ? — Were they married ? — ^Did they live 
happily ever afterwards ? But this did not stop me ; I 
simply devoured the book. 

I found that there was a demand for a painter in this 
village. Many people wished to have their carriages re- 
painted, and there was not a good sign-painter within forty 
miles. So I took a large room on the main street ; it was 
an ideal shop. I first commenced to paint and decorate 
sleighs, and when the inhabitants discovered that they could 
have their old sleighs and carriages repainted, redecorated, 
and made to look better than ever, I had plenty of work. 
I also repainted their signs. 



As it was necessary to ascend about half a dozen steps 
to get into my paint shop, it was sometimes rather difficult 
for me to pull in a heavy carriage without assistance. One 
day while I was struggling with a wagon that was a Uttle 
too heavy for me, two Irishmen, evidently fresh from the old 
sod, came to my assistance, and the wagon was got in 
without further trouble. They then asked me if I had a 
" dhrop of an5^hing to dhrink." I had never tasted any 
strong alcohohc drinks, but I had learned from my experi- 
ence in Huntingdon that whiskey was a mixture of alcohol 
and water, about half and half. I had in the place a bottle 
of alcohol which I used for dissolving gum shellac. After 
thinking a minute, and wondering what effect the alcohol 
would have on my two assistants, I fetched the bottle and 
took my chances of having a fight. They turned out a 
quantity in a glass and one of them drank it. He didn't 
seem to find it extra strong, and gave the glass to the other, 
who also drank some. Neither of them showed the least 
sign of wishing to fight. They smacked their lips, and one 
said to the other : " Oi say, Moike, that's the rail stuff. Oi 
haven't seen anything loike it since Oi left the ould coun- 
thry." Of course, it went down their throats like a torch- 
light procession, and made me think of the Indian who said, 
" Me like alcohol, it make big drunk come quick." 

About a fortnight later one of these Irishmen called and 
asked me if I would be kind enough to give him the address 
where he could get some of the same stuff. I then told him 
that it was alcohol that he had been drinking, and that it 
was about twice as strong as whiskey. 

One day I heard that a man had a two-wheeled carriage 
— called in the States " a gig," and something Uke a racing 
sulky — that he would be willing to sell very cheap, I went 
down to the village loafing-ground in front of the store and 


found quite a crowd looking at the sulky, which seemed to 
be perfectly sound, although the ironwork was rusty, and 
the woodwork had received only one coat of lead-colour 
paint. The man wanted ten dollars for it, but ultimately 
let me have it for five dollars. At that time I had a horse 
and a harness, but no carriage. I took the sulky into my 
shop, went at it vigorously with coarse sandpaper and gave 
it two coats of vermilion mixed with shellac varnish. Many 
things can be done with shellac in the dry air of America 
which are impossible in England. I then striped it with 
black, blackened all the irons and gave it a coat of shellac 
varnish. When finished I harnessed my horse into it, drove 
through the village and stopped on the loafing-ground. 
The loafers were astonished and wanted to know if it was 
the same old sulky that they had seen about a couple of 
hours before. I told them it was. They tested the paint 
to see if it was dry, and found it hard and shiny. I did 
this quick job for the purpose of astonishing the 

I asked Sam Ide not to mention that I had been con- 
sidered a fighting man in Canada, as I didn't wish to have 
any more fights. He gave his word and kept it, and it was 
not until well along in the winter that it was discovered 
that I was an exceptionally strong man. I had more work 
than I could do in the daytime, so I used to work in the 
evenings, and the young men of the village would come in 
to see me at my work. One evening they were accompanied 
by a young man who was supposed to be an expert wrestler. 
Their object was to have a little fun at my expense. Of 
this I had not the remotest idea, until the wrestler clinched 
me and attempted to put me down. But instead of my 
going down as was expected, the wrestler went down him- 
self, and very quickly too. He was not satisfied, and tried 

74 . MY LIFE 

it twice more with the same result ; no sooner did I put my 
hand on him than he was lying on the floor. 

There was a good deal of the same spirit in Northern 
New York at that time as there was in Canada ; everyone 
was supposed to know his master as well as those whom he 
could master, somewhat like the chickens in a barnyard. 

The flooring of the wrestler led to a good deal of talk and 
speculation. At that time there was a French Canadian 
living in the village by the name of Louis Hentz. He was 
only a moderate-sized man, but it appears that he was very 
quick and muscular and a desperate fighter. He had been 
up before the magistrate many times and fined for assault 
and battery. He was always looking for somebody to lick, 
and when he learned that I had thrown the wrestler he 
challenged me to fight him. I took not the least notice of 
his challenge. Whenever I passed him in the street he made 
some insulting remark and was telling everybody that I was 
afraid to fight. When I was spoken to on the subject I said : 
" I know nothing of Louis Hentz ; I have never spoken to 
him in my life, and never intend to." I knew very well 
that if I should whip Hentz they would very soon find a 
still bigger and stronger man, and so I paid no attention to 
the insults that I received. 

So things went on until Independence Day, the 4th of 
July, when I took a young lady from the hotel to a ball. 
The next day at about three o'clock in the afternoon I went 
round to the hotel to call on the young lady. Hentz was 
in the bar-room with a lot of other men. They saw me 
coming, and as I opened the door of the hotel Hentz grabbed 
up a sheepskin mat that was full of dust and tobacco juice, 
and threw it fairly into my face. I had on a white vest and 
light trousers, both of which were badly befouled. Hentz 
stood before me with his fists in a fighting position, and 


everybody held back to see the fun. I walked up to him 
and pretended that I was going to give him a powerful blow 
with my left fist ; while he was looking out for it I gave 
him a tremendous blow with my right fist which laid him 
out flat on the floor. He did not get up at once, but he was 
game, and got up as soon as he could. The instant he showed 
fight he was down again. On the third round, as one might 
say, I gave him a very heavy blow. He went down and 
was quiet for some seconds, then he raised himself into a 
sitting posture on the floor, and as I stood over him I said : 
" You have been sending challenges to me for months ; 
you have repeatedly made insulting remarks to me ; you 
were spoiling for a fight, and now you've had it ; I hope you 
are satisfied. But don't attempt to get up, for if you do 
I'll kill you." After keeping him there for about five minutes 
I went home, changed my clothes, and called on the young 
lady. Hentz's face was badly bruised. He took advantage 
of this and went to the various magistrates and attempted 
to have me simmioned for assault and battery. He even 
went five miles out of the village for this purpose, but was 
told : " You are a fighting character, you have been sum- 
moned many times, and now that you have got thrashed 
yoiurself, you are not satisfied.'^ 

It may be imagined that the good drubbing I had given 
this contemptible bully was the talk of the town for several 
days. I fully expected that the notoriety I had thus 
obtained would be almost sure to bring another contestant 
for the honour (?) of being the champion fighter of the 
village. In discussing the subject with some of the villagers 
I was told that the greatest fighting man in the vicinity 
was old John Tester, who was an extremely large man and 
sixty years of age. He had been a celebrated boxer in the 
British Navy, and was living on a farm about five miles 


from the village. On one occasion he had thrashed Louis 
Hentz himself. A few days after this old John Tester came 
up to the village for his groceries and to get a nip of some- 
thing to drink. I saw him passing at about two o'clock in 
the afternoon with his old mare and wagon. I knew he 
would go to the drinking-place, and that the loafers would 
be certain to taunt him about his disappearing champion- 
ship, and I thought perhaps he might come round to see 
how the land lay. About two hours later my door was 
darkened by a mountain of humanity, and sure enough 
there stood the man. He was very large and tall, florid and 
freckled, with red hair and a stubble of red whiskers all 
over his face. I noticed that his eyes were small and blue, 
and that he had immense yellow shaggy eyebrows. He 
appeared to be fully sixty years old, and I therefore imagined 
that large as he was he stood little or no chance of doing me 
much harm. 

I had been half expecting him, so was quite ready, and 
had made up my mind to be studiously polite. I was 
working with my coat off, and he stood and looked at me 
for a few seconds. As he advanced I said in my nuldest 
tones : 

" Mr. Tester, is it not ? " 

" Yes." 

" It's a very fine day." 

" Yes." 

" The late rain will be good for the crops." 

" Yes." 

I asked him to step forward and see the highly coloured 
landscape that I had just painted, and explained that I 
was now painting some roses each side of it. 

" Yes," was his only reply. 

I saw that my kindly interest in him and my politeness 


were having their effect, and as I went on telling him of my 
work I felt almost sure that he would not broach the subject 
of a fight — I would conquer him with kindness. He fidgeted 
about, evidently not knowing how to commence proceed- 
ings ; then standing up at his full height and looking down 

at me, he said : " You're a d d good-looking Uttle chap, 


I replied that I wished he would try and impress that 
belief upon a certain young lady. 

Suddenly, like a flash, he grabbed my left hand ; I 
attempted to snatch it away, and partially succeeded, but 
he had my finger-ends in his vice-like grip, and the bones 
seemed to squeak. However, I managed to release my 
hand, and two seconds later old John Tester had turned a 
somersault in the air, and landed on his back with a force 
that made everything rattle. As he went over he took one 
of my shirt-sleeves with him. I immediately grabbed him 
by the shoulders and dragged him outside and down the six 
steps. As he went out he caught hold of one of the doors 
and opened it the wrong way (outwards). In less than ten 
seconds from the time he grabbed my hand he was in the 
street on his back with my white shirt-sleeve in his hand. 
But this was not enough ; he was an old hand at the game 
and as plucky as a buUdbg. He got up, and I mounted my 
steps determined to keep him outside. He charged at me 
again and again, only to receive severe punishment. Soon 
the blood was streaming from his mouth and nose ; I was 
making it very hot for him, and using all the swear words 
I could think of. Just at that moment I saw my sweetheart 
passing ; she gave me one withering look and never spoke 
to me again. Later on, however, I found a still prettier 
young lady in Boston, who knew a hundred times as much as 
she knew ; " having been bom in Boston, there was, of 


course, no need of being bom again," so I married 

When old John Tester had had enough of it he went back 
to the gin mill, untied the old mare and drove home. 
About a month later I met him ; he spoke kindly to me and 
said : " You whipped me fairly, and I admit it." 

" You are too old to fight a young man," I replied. He 
weighed fully three hundred pounds. 

While I was at Brasher's Falls the war was going on 
merrily. I had two brothers already in the service, and as 
the Government could not take more than two members 
out of the same family I was exempt. Still, my name was 
in the list of those liable for service, and I stood the draft, 
but did not draw a prize as my name did not come out. 
There were a good many who were drafted who were not 
physically fit, or who pretended that they were not, and 
many of them got off on that account. 

There was a very powerful young man living near the 
village. Everyone told him that there was no chance of his 
getting off ; nevertheless he went up to be examined and 
returned with a beaming countenance, and very jubilant. 
He came into the village that evening and told all the 
loafers of his good luck. Many of them asked : " How did 
you manage to get off ? What is the matter with you ? " 

He said he didn't exactly know, but as far as he could 
tell it was something about " compos." 

The storekeeper then suggested that it might be " non 
compos mentis " ? 

" Yes," he said, " that's it, and he said it was a very bad 


This was quite true, as we all knew. 
The local millwright received an order from the man that 
owned the wooden pump works to put up what is called by 




millwrights a " penstock." It was built up of long and 
thick pine staves held together by iron hoops. It was about 
twenty feet long and forty inches in diameter, only supported 
at the ends, and was well able to stand internal pressure. 
When I saw it, and before the water was let in, I told the 
millwright that he certainly ought to support it in the 
middle, otherwise the weight of the water would break it 
down. He laughed at me and criticized my cheek. 

Like all country places, the local store was the evening 
loafing-place, and I often joined the crowd. It was not long 
before everyone knew that I had been attempting to teach 
an old and experienced millwright his own trade. I main- 
tained that I was quite right, that I knew all of the mathe- 
matics connected with the subject, and that they would 
find out that what I said was true unless the penstock was 
supported. The millwright came round and we discussed 
the matter before the crowd. Everybody thought it was 
a good joke ; I heard one man say : " Only hear the boy 

The millwright explained that the penstock being cylin- 
drical the water would push up just as much as it would 
push down, so that the pressure would be perfectly balanced. 

" But," I said, " certainly the water will weigh something, 
and the penstock will be much heavier when full than when 
it is empty. Then again, when it is only three-quarters full 
there will be a lot of pressure on the bottom side and none 
at all on the top ; how about that ? " 

But everybody laughed. We did not, however, have long 
to wait, for a few days later the water was let in. The 
penstock conunenced to sag at once, and soon broke in two 
and fell down. It was rebuilt and supported as I had 

I then looked at the flume and foimd that it was very 


deep and only about four feet thick in one direction and 
perhaps fourteen feet the other way. I told the millwright 
that it was not strong enough to sustain the pressure, but 
he said the pressure would be very slight, as the water to 
be supported would be only four feet thick, which was 

I replied that the thickness was not a factor at all in the 
equation ; it was a question of head, which was fourteen 

Being this time inclined to listen to me he put a few light 
iron bolts through the flume. I looked at it again and told 
him that the rods would either break or the nuts would be 
drawn through the wood ; and sure enough they were. 
It was only when he made the flume much stronger, with 
large iron bolts and thick and heavy iron plates, that it 
stood the pressure. 

The building where I had my paint shop was sold, and 
I had to leave it. I therefore disposed of my little business 
and went to work in the threshing machine factory. 

Shortly after, I received a letter from the select men of 
Dexter asking me to return at their expense for the purpose 
of giving testimony in a lawsuit. It was then that I learned 
who had gone to war out of our little scout company and 
who had stayed at home. 


I HAD had enough of the wild and woolly West, or 
perhaps I should say of the North, which was quite 
wooUy enough at that time, so I went to Fitchburg, 
Mass., where my Uncle Levi Stevens had some engineering 
works. He looked upon me as a perfect novice at first, 
and set me to work at a very low salary, cleaning brass 
castings. One day some white metal castings were to be 
made into patterns, and the head foundry-man gave the 
job to me. He said : " You are too good a man to work 
at cleaning castings, and the way to get out of it is to make 
a good job of these patterns." I knew all about how 
patterns should be made, and did make a good job. The 
man said that it was the best he had ever seen, and 
showed them to my uncle, who at once promoted me to 
a big lathe on rough cast-iron work. I got on all right, 
did as much as any journeyman had ever done, and did it 
as well. 

While working this big lathe, I often had to go into the 
brass-finishers' shop to grind my tools, and I much admired 
the Fox lathes, they were so convenient and handy. The 
men who operated them were very expert indeed, and 
received a salary of two dollars fifty cents a day. 

There was a very brisk demand for brass-work, such 

as globe and angle valves, brass cocks, steam whistles, etc. 

My uncle was in a great hurry for a lot of two-inch angle 

valves, when one of his men left and went to Boston. As 

6 8i 


I had done everything he had given to me, he asked me if 
I thought I could work a Fox lathe. I told him I was sure 
I could do so, and was given a batch of eighty angle valves 
to make. I went at it and turned them out in exactly the 
same time that his best men would have required. The 
valves were very closely examined and pronounced to be first 
class in every respect. This, however, was the last job that 
I did on brass- work at the usual speed of the other workers. 

The next job given to me was a hundred blow-ofi cocks 
for boilers, and I made these quicker and better than any 
other man had ever done before. I beat the other men 
because I put the reamer in better condition, and observed 
certain rules regarding turning the taper keys all at an 
exact and correct angle, so that very much less grinding 
was necessary. 

But the shop was not big enough ; the engine was too 
small. In order to get it to do its work the safety valve 
had to be loaded beyond the safety point, and so my uncle 
put up a larger building and bought a larger engine with 
two cylinders. While this engine was being put up he 
asked his foreman what the relative difference would be in 
the horse-power. This was in the evening after the day's 
work had been finished. The foreman said that he would 
figure it out after he went home and let him know in the 
morning, whereupon I ran over the figures quickly in my 
head, saying, " Circles are to each other as the squares 
of their diameter, etc. ; the difference is as 25 is to 72 : 
therefore if the old engine is 25 h.p. the new one will be 
72, with the same steam pressure." I told them this, and 
they both turned on me and wanted to know how I had 
managed it. I explained the law relating to engines, and 
told them how simple it was. The foreman was disgusted, 
but my uncle was much pleased. 


The new shop was to be decorated round under the 
eaves with a kmd of an acorn-shaped ornament hanging 
down. There were to be many of them tximed out of blocks 
of pine wood, 5 by 5 and i foot long. There being no suit- 
able wood-turning lathe in the establishment, my uncle 
sent the blocks to the locomotive works, where they had 
a splendid lathe, and asked me if I thought I could do 
the job. I told him I was sure that I could ; and while I 
was at it the locomotive superintendent came in and said : 

" Young man, you seem to understand your work ; you 
must have done a Uttle wood-tiuning before this." 

I told him that I had had my first lesson in wood-turning 
when I was seven years old, and that I had been at it occa- 
sionally ever since. 

The next time he saw my uncle he said, " I have seen a 
little wood-turning in my life, but that nephew of yours 
beats anything I have ever seen. It is marvellous the 
rapidity with which he tiuns out the work." 

I did not work long at the brass lathes. My uncle took 
a contract to make a number of Drake's automatic gas 
machines for a Boston Company, and asked me if I could 
dismantle the specimen machine that had been furnished 
and make working drawings of it. I assured him I could. 
I got together the necessary appliances in the afternoon, 
put up a drawing table, collected some very indifferent 
drawing instruments belonging to my uncle, and the next 
morning commenced the work. 

My uncle was away in Boston the whole of the day and 
only returned late at night. The next morning on seeing 
what I had done he said, " You have done more work and 
done it better than any draughtsman in this town could 
have done." 

I would say that in the meantime I had been studying 


all the books I could find on the subject, and it was this 
knowledge that I had tiuned to account. My uncle soon 
obtained some better drawing instruments, and made for 
me a regular draughtsman's office in the new building, 
where I turned out numerous drawings in record time. 

One very cold winter's day, while I was engaged on a 
drawing, the locomotive superintendent came in and 
inquired : 

" Where is your uncle ? " 

" He is in Boston to-day." 

" Have you any copper tubes in the coppersmith shop 
that would do for locomotive boilers ? " 

" No." 

" Could your coppersmith make some for me ? " 

" Unfortunately he is away on a drunk to-day." 

" Is there anyone on the premises that can work cop- 

" Yes, one, and that is myself." 

" What ? Are you an expert brass-finisher, an accom- 
plished wood-turner, a draughtsman, and a copper- 
smith ? " 

I said that if there was any copper I could make the 
tubes. So we went down to the copper shop ; there was 
nothing there except the bottom of a very large sap kettle 
that my uncle had purchased for old copper. These sap 
kettles have a large flat copper bottom and wooden sides ; 
the kettle projects on every side a considerable distance 
beyond the furnace, so that the wood does not get burnt. 
We found that this kettle bottom was the right thickness. 
The dinner whistle then sounded, and I said I could make 
the tubes in the afternoon. The superintendent told me 
the size required and said that the locomotive had to go out 
at nine o'clock that night. I finished the job just before 


the whistle blew at the end of the day, and the locomotive 
went out on time that evening. 

It seems that all the painters in Fitchburg were very 
much addicted to getting drunk, especially those who were 
able to do striping or ornamental painting. On one occa- 
sion a well-known tool-maker wished to ship a lot of lathes. 
It was the fashion at that time to paint engines and lathes 
a deep olive green and stripe them with a pectiliar shade 
of dark purple, with perhaps a few red stripes here and 
there. The lathes were painted but not striped, and the 
decorative painter was drunk. The tool -maker was com- 
plaining to my uncle very bitterly, when my uncle offered to 
help him out, saying, " My nephew can do almost anything ; 
I'll send him down, and he will do the striping." I did, 
and the tool-maker complimented me by saying, " It is a 
better job and you have done it quicker than the regular 

Not only were the Fitchbiu'g painters much addicted to 
getting drunk, but the same was true of Boston painters. 
Putnam's Machine Works are at Fitchburg ; some of the 
finest engines and tools in the world are made there. The 
American Institute Fair at Boston takes place only once in 
four years, and on two occasions Putnam's had failed to 
get their big engine properly painted. On the occasion of 
the next fair, Putnam again supplied the big engine for 
running everything in the place. This time Putnam said 
there should be no mistake, so he employed the best-known 
painter in the place, who was a " grand worthy patriarch 
of the Sons of Temperance," sworn not to take a drop of 
alcohoUc drink. The engine was ready for painting three 
weeks before the fair opened and the worthy patriarch was 
s&at down to paint it. He was empowered to hire in Boston 
all the help he might require. About three days before the 


opening of the fair, Mr. Putnam went to Boston to see how 
the engme looked. He found that it had only received two 
coats of lead colour. No one knew where to find the painter. 
Later on, however, he was found in a neighbouring grog 
shop. On seeing Mr. Putnam, he said, " Oh, she's aU right, 
Mr. Putnam ; she'll be ready for the opening day." But 
Mr. Putnam refused to allow any more paint to be put on 
the engine as it could not possibly dry in time for the 

I visited the fair shortly after it was opened. I noticed 
that the hght grey harmonized very well with the poUshed 
cast-iron and steel ; I hked it immensely, and thought it 
much better than the usual gaudy greens, purples, and reds. 
It had a certain chaste and elegant appearance peculiar 
to itself, and I was not the only one that noticed it. 

At that time the Putnams were the standard tool-makers 
of Massachusetts and, as it were, set the fashion ; Massa- 
chusetts set the fashion for the rest of the United States, 
and from that day to this, machine tools and engines have 
been painted a dull lead colour instead of bright and shiny 
colours. Thus the fashion in tool painting was completely 
changed in the United States — and in England for that 
matter — ^by the simple fact that the " grand worthy Patri- 
arch of the Fitchburg Sons of Temperance " got drunk and 
remained drunk for about two weeks. 

These were glorious days. All my working hours were 
given to hard work and study. I left no stone imtumed 
to become expert at everything I had to do. It was a very 
happy time, because I was fully employed and learning 
very fast, but the pay that I received was small. However, 
all things come to an end. My uncle hired a Boston man 
who was a spirituaUst, and we had spiritual stances at my 
uncle's house, as well as at the Town Hall. All the mediums 


tised to call on us, but I took little or no interest in the 
matter — I was a mechanic, and nothing else. 

We had not been making Drake's automatic gas machines 
many months when my uncle thought he could design a 
very much better one. He attempted it and made one, 
but it was a dead failure. I then asked him to allow me 
to design one ; he consented, and the machine worked all 
right. He at once went to work to have a lot of patterns 
made and lay out the shop for making a large number of 
them. A firm in New York had agreed to sell all that he 
could produce. The machine, though fairly effective, and 
as good as any other, was rather complicated and expensive 
to make, and as I studied the question, I found that by 
changing the design altogether I could greatly simphfy it 
and reduce the cost of production ; moreover, by inter- 
posing a very powerful clock-spring between the driving 
gear and the pump, the pump would continue to run for 
a few minutes while the machine was being woimd up. ^ 

My uncle was a curious character, and had a peculiar 
temperament ; I did not dare to show him the new design, 
so I showed it to the foreman. 

He said, " Yes, it is a great improvement on the other 
machines ; it is cheaper and altogether better, and has a 
much better appearance ; but now that your uncle has the 
patterns and material and has already conunenced to 
produce, he will be simply fiurious if you show him the new 

^ In the first machine that I designed the gasoline and the water were 
in separate vessels, but in this new design both were in the same cylinder 
with only a brass partition between. As the quantity of water required 
for a wet meter wheel pump was very large, its temperature was not 
easily changed. The specific heat of gasoline is very low as compared 
with that of water, so the great volume of water was just what was re- 
quired to prevent a sudden drop in the temperature of the evaporator. 
This, however, was a nice point that my uncle was unable to understand at 
the time. 


design. However, you might submit it to the New York 
merchants, and if they Uke it better than the old one, your 
uncle will be sure to make it." 

Between us, we concocted a letter and sent it to New 
York, but before we received a reply the foreman asked me 
to go to Boston and spend a week-end at his house. I 
took a drawing of the machine with me, and that evening 
we took it to the spiritual mediimi, who was not only his 
adviser, but the adviser of my uncle as well. 

The mediimi examined the drawing bottom side up, and 
I found that he knew nothing of the subject. It was simply 
ridiculous ; I felt greatly annoyed, and admit that I showed 
a little of my disrespect for the great (?) man. He could 
not stand ridicule, so he tried to get square with me. 

I did not return to Fitchburg the next day, but remained 
in Boston and visited the large machine shop in East Boston, 
where they were making marine engines, and also two other 
places where they had gas machines for sale. I simply 
looked at the gas machines without saying a word, and then 
returned to Fitchburg. 

Shortly after this the medium told my uncle that I was 
conspiring against him ; that I had written to the New 
York merchants and given him away to the Boston com- 
panies. A few days later I was taken with the mimips, and 
my imcle did not come to see me. I knew something was 
up, and when I recovered I had barely money enough to 
pay for my board and buy a ticket to Boston. I do not 
think I ever felt so poor and mean in my life as I did when 
I was walking up Sudbury Street on a cold damp day. I 
thought of the size of the city and the great activity on the 
streets ; not one in that vast city knew me except the old 
mediimi. When I arrived at Washington Street as far up 
as the automatic gas machine company's show-room, I 


looked in and saw their beautiful work. A tall dignified 
gentleman Was explaining the machines. I walked in and 
said to him, " I am a brass-finisher looking for a job.*' 
In the kindest voice he replied, " I am very sorry indeed, 
but we have all the brass-finishers that we can employ. 
I would like very much, however, to get a good mechanical 
draughtsman : do you happen to know one ? " 

" Yes, I am a mechanical draughtsman myself," I 

He was rather astonished, and asked me what experience 
I had had. I told him that I had always been a kind of an 
artist, and that I had made all the working drawings for 
Levi Stevens. 

" Very well, that is quite sufficient ; you may go to 
work to-morrow morning." 

I asked him what the pay would be, and he replied two 
and a half dollars a day, which was just double what my 
Uncle Stevens had been paying me. I told him that Stevens 
was my uncle, and how I had lost my situation. He was 
much amused at the part played by the spiritualist. I then 
informed him that I didn't have any drawing instnmients 
of my own, which was the reason I had apphed for a posi- 
tion as brass-finisher. 

He said, " Very weU, that is easily remedied," and took 
me at once to an instrument shop where they had some 
beautiful drawing instruments ; I selected the best set they 
had, price one himdred dollars, and paid for it out of my 

This was my first meeting with Oliver P. Drake, and to 
this gentleman — ^and he was a gentleman of the first water 
— I am indebted for a good deal of my success in fife. He 
was by trade a philosophical instrument-maker and under- 
stood his business thoroughly. 


It was while I was working for this good man that the 
Civil War came to an end. 

The gas machines of those days consisted of a wet meter 
wheel used as a pmnp and driven by a falling weight after 
the manner of a clock. The air forced into the carburettor 
came in contact with gasoline, which is a very light product 
of petroleum. When the machine was at the temperature 
of the surrounding air, and freshly charged, the gas was 
very rich indeed, and would smoke if used in a common 
bat's-wing burner, but it was all right in an argand burner. 
After the machine had been nmning about an hour, the 
refrigeration due to evaporation reduced the density of the 
gas so that it was just right for a bat's-wing burner, but 
unfortunately it did not stop at this density. If many 
burners were used at the same time, the evaporator would 
become very cold indeed, and as the gas diminished in 
density about as the square of the temperature — reckoning 
from absolute zero — it soon became very weak and blue. 
I suggested to Drake that it would be an exceedingly good 
thing if we could have a density regulator that would 
diminish the richness of the first gas made and add it to that 
last made at the end of the evening. He said, " Yes, that 
would be splendid if it could be done, but it is impossible." 

Later on, I made experiments and found that the air 
expanded just in proportion to the degree that it was car- 
buretted, so that by putting two meter wheels on the same 
shaft, one slightly larger than the other, the smaller one 
pumping the air into the carburettor and the larger pumping 
the gas out, a pressure would be formed in the carbiu'ettor if 
the gas was too rich ; and this working on a diaphragm 
would open a valve and allow the air from the pump to 
pass directly into the gas pipe, where it would mix with the 
gas that was too rich, thus reducing the density. 


I think this system has gone into general use in the 
States. I did not get it patented. 

After leaving Drake's employ I made another density 
regulator that regulated the density of the gas by its weight 
in a large cylinder through which it passed. I made a very 
large machine of this kind for the Americus Club in Con- 
necticut, in which Bill Tweed was interested. It worked 
splendidly, and many other similar machines have been 
made, which I think have since been patented by others. 

Messrs. Gilbert and Barker, of Springfield, started to 
make a gas machine worked altogether by gravity. The 
machine was placed in the top of the house, and, as the 
so-called gas was heavier than air, it produced a slight pres- 
sure in the lower rooms and gave a good light, but a hght 
wind or the slamming of a door would put it out ; the only 
advantage of this gas machine was its extreme simphcity 
and cheapness. The insurance companies objected to it, 
and the makers saw they must make a change. They con- 
sulted me, and as I wished to prove that my Uncle Stevens 
was wrong regarding the retaining power of a spring that 
I had invented and submitted to him,* I readily agreed to 
make the drawings of a gas machine driven by a falling 
weight. My cUents were dehghted, and this new type of 
machine drove out of the market nearly all the other weight- 
driven machines, the owners doing a large and prosperous 
business for many years. 

When I had finished this work I got a situation as a fore- 
man in another place. After some months I called on Drake, 
and he told me that he had made the very large machine of 
the peculiar type that I had designed, and that it had been 
put up to light a large mill in the State of New York. The 

^ The retaining power spring was for the purpose of keeping the 
machine running wlidle it was being wound up. 


machine was in a vault underground, just big enough to 
hold it, where there was neither the room nor the light to 
photograph it. Could I, from the working drawings, make 
an india ink drawing to be photographed which would have 
the appearance of being a photograph of the machine itself ? 
I said I could, and he gave me the order. Twenty minutes 
later I had a book on perspective which I took home and 
studied until two o'clock in the morning. I was busily en- 
gaged in the day as a foreman, but I worked on the drawing 
at night, and it was a big job. There were the heads of 
hundreds of bolts and nuts to be drawn in perspective, but 
I kept at the job, working every Sunday until it was finished. 
When it was photographed no one discovered that the 
photographs had not been taken from the machine itself. 

While I was in Boston a large fiuniture factory was burnt 
down. As this was the third time this had happened, it was 
said that no means could be found to prevent it. I invented 
an automatic sprinkler that would be started by the fire 
itself and would sprinkle the place where the fire was and 
nowhere else. It would, at the same time, telegraph to 
pohce head-quarters and to the fire station, giving the 
exact locality of the outbreak. I did all I could to introduce 
it, but met with no success ; no one would beUeve it possible 
— " too good to be true," etc. Just seventeen years from 
the date of my patent the first one was installed in a cotton 
factory in Massachusetts, but, of course, my patent had 
expired. These fire extinguishers are now in common use 
in many places, but not with the telegraphing attachment. 


THE concern that I was working for in Boston 
wished me to go to New York. It had been paying 
me five dollars a day in Boston, and offered me seven 
and a half dollars — about thirty-one shillings — a day for the 
New York job. The work was being done at the Novelty 
Iron Works on the East River. 

At that time the iron works were making very large 
marine engines for the Pacific Mail Steamships. Some of 
the cylinders were 105 inches in diameter, with a piston- 
stroke of 12 feet, while the paddle-wheels were 42 feet in 
diameter. On one occasion Leonard Jerome, the grand- 
father of Mr. Winston Churchill, and Chairman of the 
Pacific Mail Steamship Company, visited the works, and 
some of the head officials asked him to take lunch with 
them. They had boxed in one of the big cylinders which 
was in the yard, provided it with a door, and set a small 
table in the middle ; and while Mr. Jerome was having his 
lunch they told him that they were inside one of the cylinders 
of his steamships. 

At the Novelty Iron Works I acted in the capacity of 
foreman and draughtsman ; there were many other 
draughtsmen employed, and I was known by the nickname 
of " Boston." 

We had at that time among the draughtsmen an all- 
knowing German by the name of Albert Lucius. What this 
gentleman did not know was not worth knowing. He was 



a veritable encyclopaedia vivant. Not only that, but he 
called himself the strongest man in the works, and used 
to go about astonishing the workmen by a display of his 
great physical strength. He was not, however, a very large 
man, being perhaps slightly above medium height and 
weight. We only had one little place in which to wash, 
and if a draughtsman happened to be occupying the place 
when it suited Mr. Lucius to wash, Lucius would take him 
by the siut>1us of his trousers and pull him out. One day I 
was washing up, when I suddenly found myself sliding out 
of the room very rapidly. My hands were wet and soapy ; 
the men laughed and asked me why I had come out so 
quickly — why did I not stop and finish the job ? However, 
when Mr. Lucius had got through I went in and finished 
washing. The next day every draughtsman was chafiing me. 

A few days later, seeing Mr. Lucius out in the yard and 
knowing he would come in the instant the whistle blew to 
wash his hands, I went into the little room, but only pre- 
tended to be washing. He came up the stairs three steps 
at a time, seized me by the trousers and pulled me out, but 
instantly he found himself on his back on the floor. The 
men were astonished, and Mr. Lucius' face was as red as a 
beet. He was quickly up and went for me " catch as catch 
can." Very much to his surprise he was landed on his 
back again in less than a second of time. He tried it again 
and down he went ; then he gave it up, and everybody 
laughed. It was the talk of the place, and the next day 
when he went into the pattern shop, the foreman pattern- 
maker said to him, " Never attempt to wrestle with a State 
of Maine Yankee ; they are very strong and practise 
wrestling from their childhood up ; it is the principal 
amusement at their schools." 

But I was not the only State of Maine Yankee in the 


works. Professor Grant was a well-known figure, but I 
had never noticed anything pecuUar about him. Some of 
the draughtsmen asked me to guess his age, and I put it 
down at forty-five or fifty. The next time the Professor 
came into the draughtsman's room they asked me to examine 
him. I foimd he was quite used to being examined and 
readily submitted. He had not lost any teeth ; they all 
appeared sound although rather short. He had plenty of 
black hair only tinged slightly with grey ; his eyebrows 
and moustache were dark brown. I asked him how old he 
was, and he said eighty-four. He was six feet two in height 
and weighed about two hundred and fifty pounds. He 
told me that he had never drunk a cup of tea or coffee in 
his hfe, had never tasted alcoholic drinks of any kind, 
never had had anything to do with tobacco, and had never 
had a day's illness, not even a headache. I told the Pro- 
fessor he was very lucky. About a fortnight later his son 
came in and said that his father had had his first illness, 
some heart trouble. A day or two after that the Professor 
came in. He looked his age, and said to me, " Maxim, I am 
coming to the end of my tether." 

" Yes," I said ; " and that is the way a strong man 
should die. You will probably be in your grave inside of a 
week." And he was, for he died suddenly a few days later. 

While at the Novelty Iron Works I thought much on the 
subject of automatic gas machines. Up to that time it 
had taken a very large machine indeed to supply a hundred 
burners, and there were only a few machines in the States 
that would supply as many as three himdred. At length 
I thought out a totally new system. I saw that I could 
make a machine that would run any number of biuners 
without deteriorating the liquid used, and that the gas 
throughout, would be of absolutely uniform density, the last 


being as good as the first. This system consisted in con- 
verting the gasoline into a vapour by heat up to a pressinre 
of about twenty-five pounds to the square inch, and then 
allowing the vapours to blow through an injector and suck 
in air, the mixed air and vapoiur being stored in a small 
gasometer. I took out several patents on this machine, 
and made some that would run about one himdred burners 
each. A little company was formed called the Maxim 
Gas Machine Company, which had fine offices at 264 Broad- 
way, New York City. We put up several small machines 
and ultimately got some orders for large ones. A. T. Stewart, 
who was the wealthiest man in America at the time, owned 
many mills and some hotels. I lighted all his mills as well as 
a large hotel that he owned in New York with big machines. 
Coal gas at that time in New York was very dear indeed, 
and the cost of lighting the New York Post Office was more 
than the Government could stand, so one of my big machines 
was ordered and the nuisance of a gas meter aboUshed. 

Many of my large machines in mills and factories were 
heated by steam, and I wanted a cheap and effective steam 
trap — something that would let out the condensed water 
but not the steam. I invented and made a very simple 
one, small and exceedingly cheap. It worked by the ex- 
pansion of alcohol in a closed metallic receptacle with 
elastic sides ; the heat of the steam boiled the alcohol, 
producing a pressure that expanded the sides and closed a 
valve, which would open automatically when cooled down 
a few degrees. It was patented in the States, and many 
of these were also sold for general purposes. 

One day a rich old gentleman by the name of Hawes 
came to me and asked if I had patented it in England, and 
when I said I had not, he purchased the right to do so for 
one hundred dollars. He then patented it in his own name 


in England. Later on, when I wanted steam traps in Eng- 
land I was told that Hawes' traps were the best, and on one 
occasion when I went into a large works in London I saw 
a mountain of brass castings. On asking what they were, 
I was told they were Hawes' steam traps ; that they made 
many for railway carriages and had already sold over 80,000 
of them. At first they would not believe me when I told 
them I was the original inventor, but they had to admit it 
when a few days later I showed them my American patent. 
The same principle is now used in incubators. 

I found that my system was not only good for large gas 
machines, but also for very small ones, so I got up a locomo- 
tive head-light, having a gas burner instead of an oil burner 
with its troublesome wick. As the flame was more in the 
focus it gave a much better light and projected it much 
further than the oil lamp which had a flame about the shape 
of a chrysanthemum. These head-hghts did very well 
for a time, but soon all sorts of trouble began to crop up 
everywhere. Instead of filling the gasoline tank with a 
clean vessel, vessels that had been used for oiling were often 
used, and it was not an uncommon thing to find the appara- 
tus clogged up with linseed oil. When, however, I got an 
order to place them on the New York and Boston line, I 
took the first trial lamp to Springfield, Massachusetts. 
Before putting the lamp on a locomotive, I had made a 
very large and strong galvanized iron reservoir provided 
with a cock especially prepared for gasoline. I also had some 
cans made ^Vith the proper sort of a spout to fill the tank 
without the use of a funnel, and on these cans I had painted, 
" This can is to be used exclusively for filling the 
locomotive head-light tanks with gasoline, and is 
not to be used for any other purpose whatsoever." 
On the tank I had painted, " Gasoline for locomotive 


HEAD-LIGHTS." I then put a lamp on a locomotive and a 
trial run was made ; it worked very well, was approved 
of and a considerable order given, and for a time everything 
went on very well. 

One day there was a convention of leading railway men 
at Springfield, and while they were banqueting in the 
evening they saw a tremendous flare of Ught and flame in 
the roimd house where the locomotives were kept. On 
inquiry they foimd it was due to one of Maxim's head- 
lights, and every one of them was ordered off that road, and 
no more ordered. I found that the cans which I had provided 
had been taken away and used for other purposes. The 
engineer had drawn the gasoline into a big wooden pail, 
set it down near the locomotive with his lantern alongside 
of it, and of course, it took fire. Being a very wise man, he 
tiiought the best thing he could do would be to kick the pail, 
which he did. This produced a flame about as big as St. 
Paul's Cathedral, but it only lasted about one minute and 
no damage was done. 


TWO of my large gas-machines were sold to light 
hotels in Georgia, and I went down to Atlanta to 
see that the machine for the Kimbal House was 
properly put up. I noticed that every locomotive from 
New York to Atlanta had one of my head-lights. 

This was not so very long after the war, and there was 
still a good deal of bitterness against the North, but I had 
not the least trouble with anyone. Before I went down 
I visited a place where artists were provided with photo- 
graphs, and found a very good photograph of a New Guiana 
nigger ; it was the niggerest-looking nigger I had ever seen. 
At that time they had a coloured man as Governor or Lieut.- 
Govemor of Louisiana, and this was a very sore point with 
the white Southerners. I marked this photograph 
" Governor Pinchback of Louisiana." As a matter of fact, 
Pinchback was not a full-blooded nigger, but rather a 
mulatto, and very clever. However, the natives of Atlanta 
didn't know this, so whenever they were discussing niggers 
and poUtics I used to take out this photograph and hand it 
to them. They would pass it round with such expressions 
as " What a disgrace ! " " The idea of having a nigger like 
this as Governor of a State ! " " What are we coming to ; 
next we will have a gorilla ! *' I also amused them very 
much by drawing comic sketches. 

But certain events took place while I was in Atlanta that 
threw a good deal of light on the condition of things at that 


100 MY LIFE 

time. So long as there was a large garrison of U.S. troops 
quartered at Atlanta, the natives were always objecting to 
their presence, and the local papers were full of abuse ; 
but as soon as the troops were withdrawn they were equally 
bitter on account of losing the trade. One day a handsome 
young man, a lieutenant, with a beautiful and faultless 
uniform, arrived by the train. He went to the Kimbal 
House, and while registering his name, a young man, who 
was said to belong to one of the " first families," but was 
very dissipated, pushed up against him and said : " Who 
the h are you ? " 

" I am a gentleman and an officer in the United States 
Army ; you are neither," the officer replied. 

The young Southerner, whom we will call Higgins, 
because that was not his name, thereupon drew a big 
revolver and shot the officer dead where he stood. He was 
arrested and very soon tried before a judge and jury, all 
Southerners, and was at once acquitted on the ground that 
he did it in self-defence. This made me think of the Irish- 
man in New York who shot a wooden Indian in front of a 
tobacco shop, and was arrested for disorderly conduct. 
His defence was that the Indian was holding up a toma- 
hawk ; he thought his Ufe was in danger, and so he shot him. 
But self-defence did not work on this occasion, and Patrick 
had to go to the Island for one month. 

Interesting events followed each other in quick succession 
in Atlanta at that time. The brother of Higgins had a fight 
in the bar-room under the hotel and killed his man. By 
some hook or crook he too got off. There was also a duel 
between two boys, each about fourteen years of age. They 
fought with shot guns at short range, and the fathers of 
both were present. The result was that one of them had 
his left arm nearly shot off. 


One Sunday evening a young gentleman, his sister, and 
his sweetheart went to church together. The young gentle- 
man belonged to one of the " first famiUes " ; that is, his 
father was one of the leading citizens, a man of great 
wealth and influence. When this young gentleman had 
seen the two young ladies home he went round to a peculiar 
establishment, common in the Southern States, and while 
he was sitting with a young lady on his knee Higgins came 
in. It was Higgins' favourite girl, and he shot the young 
man dead as soon as the girl was out of his lap. Everyone 
said then that Higgins would be punished. He had killed 
a member of one of the first families in a house of ill-repute. 
He was arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to be 
hanged. Just before the fatal day his sister obtained leave 
to visit him in prison. She kissed him passionately, and 
the next morning it was reported that Higgins had been 
foimd dead in his cell. The verdict of the coroner's jury 
was that he had died from strychnine poison, probably 
contained in a soluble capsule passed from his sister's mouth 
into his. There was a funeral and the aiffair seemed to be 
finished. Two years later a citizen of Atlanta while travel- 
ling in Alabama met Higgins face to face. A corpse had 
been borrowed for the purpose of conducting the fraud. 

While I was at the Kimbal House, which was a very fine 
hotel, I met a good-looking and intelligent Enghsh lady, by 
the name of Haldane, with her httle son. She was about 
thirty-five or forty years of age, and had travelled a great 
deal. Her husband was dead, having lost his Ufe while 
fighting for his country in India. She was very clever and 
a good talker. One of the young bloods of the town had 
built for himself a little wooden shanty, not far from the 
railway station ; it was about eight feet wide and ten feet 
long. One night the place was raided by the poUce and a 

102 MY LIFE 

young yellow girl about sixteen years old arrested. She 
was tried, convicted, and fined five dollars and costs, which 
her mother, a washerwoman, managed to pay ; but not 
more than ten days had elapsed when the same thing 
occurred again, and this time the girl was fined ten dollars 
and costs. This the mother paid by selling her cow. A 
few days later the same thing occurred again. The girl was 
arrested and fined twenty dollars and costs ; this was too 
much for her mother. So this young and pretty girl was 
put to work in what was euphoniously called the chain gang ; 
but the only chain that kept the prisoners together was a 
rough-looking individual, known locally as a " Georgia 
Cracker,'* armed with a double-barrelled shot gun. It was 
his business to shoot everyone that attempted to run away. 
I often stopped to look at this motley crowd in the chain 
gang. The most conspicuous prisoner in the gang was an 
extremely large United States soldier, dressed in the imiform 
of his country. There were all sorts and sizes of miserable- 
looking individuals armed with shovels, picks, or hammers, 
and among the lot the pretty little yellow girl, looking very 

The sight of this poor girl working with these scoimdrels, 
with a loaded shot gun to keep her from running away, 
made the elegant Mrs. Haldane's blood fairly boil. I being 
a Northerner made no remarks on the subject, but a hand- 
some English woman was in a different position. The 
leading minister of the place was the Rev. Dr. Westmorland ; 
he sat at the same table with Mrs. Haldane and myself, and 
it was amusing to hear this English lady talk to the parson 
regarding the poor coloured girl. She asked him what had 
happened to the young man — had he been arrested ? Why 
was it that he was not in the chain gang also ? She asked 
him if one could consider a people civilized that worked 


young women on the street breaking stones under the 
muzzle of a shot gun ? Then again, it was not more than 
two hundred yards from the young man's little shanty to 
the place where the same thing was carried on openly by 
white women — why were they not arrested ? — ^why were 
they not in the chain gang ? 

If a Northern man had talked in the same manner he 
would have been shot on the spot. 

Some two or three years later I was walking up the 
Bowery, New York, when I met Higgins No. 2, who killed 
the man in the bar-room. He appeared glad to see me, 
pulled a big revolver out of his pocket, and said : " This is 
the revolver with which my brother shot the lieutenant." 
He next produced one of a different pattern and slightly 
smaller, and told me it was the one used by his brother to 
shoot the young gentleman. Then diving into another 
pocket on the other side he said : " This is the pistol that 
I killed that fellow with in the bar-room ; I believe you 
were there at the time." I admitted that I was in the hotel, 
but I had never been in the bar-room. 

While I was in Georgia I learned that a black man has 
no rights which a white man is bound to respect. The 
engineer of the hotel was a Virginian, and a rather clever 
fellow, and one night when there was a grand ball the 
engineer struck and took his fireman away with him. The 
hotel could not be run without water, and all this had to be 
pumped ; there was nothing to make the elevators go, and 
as the gas-machine was heated by steam there would be no 
gas imless there was steam. The hotel keeper was in such a 
dreadful fix without an engineer that he did not know what 
to do. Seeing his great distress, I told him that I was an 
engineer myself. I collared a nigger, went down into the 
boiler room, fired up, soon had a head of steam, and started 

104 MY LIFE 

the elevators, or lifts. Having filled all the water tanks and 
instructed the nigger to keep up the fire I went up to my 
room, changed my clothes, entered the ballroom, and 
danced several times with the elegant Mrs. Haldane. A 
beautiful young widow from New Jersey was present. She 
had a splendid figure, and was one of the handsomest 
women I have ever seen. The contrast between this beauti- 
ful Northern lady and the rather thin and sallow Southern 
women was very marked, and all the men were buzzing 
roimd her like flies aroimd a honey pot. No doubt I should 
have joined the procession had it not been for the lovely 

After about an hour I went to my room, changed my 
clothes again, and spent the night in the engine- and boiler- 
room. I was quite imable to keep the nigger awake. 

The next morning I told the landlord that it was rather 
a tough job. He asked me to get him an engineer from New 
York. I telegraphed for one, and three days later my Scotch 
engineer, Alexander Macgregor, arrived, but the first night 
that he trusted to a nigger the Ughts went out through lack 
of steam. It was not until he obtained a white assistant that 
he succeeded in keeping up steam all night. He told me 
that no amount of beating would keep a nigger awake at 


MESSRS. A. T. STEWART and Company finaUy 
ordered from us an extremely large gas-machine, 
much larger than any that ever had been made 
before. It was to light the Grand Union Hotel, Saratoga, 
which was very large, having fifteen hundred bedrooms, the 
Windsor Hotel, a fairly large one, and the St. James', a 
small hotel. I made this big machine and put it up in record 
time. After it had been running successfully for some time 
Judge Hilton, who at that time was A. T. Stewart's head 
man and adviser, introduced me to Judge Brady, of New 
York City, as " the man who abolished the nuisance of a 

I made this big machine in a great hurry. It had one 
gasometer and two evaporators heated by steam from the 
main boiler of the hotel. Either one could be used, each 
being large enough to furnish all the gas by itself. As every- 
thing was absolutely ready two days before the hotel was 
to open for the season, I started up the machine, when — 
horror of horrors ! — the gasoline ran in a stream from the 
cast gunmetal base of the evaporators. I had tested these 
with high-pressure water and also with air ; if the air had 
passed through under high pressure it would have made 
bubbles, so I thought I was safe. But the gasoUne under 
much less pressiure ran through the metal, so that there was 
a small stream running out between the cast-iron bedplate 
and the casting in question. 


106 MY LIFE 

I went to bed that night feeling very blue ; I thought the 
matter over. I could not possibly take the machines back 
to New York City, take them apart and coat the inside of 
the big bronze casting with solder. About midnight a very 
briUiant idea struck me, and the next morning I purchased 
a gallon of common molasses (treacle). I mixed with this 
a small quantity of floiu* and some lamp-black, and put 
about two quarts of the mixture into each evaporator. Of 
course the molasses could not possibly leak through the 
bronze and the gasoline could not leak through the molasses. 
It was a perfect success ; the night of the opening the hotel 
was illiuninated from top to bottom, and everything went 
off without a hitch during the whole season. 

When there was a lively demand for my gas-machines, 
I had a considerable number of the larger sizes made by 
Harold and Hayes, of Paterson, New Jersey. This firm 
manufactured the sheet brass work for locomotives and 
supplied the three firms of locomotive builders in that city ; 
they also built steam fire-engines. 

This was in 1873 or '74, and as the firm was anxiously 
seeking for orders they wished to enter a competition in 
Williamsburg, which is a part of Brooklyn. The drawings of 
their fire-engine had been made by one of the best draughts- 
men from one of the locomotive shops. As far as the boiler, 
the engine, and the piunps were concerned, the design was 
all right, providing the engine was to be run at a moderate 
speed, but a steam fire-engine has to nm at a very rapid pace, 
and this was where it fell short. 

At that time there was a firm of fire-engine builders in 
Central New York that used a rotary engine and a rotary 
pump, with a small rotary engine and piunp for supplying 
the boiler with water. This engine was the only one in the 
States that could be depended upon to suck water more 


than eight feet. The manager of this firm, being a very 
clever fellow, succeeded in having a finger in the pie in 
drawing up the contract and the rules and regulations for 
the trial. He saw the city officials, and pointed out to them 
that many of the fires were on the river front, and it was 
necessary to have a fire-engine that would take the water 
directly from the river, the engine standing on the dock 
over the water. This clever individual managed to have a 
clause included to the effect that all competing engines 
should be able to prime themselves and draw water from 
the river when the piunp was eighteen feet above the water, 
that no water was to be put into the pump or the suction 
pipe, and that the suction pipe should not be provided with 
a foot valve. 

It may be readily seen that the builders of steam fire- 
engines having reciprocating engines and pumps could not 
very well accept these terms. The pumps of a steam fire- 
engine have to work with very great rapidity and pass a 
vast quantity of water in a minute of time. They therefore 
have to be provided with very large valves and a lot of 
space ; and when this space is very large the air is simply 
rarefied and condensed by the action of the pump, without 
sucking any water. 

Messrs. Harold and Hayes consulted me on the subject, 
and after I had examined their pumps and seen how small 
the pistons were compared with the air space, I told them 
that I did not believe it would prime when the water was 
more than five feet below the piunp. But they did not 
agree with me ; they said they would run the engine so fast 
that it would prime an3rway. I told them that speed was 
not a factor in the equation. However, they took the engine 
out and tried it, but it failed to prime at five feet. They then 
connected it with the street main, and ran it for the purpose 

108 MY LIFE 

of showing me what it would do. I found that they could 
not keep up steam. I climbed up on one of the wheels, and 
with a long carpenter's shaving in my hand discovered that 
at one side of the big smoke-stack the air was drawing down ; 
this showed that the jet was not in the centre. I then foimd 
that the valves hammered very badly, and that the grate 
got very hot indeed. On taking the engine into the factory 
we foimd that the grate had been practically melted and 
was much deformed ; on examining the pumps we foimd 
that the valves were injured badly by the pounding, and, 
as I expected, the jet discharging the exhaust steam up the 
chimney was not in the right place ; it was too large, and 
not co-axial with the chimney or smoke-stack. This 
accounted for the draught being bad. They also said that 
although they had employed or consulted all the best 
painters in town, none of them were able to paint the 
engine the right kind of red. They wanted the exact colour 
employed by the Amoskeg Company. 

I undertook to put everything right in a few da)^. I 
made a little ejector and connected it with the four dis- 
charge valve chambers of the pump by four small brass 
tubes, each provided with a ball valve, and so placed the 
ejector that the discharge was directly into the hose-pipe 
connection. This ejector wks connected by a small tube 
to the boiler, and I found that the maximum eiffect was 
produced with a pressure of twenty-five poimds to the square 
inch. I provided eight new valves to the piunp, and these 
were made on a totally new plan, as far as I know. In 
falling to their seat they first imprisoned a little water in 
the seat of the valve itself, which could only escape slowly, 
so that it was impossible for the valves to strike the seat 
with any degree of force. I made a new pattern of a grate 
which, instead of having a flat top like the old one, had a 


very deep groove cut in the top of the bars, and this was 
filled with ashes before the engine started. I put a bushing 
of the proper shape and size in the smoke-stack, made a new 
and smaller jet for the exhaust steam, and placed it at a 
greater distance from the uptake. I observed the same 
rules that obtain in locomotive practice in this respect. 

I first painted all the parts with the very best English 
vermilion, the same as before : I then glazed them with 
three thin coats of carmine containing varnish ; and when 
all was dry the whole was varnished with coach varnish. 
This gave the exact colour required. 

Upon trymg the engine again it did everything that was 
required of it. The boiler made more steam than could be 
used, the grate did not get out of shape, the valves did not 
pound, and the pumps primed at a distance of five feet. 
I was sure that it could do much more. 

When the day for the competition came the Silsby rotary 
was the only other engine in competition. The Silsby engine 
was the first tried. As it was very wasteful of steam it had 
to have an extremely large boiler, and the exhaust could be 
heard for a distance of five miles, while the exhaust from 
the feed-pump engine simply screamed. There was no 
trouble in sucking the water from the river at a distance of 
eighteen feet, and they were cocksiure that the other engine 
would not do it. However, the smaller engine was fired up, 
and when it had twenty-five poimds' pressure to the square 
inch a little valve was opened which attracted no attention, 
and very soon the water was sucked up from the river, 
filling both ends of the two cylinders and the valve chambers, 
so that when there was one himdred and fifty poimds' 
pressure to the square inch and the engine was started, 
water was discharged at once, very much to the astonish- 
ment of the Silsby people. The engine ran very smoothly. 

110 MY LIFE 

there was plenty of steam, and whenever a piece of coal 
became reduced to the size of a filbert it left the grate and 
went through the smoke-stack. Everything went all right, 
the engine was well balanced and the pumps quite noiseless 
without any beating or pounding. The reciprocating engine 
threw water quite as far as the big rotary, and as the boiler 
was much smaUer and the whole thing much lighter, Harold 
and Hayes got the order. It was, indeed, a very beautiful 
and very effective engine, and I believe a good many were 
afterwards sold. 

In my long experience I have never known a case in which 
a little knowledge of engines, boilers, and hydraulics was 
so useful. 


IN one of the factories in New York, where some of my 
work was being done, there was a big, good-natured Irish- 
man, whom we will call Patrick O'Connor. One day 
at the noon hour, while the men were loafing before resuming 
work, this big Irishman approached me and said, " Mr. 
Maxim, whoy is it that the Oirish are so much sthronger 
than the Americans ? " 

I repUed that I didn't know that they were ; it was 
certainly news to me. I asked him who told him so. 

" Everybody says so," was his reply. 

" Then I suppose you, an Irishman, are very much 
stronger than I am ? " 

" Certainly." 

I asked him to step on to the scales with me. Quite 
true, he was a heavy man, and I only weighed a pound more 
than he did. He said that was all right, that it was not 
enough to count. So I rigged up an arrangement by which 
we could test our strength in Uf ting^ When he attempted to 
lift the load that I had already lifted, he said : " There is 
some trick about it — it is fastened down " ; but when one 
of the other men suggested that he should take off half of 
it he found that he could lift it. The result was that I 
lifted all the Irishman could Uft, with the Irishman on top 
of it and two hundred pounds besides. A large American, 
of Dutch descent, came within fifty pounds of lifting as much 
as I did. Then there was a big drop to a rather small 


112 MY LIFE 

Scotchman, but this little fellow was able to lift more than 
any Irishman on the premises. 

O'Connor was, I think, about twenty-four years of age. 
One day he came to me and said : " You are the best master 
I ever worked for ; no one could be better, but I am sorry, 
I must leave you." I asked him what had happened. 
He told me he had joined an Irish army under General 
O'Neal, and that they were going to march to Canada, 
conquer the coimtry, build ships, destroy the English Navy, 
and liberate Ireland. This appeared to me to be a very 
tall order. I tried to impress upon the poor ignorant fellow 
that the British nation was very powerful, that he had no 
knowledge of the science of quantity, that he was not a 
mathematician. I told him that they couldn't conquer 
England even if they robbed every hen's roost in Canada. 
I reminded him that New York State had sent four himdred 
thousand men to the front, that probably Canada had at 
least half as much fight in her as the State of New York, 
and that it would take rather a large army to invade 
Canada in the face of two hundred thousand men. All this 
was Greek to him. He said he didn't know himself, but 
General O'Neal did. 

O'Connor left. He joined the General's army, and they 
assembled in the State of Vermont, near the Canadian 
frontier. There were about two hundred of the rag-tag 
and bobtail in the army of invasion, with a few thousand 
Canadians on the other side waiting for them, their object 
being to allow the Irish to enter and then capture them. 
General O'Neal visited the field of battle on foot. He had 
a gorgeous uniform, and his s^vord was so long that it 
dragged on the ground. He was a small man, but so was 
Napoleon ; and, of course, before commencing operations 
it was necessary that he should make a speech. He said : 


" Soulgers, we are about to inter the inimy's counthry 
with sabre and bayonet, and niver to return till we are 
victorious or dead." 

About this time, when all eyes were fixed on the brave 
General, a four-wheeler with two horses was driven rapidly 
on to the field of battle. A strong man jumped out, grabbed 
little O'Neal and his sword, chucked him into the cab, and 
drove rapidly away. The " Soulgers " were flabbergasted, 
and being deprived of their leader, disbanded. The strong 
man referred to was an American marshal ; he took the 
General to St. Albans, Vermont, put him in the cooler, and 
gave him twelve months to cool off. A year later I happened 
to be travelling in the same railway carriage that took the 
General back to New York ; he was in a very seedy con- 

When the army disbanded O'Connor had to look out for 
himself. Having no money, he had to walk home. When 
he arrived, he was dirty, hungry, and completely used up. 
All the boys contributed money to enable him to get some- 
thing to eat and a pair of boots, and he was soon at his old 
job again, grinding and polishing the inside of locomotive 

But O'Connor was not content, so he decided to go 

to California. He saved up a little money and paid his fare, 

third-class, by way of Panama. However, he was soon back 

again ; he had worked his return passage in the stokehole 

of the ship, and he looked it. I asked him why he didn't 

stay in California. He said he landed all right, but as he 

was walking up the dock ever3rthing seemed to tremble 

under his feet ; he looked up and saw the buildings, church 

steeples, and tall chimneys reeling and toppling over, and 

finally falling to the ground. Although he was used to the 

motion of a ship this made him sick. He went back on 

114 MY LIFE 

board the ship and said " the divil himself couldn't induce 
me to go on shore again. "^ 

Once more O'Connor was rubbing and grinding away 
on the inside of reflectors, and again he gave up his job, 
received his money, and left. He was usually very poorly 
dressed; his clothes were always out of order; the. job 
that he had was a very dirty one ; and as he had a broken 
nose, had lost several of his fingers and not a few of his 
teeth, he did not present a very fine appearance. However, 
when he had been gone about six weeks, a large, tall, and 
elegantly attired gentleman called. He was rigged out in 
the height of fashion, including diamonds in his shirt and a 
heavy gold watch and chain. At first he was not recognized, 
but soon someone said, " Why, it is Patrick ! " and sure 
enough it was. He came in to see if he could sell some gold 
watches ; he had them in every pocket. They were of 
various kinds and sizes, with and without chains, and all 
second-hand. As nobody had the money to purchase such 
expensive watches he departed. One of the men approached 
me and said : "I'll bet you Pat's drawing the badger." A 
few weeks later we saw an account in the newspapers that 
this man and a beautiful English blonde, who at one time 
was a member of Lydia Thompson's troupe, had been 
arrested for robbery by a game known as " drawing the 
badger." O'Connor got five years at Sing Sing, and the 
girl was sent to the Island for a shorter term. This was the 
last I ever heard of this interesting gentleman of varied 

When walking through Courtland Street, New York, I had 
often noticed and was much puzzled over a peculiar in- 
dividual whom I was constantly meeting. He was about 
twenty-seven years of age, with long light brown hair, 

^ It was the day of the great earthquake. 


rough and matted, and yellowish whiskers a quarter of an 
inch long. He was dressed in a shabby butternut suit, an 
old and battered silk hat, and the roughest kind of thick 
cowhide boots well daubed with red Jersey mud with his 
trousers pushed inside of the legs. He carried a little 
bundle done up in a red handkerchief, and always appeared 
to be walking up with someone from the Courtland Street 
ferry. On one occasion I saw him with a tall and athletic 
man who appeared to be about sixty years of age. 

When coming from the ferry I had noticed a half base- 
ment on the right-hand side of the street, where a large 
number of buff envelopes were exposed in a long box with 
a couple of flashy individuals in charge. This was what 
was known at the time as " The Envelope Game." A large 
number of envelopes were supposed to contain five- and ten- 
dollar bills, and no matter where these men picked out an 
envelope it was sure to contain a ten-dollar bill. They 
replaced the bill in the envelope, which was put back in 
the box ; then they allowed anyone to try their luck for 
one dollar. 

On this occasion the dilapidated Jerseyman with the red 
mud on his boots stopped and anxiously looked at the box ; 
he was immensely interested. The man of the envelopes 
took out one, showed the ten-dollar bill, and put the envelope 
carefully back into the box, leaving it projecting about an 
eighth of an inch above the others. The dilapidated in- 
dividual whipped out a dollar bill, gave it to the attendant 
and took out the envelope ; sure enough, it contained a 
ten-dollar bill. They told him he was very lucky and 
congratulated him. Again he tried, put down a dollar and 
got another ten-dollar bill. He changed the last ten-dollar 
bill into dollar bills, and went on with the game, each time 
succeeding in getting ten dollars for one. They then 

116 MY LIFE 

refused to play with him any longer. He whispered to the 
man who was with him and advised him to try his luck ; 
but curiously enough, no matter how many times the old 
fellow tried, he always drew a blank. When they had got 
his last dollar he " smelt a rat," saw that he had been taken 
in, and having been taken in, he sailed in — he was a fighting 
man. He first knocked down the gentleman with the red 
mud, and then went for the two dandies. He floored 
both of them and commenced to smash things, scattering the 
envelopes all over the place and using many swear words, 
and then looked round for something else to destroy. 

All the time the big policeman was standing by my side 
with a broad grin. He said, " Oh, my ! isn't the old feUow 
a fighter; why, he's a regular bruiser." It seems that 
it was the habit of this dilapidated Jerseyman with the red 
mud to cross the ferry whenever the train arrived, attempt 
to get into conversation with a greenhorn on the ferry-boat, 
and if the attempt succeeded to fleece him. 

While I was actively engaged in New York I was con- 
stantly meeting a man from New Jersey by the name of 
Waterman. He was a nice, mild-mannered man, but was 
always importuning me to have my life insured, and he 
had a great deal of literature on the subject to trot out and 
show me. Often when I had got into a snug comer in a 
tramcar and had commenced to read about the latest prize 
fight, someone would give me a nudge, and on looking round 
I would find it was my friend Waterman, who would 
generally say : " Allow me to call your attention to the 
advantages of the endowment plan." 

He annoyed me so much that I made various plans to 
get rid of him, and finally decided that the best way was to 
kill him. He was positively worrying the life out of me ; 
I was losing flesh and could not sleep at night ; if I had the 


nightmare it was always the same thing — Waterman and 
the endowment plan. Finally, I ceased to meet him ; 1 
hoped that something had happened to the fellow. I was 
greatly reUeved. 

Two years passed, and one day, while crossing the 
Brooklyn ferry, I saw my old tormentor walk in. He came 
and sat beside me, greeted me warmly, and made a nice 
little speech, which was about as follows : 

" I didn't do very well in the insurance business, so I 
gave it up, and went about the world looking for something 
to do to keep the pot boiling, and at last found what I think 
is all right. Have you noticed that workmen in the shops 
use sand with the soap to scour the dirt off their hands ? 
Now that is all right, but if you will examine the sand 
under a microscope you will find that the grains are not 
sharp at all ; the comers are roimded. Suppose, now, 
you take quartz, which is very plentiful, and crush and sift 
it; you will find that it is sharp and angular. When this is 
mixed with soap it is infinitely more effective than the 
Coney Island sand which is now in use. I have been taking 
orders for this quartz sand and have met with a great 
degree of success ; Babitts, the great soap-makers, are 
taking two thousand tons, and my commission on that 
order alone amounts to twenty thousand dollars." 

I looked at his seedy clothes, and particularly noted 
his hat, which was of the kind known as " steeple crown " ; 
that is, it was Uke the frustum of a cone with a very small 
top, the discarded fashion of several years before, and it 
looked very odd indeed. 

About this time the ferry-boat bumped up against the 
bridge and we went ashore. As I shook hands with him, 
congratulating him on his success, he touched my sleeve 
and said gently, in a low, calm voice : 

118 MY LIFE 

" I say, Maxim, would you mind lending me fifty cents 
to get my dinner ? " 

He told me that he had not received his conrniission 
because he had been unable to make any dehveries, as the 
machine was not able to turn out the material fast enough, 
but that a new and improved plant would be in operation 
in a few days when everything would be all right. 

While in Rochester I came very near tmnbling into a 
big fortune. I had formed the acquaintance of a retired 
locomotive engineer, called in England an engine-driver. 
He claimed to have been on the road a very long time and 
was looking for something better. 

Some months later while I was working on my locomotive 
head-Ughts and was on deck before seven o'clock in the 
morning, who should walk in but this locomotive engineer. 
He greeted me very warmly, in fact enthusiastically ; he 
turned his head over sideways, looked at me admiringly, and 
said : " It's true, you're the best-looking man I ever saw, 
and I've always told everybody that you were. Well, I am 
glad to tell you that I have tumbled into luck. I've always 
had great expectations, although sometimes I have been 
so poor that I did not know where the next barrel of flour 
was coming from ; but I have always looked forward to 
something better, and now it has come. I assure you that 
after all these years of toil and trouble, disappointment, and 
vexation, it is very comfortable to feel that hereafter I 
can sit under my own vine and fig-tree, have everything 
that I wish, and Uve in luxury with no thoughts for to- 
morrow. To tell you the truth, Maxim, I have come into 
a very large fortune. You have been very good to me in 
the past, you have often lent or given me money, and 
now I have made up my mind to do the square thing by 
you. I haven't any children, I am an old man how, and 


when I have finished I propose to leave the fortune, which 
I have lately come into, to you, whom I regard as my 
sincerest friend. The papers are all made out, and all I 
have to do is to go to a magistrate at ten o'clock this morn- 
ing, sign the papers, and I shall receive a large instalment 
of the money. But I was so very poor that I had to cheek 
it on a freight train to Albany, and I came down the river 
last night as a deck passenger. I haven't got a cent left 
and I haven't had any breakfast ; can you let me have a 

I opened my wallet, and as I turned over the notes he 
saw a three-dollar bill ; he took it and said : " That will do. 
I will call for you here at noon and will take you out to the 
biggest and best lunch you have ever had in all the days of 
your life. I shall go first and get shaved, buy a new suit 
of clothes, a pair of boots, and a silk hat." 

I have been waiting for him to return for many years, 
and as he was a very old man at that time, I begin to lose 
hope ; I shouldn't wonder if I have lost that three-dollar 


PEOPLE were now beginning to talk about electric 
light. We read that something was being done in 
that line in Paris. A gentleman by the name of S. D. 
Schuyler, who had a large, fine oflftce in the Coal and Iron 
Exchange and a very powerful backing of wealthy men, 
formed the first Electric Lighting Company ever formed in 
the United States. As someone had recommended me as 
an engineer who was able to attack any possible problem 
and make a good job of it, Mr. Schuyler sent for me, and I 
became chief engineer to the Company. This was two 
years before Edison took up the subject. 

I foimd a very curious state of affairs in Mr. Schuyler's 
office. He had in his employ a large, clumsy, and brutal- 
looking fellow, clean-shaven, whom we will call Mr. D. ; 
he was said to be an expert electrician and telegraph opera- 
tor, but he was a great drunkard, being comfortably 
*' corned " all the time, and he had a brother yoimger 
than himself who delighted in quarrelling with the nigger 
on the elevator. There was also a Mr. Smith, who was a 
good telegraph and battery man — indeed, he was said to 
be the best in New York. I found that they had made a 
little boat equipped with a motor, invented by Mr. D. We 
got into this boat and the man in charge took us for a sail 
on the North River. The boat was loaded down nearly 
to the water's edge by the heavy battery, and we were only 
able to attain a speed of about half a mile an hour. Finding 
that we were at the mercy of the current, we signalled 
for a row-boat and were safely towed into oiu: dock. The 

1 20 


next day I asked Mr. Schuyler to go with me to the foot 
of Court Street, Brooklyn, to see a little steam laimch that I 
had made for my own use, and which I called The Flirt. 
It was one of the most beautiful boats that had ever been 
made at that time with a very active boiler and a neat little 
engine, everything being nickel-plated. There was a wide 
gold stripe completely around the hull, with scroll-work on 
the bow ; it was really a very elegant affair. I had it fired 
up and ready when Mr. Schuyler and his friend took their 
seats in the boat. I ran the engine myself and had a boy 
to fire. We were quickly out into the water, and when I 
opened the throttle valve with one hundred and eighty 
pounds' pressure in the boiler, everything fairly hummed. 
Although the engine was running at a terrific speed it made 
little or no noise. The hull had been made by the most 
skilful boatmaker in New York, and soon we were going 
through the water at a very rapid rate. I asked Mr. Schuyler 
to look aft ; on doing so he found that the water was piled 
up about two feet higher than our deck. This always occurs 
in small boats that run very fast. He was deUghted, and 
after sailing about for a long time and making various 
evolutions, I ran rapidly up to the landing-stage, shifted 
the eccentric, reversed the engine, and brought the boat 
suddenly to a state of rest. 

The next day he told me that he was a great believer 
in the future of electric Ughting ; that he was the first 
in the field, and that if I would take hold and assist him 
he would give me a salary of ten dollars a day, as well as 
a quarter interest in whatever might accrue from the work. 
This was an exceedingly good offer, especially as I had 
complete charge of the place. He informed all the men 
that I had been put in charge, and the first thing I did 
was to have a talk with Mr. D. I told him that it was 

122 MY LIFE 

not quite the thing to have brandy brought into the place 
several times a day and to keep on drinking it while at his 
desk. I assured him that there was a great deal more 
nourishment in a pint of milk than in a gallon of brandy, 
and advised him strongly to try milk. The next day he 
provided himself with a two-quart tin pail, and his brother 
was serit out two or three times for milk. Mr. D. said that 
the change was a good one and he felt much better for it. 
Shortly after I learned that the so-called milk was just about 
half brandy, and that the fellow was still in a half-drunken 
condition all day. As things went on from bad to worse 
I made up my mind that we had better get rid of him. 

In the meantime Schuyler laid a lot of books before me, 
some of them in French, which at that time I did not under- 
stand very well, asking me to make a study of the question 
of electric lighting, and prepare a report as to how it might 
best be accomplished. He wanted an incandescent electric 
light, but did not know whether it should be of platinum 
or carbon. After making some experiments I foimd that 
platinum would melt when it was giving no more Ught than 
a red-hot poker, and that its shape changed every time it 
was heated sufficiently to give light. Carbon was evidently 
the only thing that could be used. 

My report to Mr. Schuyler has unfortunately been lost, 
but it included the following and much more besides : — 


" Many experiments have been made in Europe and 
America with a view to making an incandescent electric 
lamp, generally by heating the carbons in a so-called 
vacuum, or in some gas which is free from oxygen, but 
all have been failures. If the carbons are made hot enough 
to give a fairly good light they soon bum out, very much 


as they would in the atmosphere. Then again none of the 
lamps of which I can find any record have been made on 
a plan that would exclude all atmospheric air. Some years 
ago it was asserted by scientific men that the most favourable 
condition for electricity was a vacuum. They found that 
if they melted platinum wires into each end of a glass tube 
and pumped out the air, electricity would pass through the 
vacuum thus formed, giving a purple glow ; but later on, 
it was discovered that electricity would not jump for a single 
millimetre in a real vacuum. An experimenter, by pumping 
out about ninety-nine hundreths of the air in the tube, 
filled it with pure carbonic acid gas, and when he had 
pumped out ninety-nine per cent of this there was only one 
ten-thousandth part of the original air left in the tube, 
the rest being carbonic acid gas. By repeating the process 
he only had one-millionth part of the original air left, and 
the next repetition left only one ten-millionth part, all the 
rest being pure carbonic acid gas. He had enclosed in the 
tube a small quantity of caustic potash : and by sealing 
the tube and laying it aside for some time all of the carbonic 
acid gas in the tube was absorbed. It was then found that 
a real vacuum was the most unfavourable condition for 
electricity ; it would not pass at all, no matter how high 
the tension. 

"It is possible and quite probable that electrically 
heated carbons would not be wasted away to any great 
extent by being heated in a real vacuum ; and as it has been 
found that a high vacuum can only be maintained in a vessel 
that is -all of glass, I think the best, in fact the only, way to 
make an incandescent lamp would be to place the carbons 
between two platinum wires both melted into the glass ; 
and then pump out all the air that it is possible to pump out, 
fill the lamp with hydro-carbon vapours, and repeat this 

124 MY' LIFE 

until there is nothing left in the lamp except a minute 
quantity of the vapours of gasoline. And as it has already 
been found that carbon is deposited from these vapours 
by a high temperature it is only reasonable to suppose that 
some of the carbon of tTie gasoline will be deposited on the 
hottest part of the carbon, and in this way the weaker 
parts of the carbon would be built up and strengthened. I 
recommend that we commence experiments in order to see 
if we cannot make a successful lamp on this plan." 

Schuyler was very much taken with the plan, thinking 
it very reasonable. I went at once to a glass-blower and 
ordered a lot of the glasses to be made. They were practi- 
cally the same shape as those in use to-day, only considerably 

At this time Mr. D. was working on a lamp in which 
the carbons were heated in an atmosphere of nitrogen, a 
system which I knew could not possibly succeed. Mr. D. 
was, however, a very plausible talker. He laughed at my 
plan, saying that it was the most absurd he had ever heard 
of, and in my absence he had a very serious talk with Mr. 
Schuyler. He said : " There is no doubt but that Maxim 
is a very skilful and rapid draughtsman, but he knows 
absolutely nothing of electricity or chemistry." He told 
Schuyler that gasoline vapoiu^ were about as explosive as 
nitro-glycerine, and that to heat a carbon white-hot, in an 
atmosphere of such vapours, could have but one result — 
a terrific explosion. He said he would not remain in the 
building if such experiments were to be made, as it was 
altogether too dangerous, and he felt sure that the owners 
of the building would never consent to have such dangerous 
experiments made on their premises. 

Schuyler was somewhat frightened, but I told him that 


the quantity of gasoline vapour in a lamp would be in- 
finitesimal, and that gasoline vapours could not possibly 
explode except in the presence of a large quantity of oxygen 
gas. However, it was no use : my theory appeared to them 
to be ridiculous. Nevertheless, Schuyler consented that I 
should apply for a patent on the principle of preserving 
and building up carbons in an incandescent lamp by heating 
them electrically in an attenuated atmosphere of hydro- 
carbon vapours, and this patent was filed at the Patent 
Office ahead of all others. 

I knew I was right and was determined to convince 
Schuyler that I was right. Quite true, I was not what 
could be considered a professional chemist, but I knew all 
the chemistry connected with hydro-carbon explosions ; 
and after a good deal of trouble I got Schuyler to consent 
that some experiments should be made. In the meantime, 
Schuyler had become disgusted with Mr. D., who was always 
dnmk, and discharged him. I then succeeded in getting 
the whole question submitted to Professor Van der Weyde, 
a very clever college professor, and the father of the well- 
known photographer of London. 

The experiments were made in Brooklyn at a shop be- 
longing to James Brady. I had obtained a very large and 
strong glass globe, and arranged to establish a voltaic arc 
inside this globe. I put about half a pint of gasoline into 
the globe and closed it up airtight. Upon turning on the 
electric current and establishing the arc, a very dense black 
smoke was produced ; and after running for two or three 
minutes the current was turned off and the receptacle opened, 
when it was seen that the positive carbon had deposited 
upon it a lump of carbon as big as a large walnut. On break- 
ing it up, we found that the inside, near the arc, was a bright 
grey, and semi-crystalline. The Professor took some of 

126 MY LIFE 

this and found that it would actually scratch glass. He said 
we had come pretty near making diamonds. He was 
delighted. I then took some very thin strips of carbon 
and heated them in a highly attenuated atmosphere of gaso- 
line vapours and discovered that the carbon was deposited 
on the weakest and hottest parts, and that it was of a steel- 
grey colour. I took some of these pieces of carbon to 
Professor John Draper, the historian, who was quite expert 
in chemistry and electricity, and he also told me that I 
had come very near making diamonds, and suggested that 
I should make some experiments under a very high pressure ; 
which I did, many years later. 

Professor Van der Weyde did me a very good turn 
by convincing Schuyler that I was quite right and that I 
had made a great discovery ; but he followed it up by 
unintentionally doing me a very bad turn indeed. He 
wrote an article for one of the scientific papers, stating that 
he had seen me deposit carbon that was hard enough to 
scratch glass, and that this took place in the dense vapours 
of gasoline without the least sign of an explosion. This 
was very soon brought to the notice of Mr. D. who, not 
knowing that I had applied for a patent on the process, 
applied for a patent on a process of building up carbons 
by heating them in oil, such as salad oil, or other carbona- 
ceous material. His claim was a very broad one, and, of 
course, later on, an interference was declared. 

By that time I was very busy indeed making dynamo- 
electrical machines, arc lamps, etc., and putting them up 
in various parts of the country, as well as in the New York 
Post Office, the first public building to be lighted by elec- 
tricity in the United States. Some years previous I had 
lighted the building with a large gas-machine. I was not 
sure that much could be done with incandescent lamps ; 


so when the interference was declared I shnply went in and 
told my story, leaving the rest to the lawyers. But Mr. D. 
swore that he had invented the same thing years before, and 
got his father and his brother to swear to it. He thus 
beat me in the Patent Office and deprived me of a patent 
that was worth at least a million dollars a year. 

But everything was not smooth sailing by any means 
for Mr. D. He went to the Patent Office at Washington, 
abstracted a patent, made an alteration in the drawings, 
and returned it. This being discovered gave him a very 
black eye at the Patent Office. Later on, he had a quarrel 
with a Captain Steel, whom he shot in the face with a revolver, 
doing him very serious injury. There was, however, a 
woman in the case. Mr. D. was arrested, and when the 
case came into court he claimed that he had only acted 
in self-defence, although he admitted that he had fired 
the first and only shot. Mr. D. had several witnesses 
who swore that they had seen the encounter, but it trans- 
pired that they all happened to be telegraph operators, 
and the judge discovered that when these witnesses were 
on the stand, Mr. D. was communicating with them by a 
species of telegraphy which he had invented for the purpose. 
He was convicted and sentenced to a long term of imprison- 
ment, but he had influential friends who had invested money 
in his alleged invention, and they obtained a stay of execu- 
tion, so Mr. D. was out of prison for a considerable time. 

I went to one of the high officials of New York City 
and told him that Mr. D., although convicted, was still 
out of prison. He admitted that it was a disgrace, a mis- 
carriage of justice, and promised to see to it that the fellow 
was put where he belonged. When, however, an attempt 
was made to send him to prison, he pretended to be very 
ill and his doctor certified that he could not be moved from 

128 MY LIFE 

his bed without fatal results. Physicians, representing the 
law, visited Mr. D. and found that he was really suffering 
from a severe irritation of the stomach and bowels, but as 
it was necessary to keep this up he took a little too much 
acid one day and died of peritonitis. 

In the meantime Edison had come to the front. As 
everyone knows he is one of the cleverest scientific men 
in existence, as well as a clever business man with a very 
powerful backing. Edison had not gone very far in his 
experiments when he found that there was only one way 
under heaven to make and to standardize the carbon fila- 
ments for incandescent electric lamps, which was by heating 
them electrically in a highly attenuated atmosphere of hydro- 
carbon vapours. This I had done a year before. He had 
to use my process or give up the job. He then employed 
Professor Van der Weyde as an expert and a witness, and 
it was proved most conclusively that I was the inventor of 
the process and not Mr. D., which meant that Mr. D.'s 
patent had been obtained by fraud. This made the most 
valuable patent ever issued in connection with electric 
lighting common property in the United States of America. 

It seems that Edison and myself were working on 
similar lines, although I was ahead of him, because I made 
a platinum lamp before he did and beat him in the Patent 
Office. Edison said on one occasion that Maxim looked 
ahead and saw what would be necessary in electric lighting, 
as well as what he, Edison, would have to do in time, and 
then rushed off to the Patent Office and got a patent on it. 
He was particularly annoyed at a patent that I took out for 
regulating the pressure of an electrical system by connecting 
small wires to the conductors in the centre of the area 
lighted and bringing them back to the point where the 
current was generated, thus regulating the current, not by 


the pressure at the generating station, but by the mean 
pressure in the centre of the district lighted. This was a 
very important invention ; the regulator working on this 
plan was exhibited in 
Paris in 1881 and 
attracted a good deal 
of attention. It was, 
in fact, the invention 
that caused me to 
receive the decora- 
tion of the Legion 

Much has been said 
of the three-wire sys- 
tem. I was the first 
to use this in the 
Equitable Building, 
New York, and on 
one occasion I greatly 
puzzled Professor 

The first electric ' 
_ights used in New [.. ^ _, „ „^ 

■V 1. (-li., ^. i ihumbnut (/). The meltine of the plat; 

York City were put „ve«ed by Ihe .hu.nLr^ of Ihe currenl .t A". 

UpbvOUrCOmpanvin " '* ' curious and interesting fact that when Mr. 

'^ -' r J Thomu Edison first commenced tosludy the electric 

the building of the light he made an electric tamp on this plan, and 

T^ -.LI T applied for a patent, but an interference was ile- 

liqmtable Insurance cfared which *»* decided in my ftnour. A lamp 

Company, 120 Broad- °',^"h„V^ic«." ^'"^ ^"" ''"'" " """^ ^^^' " 
way. At that time 

this great building was considered to be the finest in 
the world used for business purposes. 

I think that the second light was put up at the New York 
Post Office, and the third at a large hotel erected by A. T. 


Stewart and called, at first, " The Women's Home " ; but as 
such it was not a success. It appears that women did not like 
to live in a place where men were not admitted, so the big 
building was converted into an hotel which was afterwards 
known as -" The Park Avenue Hotel." There was a central 
court, not roofed in, very much the same as one finds on the 
Continent of Europe ; and it was this court that I lighted 
with a very large arc Ught. A great many people came to 
see it, and I often went up to the hotel in the evening to 
study the action of the arc through coloured glass. It was 
apt to play about and so produce an unsteady light. 

At that time the papers were full of accoimts of Edison 
and his wonderful lamps ; not what he had done, but what 
he was going to do. 

My big arc light was arranged so that it could be at- 
tended to from a second-story landing, and one night, while 
studying the arc, I heard the rustle of a silk dress. I looked 
roimd and there stood a vision of loveliness. The lady was 
robed in silks and satin and gorgeously ornamented with 
diamonds. Not only this, but she was extremely poetical. 
She looked out of the window and said : " How beautiful ! 
How lovely ! How much like Pompeii by moonUght ! It 
is enchanting ! Ah, who but an Edison could have the 
genius to produce such a glorious effect ! Edison is my 
ideal of an inventor and a man." 

'* But," I remonstrated, " this is not Edison's light." 
" What ! " said she, " is it not the electric light ? " 
" Yes, it is the electric light, but not Edison's. I do not 
know that Edison as yet has ever made an electric light." 
*' What, an electric light and not Edison's ? Then I 
have no further interest in it," and gathering together about 
forty yards of shot silk of the most splendid rainbow tints, 
she majestically sailed away. 

This iuBchiDe was used for excjling the lield magnels of a veiy much l»Tgei 
machine. The tension of the curient in the centre of the district lighted controlled 
the magDctt shown at the lop of th« machine. If the cuircnl was too strong, the 
p-nitioo of the brushes was changed in Ihe direction to weaken the current and 

182 MY LIFE 

Every time I put up a light, a crowd would gather, every- 
one asking, " Is it Edison's ? *' As Edison had never made 
a lamp up to that time, I was annoyed, and told Schuyler 
that the next time anyone said, " Is it Edison's ? " I would 
kill him on the spot. 

A few days later I had occasion to take a focusing lamp 
across the ferry. I did not even have time to wrap it up 
in paper as I wished to catch a certain train. I took it 
under my arm and ran, and succeeded in catching the boat, 
followed by a gaping crowd among whom I recognized an 
old Jersey farmer with red mud on his boots. He sat down 
on the opposite side of the ferry-boat and stared at me. 
Finally, he came over and said, " Excuse me, sir, but what 
is that 'ere machine — what is it f or ? " I looked at the 
fellow, and made up my mind that he had a wife and family 
at home, so I replied, " It is only a sausage stuffer," and 
thus saved the poor fellow's life. Had I said it was an 
electric lamp, he would at once have asked, " Is it Edi- 
son's ? " and I should have killed him ; but when I answered 
that it was a sausage stuffer he only said, " Yes, and a 
mighty high-fangled one, too." 

On another occasion when I was putting up a large arc 
light, I foimd myself surrounded by a number of highly 
interested spectators. They had heard much of the electric 
light, but had never seen it. When everything was ready 
I allowed the carbons to come within an eighth of an inch 
of each other and asked the bystanders if anyone had a 
match for me to light the electricity with. A lot of them 
went hunting about for matches, but I took out of my 
pocket a nail about two inches long and said : " Never mind, 
' I've got a nail, that will do just as well." I scratched it on 
my trousers, waited a bit, as though it were burning, and 
then applied it to the carbons. Of course, the head of the 


The above illustiation thows a diawing of a veiy simple total at a focusing 
tamp. The falling of Ihe rod (A), which carries (he poeiiive carbon by the 
action of the cords (J, J), passing over the pulley (F), causes the rod (B), catiy- 
JDg ihe n^ative carbon, to travel half at foil as the tod (A), thus keeping 
the arc always in the same position. 

184 MY LIFE 

^ail had established the voltaic arc, and my amazed 
spectators at once foimd themselves in the presence of 
the dazzling glare of an eight-thousand candle-power arc 

But all was not smooth sailing in arc hghting at that 
time. The Equitable Life Insurance Company wished to 
have me put a very large arc hght on the top of their build- 
ing, with a reflector to throw the Ught up Broadway. They 
wanted something very much stronger than had ever been 
made before. I therefore made a very large electrical 
machine which was afterwards called a double-ender, as it 
had two commutators and could be coupled in different 
ways, so as to give a current of great quantity and low ten- 
sion, less quantity and high tension, or two separate ciur- 
rents. At the same time I made a very large electric lamp 
and had some especially large carbons one inch in diameter 
made for me by Wallace of Connecticut. Upon trying the 
lamp with the big current, the voltaic arc went wild ; it 
revolved round and roimd, ran up on the side of the positive 
carbon, then snapped back between the two carbons, 
giving a very intense hght and making a roaring noise like 
the blowing off of steam through a safety valve. At that 
time, as we did not have the knowledge which the very 
clever Mrs. Ayrton has at the present time, we did not know 
the cause of the roaring. Thinking the trouble was with the 
carbons, I sent for Mr. Wallace. He came up to New York, 
and when I started up the big lamp for him, the arc played 
very evenly between the two carbons with hardly any 
noise ; the Ught was exceedingly steady and powerful. 
Mr. Wallace watched it for a fidl hoiu: through coloured 
glasses which he held up to protect his face and eyes from 
the terrible glare of the hght. At the end of this time he 
said, " It is altogether the finest arc Ught I have ever seen ; 


the generator, the lamp and the light are all right ; they 
could not be better. It is a splendid job." 

I told him that it was the first time I had ever seen it 
work Uke that. He left, congratulating me. About five 
minutes later, the lamp commenced to roar again and the 
arc to flop about in all directions. I sent a boy after Mr. 
Wallace, but he could not be found ; he had gone. How- 
ever, I did not put up the hght — ^it was not . good 

The success of the arc hght at the Park Avenue Hotel 
brought us an order for similar lights and a projector for 
the big Grand Union Hotel at Saratoga, which was also the 
property of A. T. Stewart and Company. 

We put up four dynamos of my own make, and our very 
best searchhght, such as we had aheady made for the Russian 
Navy. As the glasses in front of the reflector were always 
breaking, I remedied the evil by cutting them in strips, and 
this simple expedient seems to be used all over the world 

One of the arc lights hung up in the gardens gave off 
a pecuhar low htmuning sound, which, of course, was pro- 
duced by the brushes running over the commutator on the 
machine. This, of itself, was of no account, but it certainly 
was very instructive to me. There were many mosquitoes 
in Saratoga. The male mosquito is much smaller than the 
female and has two feathers projecting from his head. 
These are very minute, but still they answer the purpose 
of ears ; and I had read that if one were to sound a timing 
fork that would give off the same note as that produced by 
the female mosquito, when such a note was soimded all 
the male mosquitoes would turn about, face the music and 
ultimately fly in the direction from which the sound came. 
As there are two hundred times as many females as males 

186 MY LIFE 

among mosquitoes, it is not always easy to find a male. It 
so happened that the musical note given off by the arc light 
or the case holding the magnets was the proper pitch to 
attract male mosquitoes. At any rate after the light had 
been running for a few hours of an evening it was completely 
siUTOunded by male mosquitoes, facing the music and 
roosting on every object they could find. 

I provided some of the searchUghts with coloured glasses 
of various hues, and illimiinated the fountains, which were 
very large and of the kind that produce a very fine spray. 
Judge Hilton and Mr. Clair, the manager, said that this 
arrangement was much better, cleaner, and infinitely cheaper 
than the fireworks that they had used before. But it had 
its disadvantages ; it drew an immense crowd from the 
other hotels. 

I was asked if I could put some kind of a reflector round 
one of the arc lights placed over the balcony. Of course 
I had to improvise something very quickly and cheaply, so 
I made a big wooden box like an exaggerated bath tub, lined 
it with bright sheets of tin, and hung the big arc Ught inside 
it. It answered the purpose very well, giving a diffused light 
of great power. Unfortunately, however, a certain kind of 
beetle, hemispherical in shape, and about the size of half a 
hazel nut, took a particular fancy to this light. Numbers of 
these beetles managed to get into it and have their wings 
burnt off, whereupon they fell down and crawled all over 
the balcony, very much to the horror of the ladies. Fully 
a peck of them came down the first night, and the manager 
thought we should have to discontinue the use of the light. 
The next night only about half a peck fell, the third only 
about two quarts, the quantity continuing to decrease imtil 
only about half a pint a night came down, which was not 
enough to worry about. 


These lights attracted so much attention and brought 
so many customers to the hotel that another searchhght 
was ordered to be placed on the top of the high central 
tower, which I think was about one hundred feet above 
the street. The first night that this light was put up, I 
managed it myself, throwing the light in every direction. 
The next night an officer of the U.S. Coast Survey came 
up from the Balston Spa, seven and a half miles distant, 
and told me that they saw a flash of light which only re- 
mained an instant and disappeared, and was very bright. 
He asked me to turn the light in that direction at exactly 
nine o'clock that night. He pointed out the direction of 
Balston Spa and with his knife cut a notch in the railing for 
my guidance. That afternoon I went out and purchased 
some pure lamp-black ; not the material that is sold under 
that name in England, but what is known as such in the 
States, and in France as " noir de fimi^e " ; also a quantity of 
alcohol and some chamois leather. With these I gave the 
reflector a very fine polish, cleaned the glass, and got every- 
thing in readiness. Shortly after that there came up a 
little thunder-shower, one of the snappy kind that does 
not last long, but it cleared the atmosphere of every particle 
of dust. 

As soon as it was dusk I climbed up on to the tower, 
started the light, and turned it on to a very large white 
bmlding that was about three-quarters of a mile away. 
Then I commenced to make adjustments. I placed the 
positive carbon in such a position that the crater faced the 
back of the reflector, and then by turning the various screws 
I arranged everything so that the highly illuminated spot 
on the big white building was as small as possible ; in fact, 
if I moved any of the adjusting screws in either direction 
the spot was made larger. I knew that this could not be im- 

188 MY LIFE 

proved. I made a little hole in the side of the reflector 
about the size of a cambric needle, and a few inches from 
this I had mounted a small piece of groimd glass. By this 
arrangement the image of the carbons was projected on 
the groimd glass very distinctly, and with a lead pencil I 
marked their position. This made it easy to keep the carbon 
always in the right place to produce a maximum result. 

While I was conducting these experiments, a message 
was sent up to me, asking if I were not afraid of setting 
the wooden tower on fire by the sparks thrown off by 
the electric light. I replied that there were no sparks. The 
sparks complained of were nothing more nor less than the 
insects in the air. 

At exactly nine o'clock I turned the light round in the 
direction of Balston Spa. I carefully adjusted the carbons 
so as to make the image appear in exactly the same spot 
on the ground glass that I had marked with a lead pencil. 
The air was wonderfully clear ; the path of the light through 
the air was not visible ; there was no dust or vapours to 
illuminate. I kept it in position for fifteen minutes and 
soon received a telegram from the officer which read as 
follows : " The light is very strong ; we can see to read by 
it and it casts deep shadows." As the distance was seven 
and a half miles I do not think that this record will ever be 
beaten in Europe, where the air is so full of dust and vapour 
that very Uttle of the light is left at a distance of seven miles. 

Orders were given that the light should be turned on 
to the train every evening, and one evening Judge Hilton, 
being on the train, heard the passengers make inquiries 


as to where the light came from ; they then ordered their 
baggage to be sent to the Grand Union Hotel. This was 
very good, but the Judge was not quite satisfied ; he wanted 
something still more startling. 


I had exhibited a powerful searchlight at Rochester one 
dark night. The air was clear, but there were dense low- 
lying clouds, so that when I threw the light on the Goddess 
of Liberty on the top of one of the high buildings, a black 
image of the Goddess appeared on the clouds, which was 
quite startling. An account of this appeared in the news- 
papers and Judge Hilton had seen it. He therefore caused 
a telegram to be sent to me as follows : 

" Can you make a magic lantern that will throw images 
on the clouds ? " 

I replied, " Yes, if there are any clouds." 

Then came another telegram : 

" How long will it take to make it ? " 

I replied that I could have it up in a week if desired. 

A telegram came back : 

" Very well, make it at once." 

I then went out in search of a lens and found one about 
eight inches in diameter. I made a wooden magic lantern 
of great size, equipped with an eight-thousand candle-power 
electric light, and had it up inside of the specified time. 
When there were no clouds, we threw images on the spray 
of the foim tains, but it did not make a very good screen. 
It was very seldom that any effect could be produced on 
the clouds, on accoimt of the absence of clouds sufficiently 
dense for the purpose. Still, the big magic lantern attracted 
a good deal of attention, and I returned to New York, every- 
body being satisfied. 


IN the beginning of the winter following these events 
Edison came out with his incandescent lamps, and 
when Mr. Schuyler and his associates saw what they 
were they said to me : " That is the exact thing that you 
wished us to make years ago " ; and they ordered me at 
once to resume the work that I had so long neglected. 

At that time my dynamos and arc lights were being made 
at Bridgeport, Conn., where I was in charge of the work. 
I at once employed a glass-blower, and very soon produced 
the first good incandescent lamps that were ever made. 
All the filaments were standardized by my process, a process 
which is imiversal throughout the world to-day. 

It is absolutely impossible by mechanical means to make 
a carbon filament that is of uniform resistance throughout 
its whole length. When carbons are heated in a vacuum, 
the parts where the resistance is the greatest become the 
hottest, and these very soon give way. All Edison's original 
lamps had this irregularity in the conductivity of their 
carbon ; and although he searched the world over he found 
nothing that would prevent the trouble, except by the 
process which I had invented. His first lamps were not 
treated in this way ; consequently, to make them last only 
a few days, he had to be very careful not to make them too 
hot. They were therefore so very dim as not to be compared 
with the lamps of to-day. 
As the light given out by a heated body increases as the 



fifth power of the temperature, it follows that only a slight 
augmentation of heat greatly increases the light, therefore 
my lamps gave fully twice as much light for the power 
consumed as Edison's original lamps. ^ 

It will now be necessary for me to go back a bit and 

recapitulate the troubles that I had in making my first lot 

of incandescent lamps. In the first place it was very 

difficult to find glass-blowers sufficiently skilful to make the 

pumps and the lamps. It required phosphoric anhydride 

to absorb the aqueous vapours in the lamps and pump, and 

I found that Edison had purchased all there was in the 

country. Upon inquiry I learned that this rare chemical 

was made in Germany by the following process : The 

chemist obtains a large glass jar with a side outlet near the 

bottom. He places a little platinum cup at the bottom of 

the jar, with a piece of asbestos interposed to protect the 

jar from the heat, the asbestos being previously heated to 

get rid of the water that it contains. The chemist, having 

a large supply of oxygen at his disposal, passes it over 

strong sulphuric acid to deprive it of the last trace of water, 

and this dried oxygen is conducted by a rubber tube to the 

side outlet of the bottle. The next process is to place sticks 

of yellow phosphorus in warm water so that they may be 

easily cut. The operator then cuts off thin bits of the 

phosphorus, removes them from the warm water on the 

point of his knife, at once touches them to blotting-paper, 

and then dips them in strong alcohol ; again he touches 

them to blotting-paper, and then drops them into the 

platinum receptacle at the bottom of the bottle. He starts 

the fire with a red-hot iron wife, and keeps it going the whole 

^ Some of these first lamps made by me were sent to Sir William 
Crookes, and twenty years later he told me they were the best lamps 
he had ever seen. 

142 MY LIFE 

day by dropping in through a tube small bits of dry phos- 
phorus. As the phosphorus bums in pure oxygen we have 
P2O5, with a trace of yellow phosphorus that has escaped 
the fire. The product of combustion sublimates on the 
sides of the bottle, and at the end of the day it is scraped off, 
great care being taken that no moist atmosphere comes in 
contact with it ; it is usually of a pinkish yellow or a light 
lemon colour. In theory it should be absolutely white. 
When this has been collected with great care it is treated 
with carbon bisulphide, which has the property of dis- 
solving phosphorus, and this process removes sufficient of 
the imbumt phosphorus to make the product appear a 
much lighter yellow. 

At that time a pound of phosphoric anhydride made in 
Germany cost twenty shillings. As it was necessary for 
me to have this chemical, I first tried to have it made at 
the chemical laboratory at Yale College ; but as they would 
not undertake it I tried, simultaneously, Harvard College, 
the University of New York, and the University of Penn- 
sylvania, as well as some of the well-known chemists in 
New York, but they all refused to imdertake it. I then 
approached Professor Stirling, a local professor of chemistry, 
and he agreed to make the chemical for me. When he had 
been working on it about ten days he came to me and told 
me that he thought he would have to give up the job. He, 
however, produced some dark brown substance about the 
size of a pea from a small bottle. He said : " That's the 
stuff, but it is very impure." He placed it on a pine board 
and put a small drop of water on it, when it hissed, got very 
hot, and burnt the wood. 

This was about five o'clock in the afternoon. I at once 
commenced to study the subject, but I had not the remotest 
idea what I should do until after I had gone to bed at night. 


It then occurred to me that I might make this rare chemical 
by some new process, and not use oxygen gas at all, other 
than that found in the atmosphere. I had already foimd 
the boiling-point of phosphorus ; it was not high. I also 
knew that the vapours were six hundred times less dense 
than the metallic phosphorus. It seemed to me that if I 
first converted the phosphorus into vapour at a high tem- 
perature it would not require anything like the same volume 
of oxygen to consume it, and the combustion would be much 
more perfect. By twelve o'clock I had settled the whole 
question and went to sleep. I rose at four, got something 
to eat, and at five o'clock was at my office. I made the 
drawings, put on the dimensions, and at 7 a.m. I had the 
drawings in the biggest tin shop in the place. My system 
consisted of a very large tin reservoir having a funnel-shaped 
bottom with a very steep incline. A part of this was sur- 
rounded by a water jacket with a connection soldered in 
that fitted a one-inch iron pipe. I dried my phosphorus by 
turning all of the water out of the bottle in which it was 
contained, filling the bottle up with alcohol, which absorbed 
the water, and then draining off the alcohol. I then put 
the whole into a large wrought-iron mercury bottle and 
attached it to my apparatus. It was so arranged that by 
heating the mercury bottle the vapours of the phosphorus 
escaped through a jet one-sixteenth of an inch in diameter, 
when they came into contact with a jet of dry air a quarter 
of an inch in diameter. The air was furnished by glass- 
blowers' bellows, and was dried by passing through a long 
and large tube containing calcium chloride. The apparatus 
was started up at ten o'clock at night, and the iron tube 
in which the combustion took place was soon red-hot. I 
had provided myself with a lot of wide-mouthed glass 
bottles, thoroughly dried and corked, as well as a quantity 

144 MY LIFE 

of melted wax. When the apparatus had been going about 
ten minutes I rapped the sides sUghtly, and a litre bottle 
that was attached to the bottom was very soon filled with 
phosphoric anhydride, snow white. I corked it, dipped the 
neck in wax, and put it aside. I then replaced another, and 
continued to fill a bottle a minute, until all my phosphorus 
was consumed. 

While this work was going on Professor Stirling called. 
He was rather astonished, and when finished I informed him 
that I proposed to show my confidence in the purity of my 
chemical. I said that phosphorus is a violent and deadly 
poison but that when combined with all the oxygen it will 
take up it is not a poison at all. I put some of it in a glass 
with a little sugar and water, stirred it up, and drank it. 
Professor Stirling said : "If you never do another job in 
your life this ought to immortalize your name." 

It was the first time that pure phosphoric anhydride had 
ever been made, and, moreover, made by a single process. 
The cost was not over one-tenth part of that of the impure 
article made in Germany. Since that time none of this 
interesting chemical, which has such a wonderful affinity 
for water, has been made except by my process, which was 
the subject of a patent. On the occasion mentioned I made 
enough to last for a long time, but when I made the next 
lot I did not use the mercury bottle ; I used a big U-shaped 
piece of iron pipe, heated one end of it very hot with a 
Bunsen burner, and made the other limb just hot enough 
to boil water. Near the top of this I had a connection 
where I admitted coal gas, but did not light it. The coal 
gas, of course, kept the atmosphere out of the tube. I was 
then able to take the sticks of phosphorus directly out of 
the water and drop them into this limb of the U-tube. 
They very soon melted and the water was evaporated, 


escaping in steam, while as the melted phosphorus rose in 
the other limb of the U-tube, which was very hot at the top, 
it was evaporated, and the vapoiirs escaped and were blown 


This apparatm was made in > single day, and produced phosphoric 
anhydride, perfectly pare, at the cotl of one ahilling per pound. 

into the combustion tube by a jet of dry air. Of course, the 
atmospheric nitrogen escaped at the top of the receiver 
through a hole about an inch in diameter. It was necessary 

146 MY LIFE 

to have the receiver of great size in order to give time for 
the anhydride to sublimate on its walls. 

When I came to make the third lot I had for assistants 
several of our cleverest yoimg men, one of them being a 
chemist. I wished them to see how the chemical was pro- 
duced, so that they might make it themselves. Later on, 
when I was ordered to go to Europe, I wanted to be sure 
that they could really make the stuff, so set them at it- 
They worked on it for about three days without producing 
an ounce. I then tackled the job myself and filled two 
hundred bottles, one litre each, in two hundred minutes ; 
some of these I took to Paris with me. 

Notwithstanding that I was busily engaged in making 
electric lighting apparatus, I was not altogether free from 
the great firm of A. T. Stewart and Co., who considered me 
as their consulting engineer. One day I received a telegram 
from Mr. Prothero, the manager of their carpet factories, 
requesting me to call at his office. I did so, expecting that 
they wanted some more electric lights. But no. 

" We are having a lot of trouble at our Catskill carpet 
factory," Mr. Prothero said, " and we want you to go up, 
find out what the trouble is, and put everything all 

I said : " If it is anjrthing that relates to the machinery 
boilers or a waterwheel I can attend to it." 

" No, it is not any of these ; it is a trouble in the weaving 
of the carpets." 

I replied that I had never been in a carpet mill in my 
life, and knew nothing of it. 

" But it is our orders that you go there and straighten 
things out. The man in charge is a Frenchman, and a very 
good fellow ; he has had great experience, but he has a 
trouble now that he does not understand." 


Still I objected, saying : " Suppose I should apply and 
say I have come up to straighten things out in the carpet 
factory, he would naturally ask me what experience I have 
had; I should have to say 'None.' What would he think 
or say ? " 

" We don't care what he would say," he persisted. " Our 
orders are that you go to the Catskill mills, find out what 
the trouble is, and correct it — that is all." 

On the afternoon of the next day I found myself at this 
big carpet factory. The Frenchman met me at the door 
and received me very kindly. Of course, I apologized and 
told him exactly what had happened. I asked him what 
the trouble was, and he said, " I will show you " ; so we went 
into the carpet mill together. The kind of carpet being 
made was what is called Tapestry Brussels, in which the 
coloured warp is of woollen, each particular strand being of 
different colour in different places. He told me that it was 
necessary that all of these coloured woollen threads should 
keep pace with each other so as to form a proper figure, 
but unfortimately some were considerably longer than 
others, and an additional price had to be paid for the weaving 
if the threads had to be cut and adjusted during the process 
of weaving. He showed me how the yarn was laid out on 
the floor, coloured and stamped, but the pattern was so 
elongated that it was impossible to see what it meant. 
When the colour was comparatively dry, the yam was placed 
in a very large cylinder, the door closed airtight, and steam 
let in. The steam-heating fixed the colour. The yam was 
then removed and the surplus colour washed out of it in a 
large body of water. 

I began to see a little light, so I asked the manager if the 
yam did not shrink a little in the steaming. 

" Yes, it shrinks a good deal," was his reply. 

148 MY LIFE 

I asked him then if it would be affected by the pressure 
of steam and the time it was steamed. 

" It certainly would ; that is self-evident," said he. 

I then saw them do a batch. A boy of about fourteen 
turned on the steam, until a pressure of four pounds was 
indicated on the gauge ; it was a small gauge and not 
suitable for recording low pressures. The boy was supposed 
to keep his eye on the gauge, watch the clock, and at the 
end of twenty minutes to turn off the steam. I saw at once 
that there was a chance of a good deal of error ; the gauge 
was not sensitive enough, the boy was not careful enough, 
and he might not be a sufficiently good mathematician to 
compute twenty minutes, especially when the minute hand 
passed over number twelve on the clock face. 

I then returned to Bridgeport, Conn., made a working 
drawing, and ordered a steam regulator to be made ; not 
in our own works, however. I ordered a clock with an 
electric apparatus attached to it, two bells, and a battery. 
The steam regulator was provided with a balanced valve, 
so that it would not be affected by a changing boiler pressure, 
the valve being operated by a rubber diaphragm, which 
was underneath instead of on top of the regulator, and in 
action would be covered with condensed water and be quite 

In running the apparatus the minute hand was placed 
at 12, and at eighteen minutes past twelve the moving hand 
established an electrical current, and set a little buzzing 
bell ringing ; at the end of twenty minutes a big gong 
soimded and the steam was at once shut off. This -com- 
pletely cured the trouble, and later on the Frenchman said 
to me : " If I should tell any of the carpet makers in my 
own country of the trouble that I had, and that an American 
engineer who was never inside a carpet mill before in his life 


came here, found out the trouble in five minutes, and in a 
few days made and put up an apparatus that completely 
cured it and made the yam better than I have ever known 
it before, they would not believe me." 

While I was going about Stewart's mills on various jobs 
I noticed that some of their wool was extremely greasy, 
and the foreman told me that it required a lot of soap and 
water to get the grease out of it. I asked them to give me 
an exact poimd of the wool, from which I extracted the 
grease, generally known as Lanoline, and foimd I had 
exactly four ounces of a bright, amber-coloured, thick oil. 
As all animal oils were high-priced in the States, I showed 
them that they were washing away many thousands of 
pounds' worth of grease in a year which might be recovered 
at a comparatively low cost. As the process required the 
use of inflammable liquid they were afraid to try it. Later 
on, however, others took it up and made a big thing out 
of it. 

When electric lighting first came into use in America, 
everyone wanted to examine the machines that produced 
the current, and many of these sightseers had high-priced 
watches, which of course became magnetized and stopped. 
No watchmaker was able to remedy the trouble, and a 
convention of watchmakers was held in New York. It was 
decided that the only way out of it was to have all the steel 
parts replaced : but as many of the finest watches were 
made in Denmark it was difficult and costly. Mr. Leet, of 
Bridgeport, Conn., was on the train from New York when 
he met some of the Boston watchmakers on their return 
from the convention. He told them he knew a man whom 
he believed could take the magnetism out of watches, and 
a few days later one of them sent him the steel works of a 
Danish watch, the cost of which had been three hundred 

150 MY LIFE 

dollars. The parts were packed in a little pasteboard box. 
I found them all strongly magnetic. I attached a bent 
copper wire to the box so that it formed trunnions, spun 
it near the south pole of a d3mamo, then a little further 
from the north, and again still further from the south. 
I did this many times, each time increasing the distance, 
until I was four feet from the magnets. On testing the parts 
with soft iron filings it was found that they were all com- 

This machine Is provided with a very powerful electrical bar magnet 
that rotatei on a vertical axis, presenting the Norib and the South Pole 
la the walch in rafnd succession. The walch is placeil in the carrier 
very near to the magnet, and rotates on ■ vertical and horizontal axis 
at Che same time. As the crank is turned the carriage holding the 
watch is slowly withdrawn from the magnet by the action of the screw, 
and by the time ii has reached the limit there is not a trace ol 
magnelisin left in it. Many thousands of watches were demagnetised 
by this apparatus. 

pletely demagnetized. Mr. Leet sent the parts back to the 
watchmaker, who pronounced them completely free from 
magnetism. Shortly after this watches came in in shoals. 
I charged one dollar each, but it took too much of my time, 
so I made a machine that anyone could use that would 
demagnetize any watch without taking it out of the case 
in one minute of time. This did very well until the alter- 
nating current came in, when anyone could demagnetize a 
watch in five seconds. 


While I was making my electrical machinery and lamps 
at Bridgeport, Conn., I used to hear a great deal of the 
exploits of the young men at Yale College in the neighbouring 
town of Newhaven. Some of these were so remarkable that 
it may be interesting to cite an example. 

On this occasion there had been a death in an Irish 
family. The bereaved widow was visited by a very nice 
young gentleman from the College. He told her that the 
students were very anxious to learn the manners and customs 
of as many different nations as possible, and that he had 
been sent as a committee of one to see if arrangements could 
not be made whereby it would be possible for the yoimg 
gentlemen to take part in the ceremony of the wake. They 
were quite ready to furnish all the refreshments that might 
be necessary for the occasion, which of course included an 
imlimited supply of tobacco and whiskey. The widow did 
not object at all, but communicated with all her friends, 
asking them to come and take part in the proceedings, 
assuring them that there would be no lack of whiskey and 
tobacco. This being settled, one of the young gentlemen 
called on the local undertaker and found that he was quite 
prepared to furnish twenty coffins of the cheaper sort, and 
it was arranged that at one o'clock in the morning following 
the wake the coffins and a lot of candles with sufficient men 
should be sent to the house. Active proceedings com- 
menced at the wake about nine o'clock at night. A large 
number of the students were present, and the supply of 
liquor of various kinds was all that could be desired. The 
drinks were not confined to whiskey alone ; there were mixed 
drinks of all kinds, in which Jersey Lightning (Apple Jack) 
played an important part. The College boys acted as 
waiters, pressing everyone to drink as much as possible, 
and at one o'clock when the coffins arrived everyone was 

152 MY LIFE 

dead drunk, whereupon the students and the undertaker's 
men placed them in the coffins, screwing down the principal 
lid, ^ with numerous candles on top of each. Of course, only 
the face was exposed. 

I think it would have been interesting to have seen what 
took place the next day, when those that were only dead 
drunk came to life ; there must have been a very lively 
time at the resurrection. 

One word about Jersey Lightning. A college professor 
in New Jersey showed me in his laboratory a quantity of 
this potent liquid. He said, " You can analyse it and you 
will find that there is nothing in it except alcohol and water ; 
still, if you drink it, it has a most remarkable effect — why 
is it ?" Later on, however, it was discovered that the 
extraordinary potency of this fluid was due to the minute 
quantity of prussic acid in the seeds of the apples from 
which it is made. 

When it was finally decided that I was to go to Europe 
to represent the Company at the Paris Exhibition of 1881, 
it became necessary to hire a new engineer to take my place 
in New York. At that time our Company was known as 
" The United States Electric Lighting Company," and we 
had large premises on Avenue B. As I wished to make a 
good show and produce the greatest possible amoimt of 
light for a pound of coal consumed, I naturally sought for 
the best engine and boiler in the market. I found that 
Messrs. Babcock and Wilcox had taken first prize at the 
Centennial Exhibition, and that they had created a new 
record in the quantity of water evaporated by a pound of 
coal. I therefore purchased a pair of their large and fine 
boilers ; and wishing to have an engine that was very 

^ At that time coffin-lids were in two pieces. The principal lid covered 
the body and a small lid covered the face and neck. 


economical and steady, I bought a Corliss engine with two 
cylinders, so that there was a steady pull all round. This 
plant was the best known at the time. 

And now something happened that in reality is the curse 
of doing business ; something that afflicts both England 
and the United States. The incoming man wished to prove 
his wisdom by attempting to show that his predecessor 
was a fool. He said I had made a great mistake and wasted 
a lot of the Company's money. He said it was a sine qua non 
that we should make the best possible showing, and obtain 
the greatest amount of light for the coal consumed, there- 
fore we must have the best boilers ; and he ordered the Bab- 
cock boilers to be taken out and replaced them with a 
pair of very large Lancashire boilers. I had not been very 
long in Europe when the United States Electric Lighting 
Company absorbed the Weston Company, of Newark, New 
Jersey ; they wanted still larger premises, and the place at 
Newark could be made as large as they liked. They there- 
fore gave up the Avenue B premises and moved the 
machinery, and in fact everything except the boilers and 
engine, to Newark. In the meantime Edison was looking 
for a place where he could show his lights in New York. 
He took over our lease, and as he too was anxious to make 
the best possible showing, and as in order to do so he must 
have the best boilers, he ordered out the old-fashioned 
Lancashire boilers and replaced them with a pair of Babcock 
and Wilcox boilers exactly in all respects like those which 
had been removed only a few months previously.^ This 
sort of thing has dogged my steps from that day to this. 

* At that time Mr. Spencer D. Schuyler was still the president of our 
Company. He opposed the cliange of the boilers, but was overruled by 
the directors, whereupon he resigned. 


ON the 14th day of August, 1881, 1 embarked on the 
s.s. Germanic for Liverpool. Eight days later I 
arrived in Liverpool, aiid at ten o'clock that night 
was at Charing Cross Hotel. I ate my first whitebait and 
saw the Thames for the first time. I was rather surprised 
to find how very small it was. The next morning I took the 
train and arrived in Paris in time for dinner, after which I 
visited the Electrical Exhibition and found that our men 
were putting up the electrical apparatus. 

A few days after my arrival I received orders from New 
York to examine carefully every exhibit of an electrical 
nature and describe it in my own words, and to collect all 
the circulars and pamphlets and send them to the Company. 
I did this with the aid of a shorthand writer, but it took a 
very long time. When I had finished they wrote to me 
that I should examine and describe every electrical patent 
in the Patent Office, from the year one down to the present 
date. Of those that were unimportant I only made a short 
abridgment in English, but the important ones I had copied 
verbatim in French. I had two secretaries and two draughts- 
men to assist me, and things went on merrily for a long 

One little French draughtsman that I had was a curious 
character. In the greater niunber of early French patents 
electrical wires on magnets are coloured green. The green 
is made up by the draughtsmen themselves of gamboge 



and Prussian blue ; as the drawings were on tracing linen, 
which has a great affinity for gamboge, the gamboge slowly 
spreads out, colouring the cloth about the drawings yellow, 
so that the magnets all seemed to be surroimded by a yellow 
halo. This draughtsman would persist in putting in the 
halo, and his dignity was greatly offended when I told him 
the story of the Chinese tailor who made a pair of trousers 
for an EngUshman with a patch on the seat. 

It was a rather long and tedious job, and when it was 
finished they asked me to go to the Conservatoire des Arts et 
Metiers and copy everything electrical at that estabUshment. 
When this was finished I was sent to Brussels, where I 
examined the Belgian patents in the same manner as I had 
examined the French. 

I would say for the information of those interested 
in such matters that the Belgian Patent Office is not 
quite so large as the American Patent Office at 

My researches in these patent offices enabled my Company 
in America to head off and defend themselves against a 
considerable number of lawsuits that were being brought 
against them for infringing previous American patents. 

At this time I was engaged by the United States Electric 
Lighting Company at a salary of £1000 a year, and had a 
large number of shares in the parent Company which had 
established the Maxim -Weston Company in London, a 
company that was to have the control of all the Maxim and 
Weston patents for the British Isles. Their office was at 
47 Cannon Street, and they had works at Bankside, on the 
Surrey side of the Thames. The home Company sent me 
out a new agreement to sign. They told me that the 
London Company was not making any progress at all and 
that they wished me to go to London, reorganize it and put 

156 MY LIFE 

it on its feet. They informed me that they had made 
arrangements whereby the London Company would pay half 
of my salary while they would pay the other half. I accepted, 
and a few days later it was announced in the English news- 
papers that " Hiram Maxim, the greatest electrician in the 
world, had been engaged to come to London to reorganize 
the Maxim- Weston Company." This was the occasion of a 
great deal of ridicule. Though I never had pretended to be 
the greatest electrician, or even a great electrician, yet 
some of the British papers, especially the technical ones, 
were very severe.^ They naturally asked, " Where are 
Sir William Thompson, Edison," etc. etc. However, I came 
over to London, bag and baggage, ready to enter upon my 
new duties. 

I first turned up at the factory at Bankside, and was met 
by the Secretary, Mr. O'Brien. I had never seen anj^thing 
like it in my life. The place was unspeakably dirty, every- 
thing was so out of order that we were tripping over copper 
wires everywhere ; the windows were so thick with dirt 
that they admitted little light ; and the few men at work 
were binning gas out of the open end of the pipes without any 
bmner. In walking about the place I saw a high-priced 
Brown and Sharp's milling machine. It was all smothered 
with dirt and appeared to be in a very dilapidated condition 
The roof was leaky and the machine had been rained on and 
was slightly rusty in places. 

After we had examined the factory thoroughly I started 
to walk over the bridge with Mr. O'Brien. When we were 
alone he said, " Maxim, you are an American, I am an Irish- 
man ; when we were starving in Ireland, the Americans 
sent us a shipload of food ; the Americans are and always 

^ I afterwards found that this extravagant announcement originated 
from someone who was endeavouring to sell his shares. 


have been our best friends, and I will not see you imposed 
upon. Have you seen the Managing Director ? " 

I said: "No." 

" Well, wait until you see him ; he is a sight. We do 
not intend to do any real business. Everything that 
vife have got that will bring in a penny will be sold, and the 
money absorbed in paying big salaries, and for patents 
which have been taken out on purpose to be sold to us and 
are absolutely of no value." 

I asked him if it would not be possible to get the share- 
holders together when he could place before them the true 
state of affairs. 

He said : " No, they are absolutely disgusted with the 
management, and will have nothing more to do with the 

Later on, I saw the Managing Director, showed him the 
papers that I had received from New York, and presented 
to him the agreement that he was to sign. He declined to 
sign the agreement, saying the Company could not pay such 
a high salary. 

" But," I said, " I have agreed to stay in London two 
years and take charge of the Company." 
^ He said : " All right, but the salary is too high." 

I then asked him what he would consider a proper salary 
for my services, and he suggested one guinea a year. 

Before leaving Paris I had made the first drawing of an 
automatic gun, and it occurred to me that this would be a 
very good opportunity for me to commence experiments. 

Having obtained permission to experiment in the Com- 
pany's factory at Bankside, I cleared up a bench and scraped 
the filth off two or three windows, to let in a little of God's 

I observed a very curious state of affairs in this factory. 

158 MY LIFE 

I think about four or five men were employed ; two of 
them appeared to be working on arc lamps, and at the time 
were turning the steel rods that connect the lower part of 
the lamp with the top. The leading hand had rigged up 
an electric bell in such a manner that when the cut was 
finished contact was made, and the beU was rung. He then 
set the lathe to run at its slowest speed with the finest feed, 
laid down on the bench and went to sleep. On the ringing 
of the bell he would get up, reset the lathe and again go to 
sleep. The other lathe hand did the same thing, but as he 

had no bell, he placed a lai^e iron bar in such a position 
that it would be thrown over by the carriage of the lathe 
at the end of the cut, and fall on the floor, making a loud 

All this was very ingenious and well calculated to make 
a job last. It only required a very small quantity of work 
to keep these two men fully employed. 

While I was there an enormously large gas bill came in. 
The Managing Director objected and appealed to me. I 
told him that the windows were so dirty that it was neces- 
sary to use gaslight, and as there were no gas burners the 


men burnt the gas out of the open end of the pipe, which 
was rather expensive. 

I had not been there very long when the Managing 
Director said to me that if I wished to occupy the premises 
it would be necessary for me to pay rent, which he fixed 
at so high a figure as to make it absolutely impossible for 
me to remain ; so I hired premises at 57D Hatton Garden, 
at the comer of Clerkenwell Road. I had previously hired a 
room in Cannon Street, where I had made drawings of a 
machine gun. 

The Maxim-Weston Company at that time owned all of 
my English patents on electrical appliances, among which 
was the only system ever discovered of making good and 
reliable filaments for incandescent electric lamps ; my 
patent was for treating the filaments by heating them 
electrically in a highly attenuated atmosphere of hydro- 
carbon vapours, the vapours of gasoline preferred. The 
Managing Director failed to pay the annuity on this patent, 
and it lapsed.^ One of the greatest of oiu: EngUsh elec- 
tricians, knowing its value, attempted to get possession of 
it and to have it revived at the Patent Office by paying the 
fees and the fine, but he was a few days too late. This 
patent, which was the most important one that had ever 
been taken on incandescent lighting, became common 
property in England as well as in America. It was exceed- 
ingly valuable because it was impossible, and is still im- 
possible, to make carbon filaments for incandescent lamps 
without its use. It was certainly worth £200,000 a year. 

Had I not been paying so much attention to guns, I 
might have purchased this patent from the Company and 

* Previous to this I had interviewed the Directors of the Company 
and attempted to get them to take some action in regard to the affairs of the 
Company, but nothing I could say seemed to have any effect upon them. 

160 MY LIFE 

made a lot of money out of it. If the Managing Director 
had signed the necessary papers and put me in charge, I 
should have been able to pay a dividend on the Company's 


The carbon is mo 
carbon gases and t 
weakest part of the carbon becomes the hottest, and is the first to be 
built up from the carbon oF the surrouniling gases. As the carbon 
increases in cross-section and density the resistance is reduced, and 
when the right resistance is reached the current operating on the 
m^^et leieases the hammer (G), and breaks the ciicuil. An English 

i'udge has said that this is the process that made incandescent electric 
ighting possible. 

shares of at least a hundred per cent, out of royalties that I 
could have collected from other companies. 

While I was working on the gun drawings at 47 Cannon 
Street, I advertised for an assistant draughtsman, and I 
was surprised at the number that apphed. They were 
indeed a job lot, many of them down at the heel and out 
at tlie elbow. I had already hired a little German by the 


name of SUvennan to act as a kind of clerk and man-of-all- 
work. He was a very active little fellow and very officious, 
and he suggested that these draughtsmen should be admitted 
one at a time and pass some sort of an examination. 

I thought of something very simple, so I asked them 
how many square feet there were in a square yard. Some 
thought there might be six or seven, only about half of 
them giving it as their opinion that there might be nine. 
This reduced the number of applicants by one-half. 

The next question was, " How many cubic feet are there 
in a cubic yard ? " Only about a dozen were able to answer 
this question. Then I asked them to compute the volume 
of a cylinder ten inches in diameter and ten inches high. 
This knocked them all down but two. Only one English- 
man was able to answer this poser, and he was quite unable 
to draw ; but there was one who knew quite as much of 
mathematics as I did, if not more. He was a Dane, a good 
draughtsman and a thoroughly good fellow, but altogether 
too modest to take a leading part. However, he remained 
with us many years. 

One day, while I was drawing in my office, Captain 
Rapieff, a Russian naval officer, came in. I had known him 
in Paris, where he had an electric lamp on exhibition known 
as the Rapieff lamp. We were great friends in Paris, 
and I beheve I had met him also in New York. The young 
Russian officers were much given to horse-play, so as soon 
as he had greeted me, he clinched me and attempted to 
throw me down. He was an extremely tall man, fully six 
feet two inches. I at once gave him my favourite Irish 
hoist, ^ whereupon suddenly the Russian's big boots were 
in the chandelier, making it very Uvely for the glass. But I 
did not put him on the floor ; I simply held him with his 

^ Cross-buttock in England. 

162 MY LIFE 

legs up and allowed him to kick. Silverman was much 
astonished. He said he had often heard and read of wrestlers 
throwing their opponents over their head, but had never 
believed it was true. Now, however, there could be no 
question about it ; he had seen it himself. 

I would say that Silverman took great interest in the 
work. He was very anxious to learn to draw, so I allowed 
him to make a few tracings, then piurchased him some 
instruments, and he ultimately became a very good draughts- 
man. He acted in various capacities, and at the time of his 
death was the manager of one of our smaller factories. 

Having finished my drawings of the first automatic machine 
gun, I went vigorously to work to equip my little factory in 
Hatton Garden. I lost no time in purchasing the dirty and 
rusty milling machine that I had seen at Bankside. As no 
one seemed to know what it was worth or what it was for, 
I got it for about a quarter of its value, and when I came to 
clean it up I found that it had never been used ; it was still 
covered with grease. After being cleaned, and the few specks 
of rust rubbed off, it looked just as good as the day it came 
from the makers. I also purchased some American lathes, 
planers, drill-presses, etc., and was soon in full swing. 

I started with two mechanics ; one a skilled Birmingham 
gunmaker and the other an expert lathe hand. Having 
put these to work on an experimental gun I was called 
away to Paris, on business connected with the United 
States Electric Lighting Company. While I was away 
absolutely nothing was done. I scolded the gunmaker very 
much indeed, threatening to discharge him. Shortly after 
this, the lathe hand smashed the feed gear of a beautiful 
American lathe. He put the screw feed and the slow feed 
in together, and as the carriage could not travel at two 
speeds at the same time something had to break. 


I discharged this man, and no sooner had he gone than 
the gunmaker came to me. He said, " You appointed the 
lathe hand, J. N., as the leading man, and he therefore 
became my boss ; I had to obey his orders. You were 
greatly upset because no work was done while you were in 
Paris ; I was doing my utmost, but you had not been gone 
very long when J. N. came to me and said : ' Never finish 
one job until there is another in sight. You are working 
the bread out of your own mouth ; you are working the 
bread out of my children's mouths. Slow up, you fool.' " 
This was an " eye-opener " to me, and I saw the kind of men 
that I should have to deal with. 

There was an engineering shop next door which assisted 
me in getting my tools into position and in equipping my new 
estabUshment. The proprietor, however, shook his head and 
prophesied disaster. He said there was no money to be made 
with such tools as I had ; they were too expensive, and it would 
be difficult to get men in London who would understand them. 

I went to the Henry Rifled Barrel Company to get some 
gun-barrels made. When I told their old Mr. Pervis, the 
superintendent, what I was at, he said, " Don't do it. 
Thousands of men for many years have been working on 
guns ; there are himdreds of failures every year ; many 
engineers and clever men imagine that they can make a 
gun, but they never succeed ; they are all failures, so you 
had better drop it, and not spend a single penny on it. You 
don't stand a ghost of a chance in competition with regular 
gunmakers — stick to electricity." 

This was certainly very encouraging. However, I said 
to him, " I am a totally different mechanic from any you 
have ever seen before — a different breed." 

He gave a deep sigh in reply, and made and delivered the 

164 MY LIFE 

I took my drawings to a local pattern-maker and described 
them fully to him. As I was in a great hurry he agreed to 
deliver the patterns directly to the brass f otmdry and 
have the castings sent to me. They were about the worst 
castings I had ever seen ; I could actually see the grain of 
the wood in them. So I examined the patterns, and foxmd 
that they had been made out of coarse, unseasoned deal, 
and that they had already changed their shape in seasoning. 
I then ordered a new set of patterns, with instructions 
that they were to be made out of hard, sound, and highly 
seasoned mahogany, that the dowels of the core-boxes 
should be of brass and that the wood should be thickly 
shellacked ; this was done. I delivered them to the foundry, 
giving instructions that I wanted the best possible gun- 
metal castings. 

A few days later, while in my Uttle office, I was told 
that a truckman had arrived and delivered some brass 
castings. He came to my office and delivered the invoice, 
and I was amazed at the weight of the castings. On going 
into the shop I saw them piled up on the floor ; ever3rthing 
had been cast solid ; nothing had been cored ; even the 
core-boxes had been cast in solid gunmetal. As these core- 
boxes had been varnished all over to keep out the damp, 
the foundryman had imagined that they themselves were 
patterns. I ordered a new set, and this time I got them all 
right. The patterns were well made and expensive, but I 
foimd that they had been very badly used in the foundry, 
knocked about, bruised, and broken. On remonstrating 
and discussing the matter with my men, I learned that the 
damage was done purposely, as they said it was good for 
trade ; it gave something for the pattern-makers to do in 
repairing the patterns. 

Having occasion to use some metallic mercury, I sent 


my man Silverman out to purchase " one poimd of metallic 
mercury in a strong glass bottle with a cork stopper.*' 
Had I not specified glass I might have got an expensive 
iron bottle, and had I not specified a cork stopper, I might 
have got an expensive bottle with a groimd glass stopper. 

Silverman soon returned and said that he was quite 
imable to find any metallic mercury. 

I asked him if he had been attempting to get it at a shoe- 
shop or a beershop. 

" No," he repUed, " at a wholesale chemist's." 

I told him that he must have made a mess of it somehow ; 
then I sat down and wrote carefully, " Wanted — one poimd 
of metallic mercury in a strong glass bottle with a cork 

It was not long before he again returned and said there 
was no such stuff as '* metaUic mercury " known to the 
chemist's shop, and he had been to a large wholesale place. 
As the big chemist's shop was not more than two himdred 
yards distant I went round with him, saw the man behind 
the coimter, to whom he had already appUed twice, and 
said : 

" I have sent this young man round twice for some 
metallic mercury, and he tells me that you say you have 
nothing of the kind." 

" No, we have never had any call for it," he replied. 

" But is this not a chemist's shop ? " 

" Yes, and one of the largest in London." 

" Do you sell all kinds of chemicals ? " 

" Yes." 

" Then how does it happen then that you have no metallic 
mercury ? " 

" We have never had any caU for it before. We do not 
know what it is." 

166 MY LIFE 

I then asked, " Have you any bicarbonate of soda ? " 

" Yes, tons of it." 

" Have you any bicarbonate of potash ? ** 

" Certainly ; any amount of it." 

" What is bicarbonate of potash a bicarbonate of ? " 

" Why, naturally, of potash." 

" Could you let me have some potash before it is made up 
into a bicarbonate ? " 

" Certainly." 

" Have you any bichloride of mercury ? " 

" Yes, lots of it." 

" What is bichloride of mercury a bichloride of ? " 

Here I had him ; I asked him if it were his first day on 

" No, I have been here twenty years." 

The head man hearing the uproar then came in and said : 
" You fool, the gentleman wants quicksilver." 

Curiously enough, it had never occurred to me to call it by 
that name, though I certainly ought to have thought of it. 
However, it is never called quicksilver by scientific men. >J 

At a later date I saw an advertisement in the newspaper : 
" Strong Mucilage suitable for Draughtsmen." I 
applied at the large general store and was directed to go 
to the stationery department. I told the young man behind 
the counter that I had seen their advertisement and would 
like to get some of their " strong mucilage." He gave me a 
very puzzled look and said that they didn't have any. 

" But why do you advertise it ? " I said. 

He replied that he did not know, for there certainly 
had never been any call for it. 

I suppose this is your first day here, is it not ? " 
No, I have been here some months." 

I saw a party in the distance known as a floor-walker and 

/ OV V/^^ .^^^<~ hl/.^cAvi. ^U^^Uv X(^\^^ 


applied to him, telling him of the advertisement, and what 
I wanted. Together we applied at the counter. I assured 
him that the young man said he had no mucilage, in fact, 
didn't know what it was. Looking up, the floor-walker 
pointed to a line of bottles with large red letters, " Muci- 
lage," and a sign about three feet long, also with red letters, 
which read " Strong Mucilage." He called the yoimg 
man's attention to the bottles and to the sign. 

" Oh," he said, " I've always sold that as liquid gum." 
It is very strange how the names of things get mixed, 
and it is quite possible that these two salesmen knew all 
the time what I wanted, but thinking that I was putting 
on airs by calling it by a different name from the one they 
used, they wished to snub me. 

But this does not apply to everything. When I got well 
on with my gim work I wanted some good strong emery 
cloth. The best in the market is American,^ and this is 
made of the very strongest twill cotton cloth, the cleanest 
and sharpest of emery and the toughest of glue ; even then 
it is not so good as we should like to have it. But the 
ship bringing it over had gone down, so there was not a 
particle for sale in London. Again I sent my man Silverman 
(Friday, as he was called at the time) to Buck's, on Holbom 
Viaduct, with an order for some of " the best emery-cloth." 
He brought it back and gave it to the men, but when they 
tried to use it, it seemed to go into dust. The cloth was 
very flimsy, the back being covered with glue and whiting, 
and the working side with something that looked like 
emery. I examined it under the microscope and foimd that 
by far the greater part of the material used was furnace 
slag. I then sent it back and asked for the " best," but 
received only the same kind of material. I thought it very 
curious, so I went down to Buck's myself, taking the emery- 

168 MY LIFE 

cloth with me. I saw Mr. Buck and told him that I really 
wanted American cloth, but he said there was none to be 
obtained. I informed him that the material he had sent me 
was the worst I had ever seen ; I had never seen anything 
so bad before. 

" But/' he replied, " you have got what you ordered ; 
here is your order ; you ordered ' The Best,' and Isent it 
to you." Then a brilhant idea occurred to Mr. Buck. He 
ventured to say, " Perhaps you want something better than 
' The Best ' ? " 

I learned that " The Best " was the trade name of the 
very worst and cheapest cloth, which was used for cleaning 
kitchen knives. He had " something very much better 
but not quite so good as the American." However, it did 
very well imtil the American cloth arrived. 

Wishing to make a wheeled carriage for my gun, I ordered 
from the importers some very strong, but light, American 
wheels with hickory spokes. Instead of delivering the 
wheels they asked me to specify the kind of tjnres that I 
wished to have shrunk on to them. I said I would attend 
to that myself, but they would not deliver the wheels 
without the tyres. On asking them why, they said that 
the reputation of American wheels had been greatly injured 
in England on account of certain parties interested in the 
carriage trade having fiunished the blacksmiths with very 
fine saws, instructing them to saw off the tenon of some 
of the spokes, so that they would not enter the rim more 
than an eighth of an inch, and to do this to at least four 
spokes in each wheel. This made it appear as though the 
American hickory was very brittle, and would not stand the 
English climate. 

Again, wishing to purchase some lamp-black, which is 
the very best thing to use on wooden foundry patterns, I 


was only able to get some very coarse and gritty soot, 
which was the worst stuff I ever saw. I appUed at 
several places and always got the same thing. Finally, I 
ran across a small paper of real lamp-black. I took it to 
the paint-shop and told them that was what I wanted. 
They examined it and said : " That is not lamp-black at 
all, that is vegetable black " ; but when I asked them what 
sort of a vegetable it was made of they were unable to tell 
me whether it might be potatoes, cabbage, turnips, or 

Later on, I found how this change of names occurred. 
Lamp-black, as its name indicates, is the kind of black 
that is given off by a smoky lamp. It may be made from 
any kind of a smoky flame, such as pitch, tallow, or 
petroleum. Its name in French is " noir de fumte " ; it is 
the densest pigment known, but of course is not the cheapest. 
At first the dealers commenced to adulterate this expensive 
pigment with pulverized charcoal, soot, and nearly every- 
thing that was black. Each manufacturer had to produce 
something very cheap, or he was unable to sell it. The 
result was that the material called lamp-black was nothing 
more nor less than a mixture of soot and pulverized charcoal. 
They therefore had to coin a new name for the real lamp- 

At first my new American tools were a Uttle too much 
for the British workman, but there was not a tool in the 
place that I was not famihar with. I had one of the 
latest and best brass - finisher's lathes from Boston, but 
no one seemed to understand it. When, however, I under- 
took the job myself it was a revelation to them. I ultimately 
purchased an American pattern-maker's lathe and hired a 
pattern-maker. As the centres that came with this lathe 
were the common sort, I made a hollow dead centre, with a 

170 MY LIFE 

small central spike. I expected that the pattern-maker 
would know how to use this, but later on, when I asked 
him how he Uked it, he said it would not work at all imtil he 
filed it. I then found that he was using it for the driving 
centre, instead of the dead centre, and that he had filed it 
into teeth so as to grip the wood. 

When tools were required for the various machines I 
forged them out and tempered them myself. The men 
thought it was very exceptional for a man in my position, 
who was a clever draughtsman, to be a blacksmith. One 
day, having occasion to use a little glass instrument, I sent 
out, bought some glass tubes, and did the glass-blowing 
myself. The men had never seen anything like it before. 
One of them chucked his cap down on the floor, stamped 
on it, and said : " There's nothing that the old man can't 

It was necessary to make a series of experiments before 
I could make a working drawing of the gun, so I first made 
an apparatus that enabled me to determine the force 
and character of the recoil, and find out the distance that 
the barrel ought to be allowed to recoil in order to do the 
necessary work. All the parts were adjustable, and when 
I had moved everything about so as to produce the maximum 
result, I placed six cartridges in the apparatus, pulled the 
trigger, and they all went off in about half a second. I was 
deUghted. I saw certain success ahead, so I worked day and 
night on my drawings imtil they were finished and went 
into the shop and worked myself until I had made a gun. 
It was finished in due time, and on trying it with a belt of 
cartridges I found that it fired rather more than ten a 
second. Several of these guns were made, and when it was 
reported in the press that Hiram Maxim, the well-known 
American electrician in Hatton Garden, had made an 


automatic machine gun with a single barrel, using service 
cartridges, that would load and fire itself by energy derived 
from the recoil over six hundred roimds in a minute, 
everyone thought it was too good to be true — a bit of 
Yankee brag, and so forth ; but the Uttle gun was very 
much in evidence. 

The first man to come and see it, other than those in- 
terested, was Sir Donald Currie. A day or two later Mr. 
Matthey, the dealer in precious metals in Hatton Garden, 
brought H.R.H. the Duke of Cambridge to see the new gun. 
The old Duke was deUghted and congratulated me on what 
he considered to be a great achievement. This was the 
signal for everybody in London interested in such matters 
to visit Hatton Garden, see the inventor, and fire his gim. 

I found that I could not obtain reliable cartridges in 
Birmingham ; many of them were faulty, some with only 
half charges of powder, and some with no powder at all ; 
so I applied to the Government for service cartridges, and 
these were suppUed, I, of course, papng a rather high 
price for them. After a time, the Government could not 
imderstand why I required so many cartridges. I had to 
explain. Finally, they let me have all that I would pay 
for, and I used over two hundred thousand rounds in 
showing the gun to visitors. 


A MONG my early visitors was H.R.H. Albert Edward, 
/ \ Prince of Wales, accompanied by H.R.H. the Duke 
■^ ^ of Edinburgh. This visit was followed by those 
of many other royalties, dukes, and lords, and so much of 
my time was taken up showing the gun to visitors that it 
became necessary for me to work at night and on Sundays. 
As I was still receiving a large salary, or perhaps I should 
say retaining fee, from the United States Electric Lighting 
Company, I had occasionally to attend to their European 
business, and while I was in Paris looking after their affairs 
I received a telegram from London informing me that 
Lord Wolseley with a large number of the high officials 
connected with the Government and the War Office were 
to visit my place the next day at eleven o'clock. I took the 
night train, arrived in London in due time, had my break- 
fast, went to the shop, had everything made ready and, 
promptly at eleven, the gentlemen arrived. They fired 
some hundreds of cartridges and complimented me highly. 
Lord Wolseley said : " It is really wonderful." According 
to his way of putting it, " the Yankees beat all creation ; 
there seems to be no limit to what they are able to do." 
He expressed it as his opinion that it would not be long 
before someone would turn out a machine that would 
manufacture " full-grown men and women." Here I 
ventured to remonstrate, very much to the" amusement of 
the party, saying I certainly would not undertake the job, 




l>ecause it would be extremely unpopular. " Suppose," 
I said, " I could make a machine that would turn out young 
men, college educated and dressed in broadcloth with any 
sort of religion required, warranted to vote any ticket, and 
I could do it for sixpence a dozen, there would still be some 
old fogies so wedded to old ideas that they would continue 
the old, slow, laborious, expensive and painful process." 
This story was told in the London clubs the following 

Finally my numerous visitors, with a single exception, 
left. The gentleman who remained wished to have a 
private talk with me, so we went into my Uttle office, when 
he said : "I am Sir Andrew Clark, Surveyor-General of 
Fortifications of the British Empire ; I am an Irishman 
and you are an American, so we ought to be the best of 

*' Certainly," I said. 

He then went on to tell me that they had a very vexatious 
problem to solve at the War Office, which he thought I 
being an American might be able to solve. 

I rather remonstrated with him, saying that there were 
a great many things I did not know. 

" Nevertheless," he said, "it is my desire that you go 
down to the War Ofl&ce to-morrow morning at eleven o'clock, 
when I will lay the problem before you, and I hope you 
will be able to give us the solution of the vexed question." 

After he had left I wondered what on earth it could be. 
However, I was on hand sharp on time. Sir Andrew touched 
his bell, his orderly put in an appearance, and was told to 
find Captain Clark and bring him into Sir Andrew's office. 
When the Captain came, and everjrthing was ready. Sir 
Andrew spoke substantially as follows : 

" Mr. Maxim, we suppose you have heard of the German 

174 MY LIFE 

slow-burning cocoa powder. This is a remarkable powder ; 
it is slow-burning, and gives high velocities with pheno- 
menally low pressure. At first we imagined that it must be 
chemically different from ordinary gunpowder, but we 
found that it was not. The brown colour is due to the 
imperfect charring of the wood. We have had no trouble 
in making a powder that has the exact appearance of the 
German, but our brown powder behaves exactly the same 
as our black powder ; there is no diliference ; it gives high 
pressures and low velocities. I have had the German powder 
analysed by some of our best chemists, and they all agree 
perfectly. It is an easy thing to analyse powder; this 
German powder has exactly as much sulphur, charcoal, 
and nitre as our own ; still, there is a great difference 
between the two. What is it ? I have submitted it to many 
of the leading scientific men in London, but so far no one 
is able to solve the problem. The German manufacturers 
demand £35,000 for the secret, and we are about to pay 
this large simi, but as a last resort I thought that perhaps 
you might succeed where others have failed." 

While Sir Andrew was delivering this little speech I was 
thinking. I knew that the Chinese made a special powder, 
for setting off a lot of fireworks all at the same time, that 
was much more violent than anything made in Europe or 
America, although chemically it was the same. I knew how 
the Chinese powder was made. The constituent parts were 
placed in a copper cylinder with copper balls and slightly 
moistened. The cylinder was then revolved for three or 
four weeks by a small waterwheel. It was evident that 
this powder burnt much quicker than European powder, 
on account of the extreme fineness and intimate mixture 
of the charcoal, the sulphur, and nitre. The oxygen did not 
have to go so far to find something to consume as it did with 


our powder. In our powder the individual particles might 
be one-thousandth of an inch in diameter, and in the Chinese 
powder they might have been reduced to one hundred- 
thousandth of an inch, while in nitro-glycerine the oxygen 
and the materials to be consumed were not separated by 
one-millionth part of an inch, and nitro-glycerine went off 
-with a snap. 

When Sir Andrew had finished speaking I said : "Sir 
Andrew, you have already told me the difference between 
the two kinds of powder in language which / fully under- 
stand, and with your permission I will return to this office 
to-morrow at the same hour and tell it back to you in 
language that you cannot fail to understand." 
*' Impossible," he said. 

There were two hats on the table, and I said : " Suppose 
I came into this room and you told me that there was an 
orange under one of those hats ; I pick up one of them and 
there is no orange ; I then know definitely that the orange 
is under the other hat. You have already told me what the 
powder is not, and to-morrow I will tell you what it is." 

He then gave me a block of each kind of powder and a 
block of black powder, and on my way back to my little 
place in Hatton Garden I called at an optician's, where I 
had purchased a very fine microscope, and asked if they had 
a micrometer to go with my instnmient, that is, a thin bit 
of glass with very fine markings. They had one, but when 
I asked how many markings to the inch it had there was a 
conflict of opinion ; one man thought there might be ten 
thousand to the inch and another three thousand. As I 
remember, I left the place with the idea that there were ten 
thousand to the inch, but when I arrived at my ofl&ce I found 
their boy waiting for me, who told me that, after all, they 
found there were only three thousand to the inch. On 

176 MY LIFE 

account of all this uncertainty I thought I had better find 
out for m3rself . I did this by placing it alongside of a fine steel 
scale with one hundred markings to the inch, and found that 
the markings on the glass were in hundredths of a milli- 
metre, or two thousand five hundred to the inch. 

I first polished off the EngUsh powder, examinej^ it with 
the strongest object glass that can be used on an opaque 
body, and found that the surface presented all one flat tint ; 
evidently all the chemicals were finely ground, intimately 
mixed, and compressed into a very hard mass. I then 
polished off the surface of the German powder, and saw 
exactly what I had expected. The sulphur and the charcoal 
were very finely ground and very intimately mixed, but 
the nitre was granular. The largest crystal that I found 
was half of one-hundredth of an inch in diameter, and from 
that size down to invisibility. This powder was evidently 
slow-burning, because the nitre that contained the oxygen 
was separated from the combustible material ; therefore it 
could not go off rapidly. The slight distance that the 
oxygen had to travel made all the difference in the world. 

The next morning, armed with my microscope and the 
two blocks of powder, I put in an appearance at the War 
Office at exactly eleven o'clock. Again Captain Clark was 
called, and I showed the two officers the difference. They 
were delighted ; the mystery was solved and the money 

Sir Andrew asked me how I accounted for it ; why I had 
succeeded where all the others had failed ? 

I told him that it was because they had relied on chemistry 
and I on the microscope. 

A few days later I went down to Sittingboume, where 
there was a large powder factory, and made about a hundred 
different varieties of powder. I first weighed out very 


carefully the charcoal and the sulphur. I put these into 
the mill, damping them to prevent any loss in dust, and 
when they had been in the mill for about two hours I care- 
fully weighed out the nitre, mixed it intimately with the 
other chemicals, and started the mill again. At the end of 
five minutes I took out a specimen of the powder, put it in. 
a pasteboard box and labelled it " five." Every minute 
after that I took out another specimen, labelling it the 
number of minutes that the nitre had been in the mill, until 
I had about fifty specimens. I then continued milling, 
taking out a specimen every five minutes, and kept this 
up for some hours. I took the specimens back to London 
with me, and demonstrated before the officials that powder 
of any degree of slow burning might be made by that process. 

The only remuneration that I got for this work was the 
assurance on the part of Sir Andrew that certain scientific 
gentlemen in London would be furious on account of what 
I had done with my little microscope ; " they would never 
forgive me." 

As soon as my gun was proved to be a success the gentle- 
men who had become interested in it, and they were about 
the best men in London, organized a Httle company called 
" The Maxim Gun Company " ; and when it was un fait 
accompli and they had provided a secretary, I told him 
of some of my experiences in the States — in particular that 
when the United States Electric Lighting Company was 
organized, I ordered the stationery ; and although I had 
printed the name of the company in capital letters, still, 
when the stationery arrived, it read " THE UNITED 
printer, however, admitted that it was his fault and provided 
new stationery, I charged the secretary to use great care 
in getting the printing done, and he assured me that there 


178 MY LIFE 

would be no mistake. However, when we received the first 
cartload of it, it was " THE MAXIM GUM COMPANY." 
It is ever thus. 

Punch's advice to those about to get married was — 
" DONT," and my advice to all those who have sufficient 
means to Uve on, is DONT GO INTO BUSINESS. 

One of my first guns was exhibited at The Inventions 
Exhibition at Kensington, where a very large number of 
rounds were fired in order to show it to visitors. But I was 
not altogether pleased with this gun ; it was too expensive 
to make. Consequently I designed a completely new 
movement. The S3^tem of handling the cartridges and 
extracting the empty case from the barrel was totally 
different from anything ever employed before, and I made 
one spring do for both the firing pin and the sear. 

This Uttle gun worked splendidly ; it was a daisy, and 
was known as " the Uttle white gun," because the case had 
never been oxidized. It was while this little gun was on 
exhibition at Hatton Garden that a tall and dignified 
gentleman called. He was beautifully gloved, and had a 
gold-rimmed monocle fixed in his eye. He told me, in very 
stilted language, that he had come to see the gun. He 
looked at it, took out his watch, expressed his doubts about 
its being able to fire six hundred rounds in a minute, and 
said he wanted to see the six hundred rounds go off. I said : 
" It costs £5 a minute to fire this gun ; I will furnish the 
gun if you will furnish the cartridges." He was very 
indignant and left suddenly. Later on he said that I had 
insulted him. 

Mr. Pratt, of the well-known firm of Pratt and Whitney, 
of Hartford, Conn., U.S.A., who was at the time one of the 
finest mechanicians in the world, and an old friend of mine. 


came to London ; and when I fired the little gun for him 
he said : "If anyone had told me that it would be possible 
to make a gun that would pull a cartridge belt into position, 
pull a loaded cartridge out of it, move it in front of the 
barrel, thrust it into the barrel, close the breech in a proper 
manner, cock the hammer, pull the trigger, fire off the 
cartridge, extract the empty shell and throw it out of the 
mechanism, feed a new cartridge into position, and do all 
these things in the tenth part of a second, I would not have 
believed it. I would not have believed it if Mr. Whitney 
had told me — no, I would not have believed it if my wife 
had told me. But now I have seen it done with my own 

This Uttle gun actually fired at the rate of eleven shots a 
second out of a single barrel. 

About this time I attended a banquet in London where 
there were very many distinguished personages. H.R.H. 
the Duke of Cambridge took me by the arm, saying : " Come 
with me, Maxim, I will introduce you to everyone here 
who is worth knowing," and he did. There were several 
members of the Royal family present. It is needless to say 
that this introduction did me a lot of good. There never 
was a nicer man on this planet than the old and patriotic 
Duke of Cambridge. 

I also received an invitation from the then Duke of 
Sutherland to spend a week-end at Trentham, where I met 
the Duke of Manchester, Sir Reginald Macdonald, Mr. 
Henry Stanley (later Sir Henry Stanley), the African ex- 
plorer, and several other distinguished people. 

On Sunday Stanley, being afraid that we should have to 
go to chiu^ch, suggested that we should go into the woods 
until it was all over, and while there I asked him why he 
had not brought Livingstone home with him. He told me 

180 MY LIFE 

that it was because Livingstone didn't want to come ; he 
was well satisfied where he was, and was having a thoroughly 
good time. 

The following Monday the Duke took us through the 
locomotive works at Crewe. Everyone was amazed at the 
size of the establishment. I think they were able to produce 
one hundred locomotives in a year. To many this seemed 
incredible, but at the same time the Baldwin Locomotive 
Works at Philadelphia were turning out a thousand loco- 
motives a year ; I did not mention this fact. 

I have always gone in very strongly for what is known 
as book learning : so whenever I took up any new thing 
I read everything I could find on the subject. As I had 
commenced to make guns I purchased and read gun books, 
military dictionaries, etc. One day I was told by a book- 
seller that he could obtain for me the large red book that 
was supposed to be for the exclusive use of military and 
naval officers. He obtained the book for me, and the verv 
first article I read was on the large built-up naval guns 
vulgarly known at the time as Woolwich Infants. The 
writer of the book discussed in a very learned manner the 
ultimate strength of these guns. The central tube was made 
of hard steel, which had a tensile strength of thirty-five tons 
to the square inch ; the rings and jacket were of wrought 
iron, with a tensile strength of twenty-two tons to the 
square inch. He then explained how far the steel would 
yield before it would give way, the value of which was, of 
course, the tensile strength multiplied by the coefficient 
of the yield before fracture. The wrought iron, although 
being much weaker than the steel, would stretch a great 
deal more before giving way altogether. He was therefore 
able to show how much pressure would be required to 
destroy a gun. 




I saw at once the fallacy of this reasoning ; the whole 
thing had been computed on the hypothesis that the gun 
was never to be fired but once. I saw that if a charge were 
used large enough to stretch the steel up to its elastic limit 
and take the iron along with it, the steel would return to 
its original shape as soon as the projectile was out of the 
gun, but that the wrought iron would not follow it ; there 
would be a slight space between the wrought iron and the 
steel, and this space would increase at each discharge, until 
the wrought iron would cease to be of any value in supporting 
the steel ; then in all probabiUty the unsupported steel 
would crack, a little gas would escape and get into the space, 
expand the wrought iron still more, and after a few rounds 
the gun would go to pieces. 

Sure enough in later years I learned that this had actually 
taken place, and that it was reasoned out exactly as I had 
reasoned it out at the time. 

It was only too evident to me that a book of this kind 
would not do me any good, and so I did not read it ; but it 
was a mistake all the same not to do so, as will be seen later 

The British Admiralty had asked the gunmakers for a 
special gun ?or firing on torpedo boats that could be loaded 
and fired with great rapidity ; something between a three- 
and a six-pounder. 

The great firm of Armstrong produced a six-pounder that 
was very heavy and clumsy : I believe that four men 
succeeded in firing it at a rate of about ten roimds in a 
minute. This was followed by a very much lighter and 
better gim by Hotchkiss, and if I remember rightly four 
men succeeded in firing seventeen rounds in a minute from 
this gun. Nordenfeldt produced a very light gun indeed, 
with an action that permitted it to be loaded with greater 

182 MY LIFE 

rapidity, and this gun was fired with a crew of four highly 
trained men at a rate of twenty-five rounds in a n^nute. 

These were not automatic guns, and I did not enter into 
the competition imtil after I had finished my work on fully 
automatic guns. I then made for the Chinese Government 
a battery of semi-automatic guns, using the same length of 
cartridges (21 inches), and I also made one that I took over 
to France. It was in the Chinese specification that the gun 
should fire forty rounds in a minute, and it did this in 
England with a crew of two men : but the one I took over 
to France I fired myself. It was solidly fixed so that it 
could not move while firing, and was fired for rapidity only. 
The cartridges were placed near the gun, and I actually 
loaded and fired forty rounds in fifty seconds. 

Later on I made a twelve-poimder with a still longer 
cartridge, which was completely automatic : and this fired 
much faster. 

Lord Wolseley was one of the cleverest and brightest 
military men that I have ever met. I sympathized with him 
deeply because he seemed to be afiiicted with a very active 
imagination ; a trouble that I had suffered from for many 
years. I often met his lordship, and on one occasion he 
commenced to discuss the machine gun question. If 
machine guns were to be used in the service he saw no 
reason why they should not have a larger cartridge and a 
longer range than the infantry rifles, and he asked me if I 
could make a gun having a very long range with a projectile 
that would penetrate the sides of the caissons at long range. 

I told him that such a gun would not be so effective as 
the smaller gun in stopping the mad rush of savages, because 
it would not fire so many rounds in a minute, and that there 
was no necessity to have anything larger than the ^ ^rvice 
cartridge to kill a man. 


He then asked me if I could not make a gun with ammuni- 
tion that would be good at all ranges ; something that would 
stop the rush as effectually as the smaller gun. 

After thinking the matter over for some time I designed 
a gun, made and patented it. It had a bore of three-quarters, 
of an inch, a large powder charge, and a very peculiar kind 
of a projectile with a hardened steel core. The projectile 
was made up of several lead segments arranged aroimd the 
central steel core, and the whole held together by rings of 
lead hardened with tin. In firing at long range the pro- 
jectile acted the same as any other projectile. On striking 
the steel plate the hardened steel core would easily pass 
through the sides of the caissons, and in case of a mad rush 
at very short range it was only necessary to move a handle 
to bring four cutters into position in front of the muzzle 
that would cut and weaken the lead rings sufficiently to 
allow the projectile to fly apart, and to act very much like 
buckshot out of a large shot gun.^ 

But at very long range a gun cannot be used to advantage 
unless the gunner is able to see where his projectiles are 
striking ; and this led to the invention of the Pom-pom, 
which is nothing more nor less than a large Maxim gun, 
having an explosive projectile weighing a Uttle over a pound, 
loaded with black powder and provided with a fuse. With 
this gun it is possible for the gunner to see the smoke from 
the bursting projectiles, and thus place them where they 
will do the greatest damage to the enemy. 

I was always a great believer in the efficacy of this gun, 

but our military adviser, Captain , was very much 

opposed to it. He said that one EngUsh field gun would 

^ Many articles appeared in American papers ridiculing this gun, the 
writer pretending to be a great gunmaker, although he had never made, 
invented, or patented a gun in his life. 



put a whole battery of these guns out of action in five 
minutes, and he strongly objected to my calling the attention 
of Governments to this particular arm, as he said it would 


Very long range machine gun, for using projectiles having a diameter 
of i-inch, with an attachment on the muzzle to give a buck-shot effect 
at short range. 

greatly injure our reputation to do so. I learned afterwards 
that he never lost an opportimity of ridiculing the gun 
whenever he met British army officers. 

Later on a considerable number of these guns were sold 
and were supposed to go to Madagascar ; I think that they 


were intended for Madagascar, but the French arrived there 
before the guns, and they could not be landed, so they 
ultimately found a place in South Africa, and during that 
vexatious war it often happened that one Pom-pom 
manned by four Boers secreted behind stones and under- 
brush would put a whole battery of British artillery out of 
action in a very short time. The cartridges were loaded 
with smokeless powder, and the Boers never fired more 
than twelve rounds at a time, for fear that the vapour 
and the dust might be seen. The English artillerists, 
although very skilful, were, of course, unable to take sight 
at a feeble sound, and before they could find out the locality 
of the Boer guns their own battery would be put out of 

After this there was a very lively demand for the 37 mm. 
Maxim gun, euphoniously known by the name given to it 
by the African niggers — " Pom-pom " — and that demand 
has continued in spite of the contemptible charlatan in the 
States who ridiculed the gun and its origin. 


WISHING to have some assistants in France I took 
over two English mechanics, men who had 
actually made the gim, all but the barrel. It 
was arranged that the gim, which was a three-pounder, 
should be fired on Wednesday, and after installing the men 
comfortably in a little hotel, I told them to be on hand on 
Wednesday, when I would take them to the range. That 
same evening I received a telegram that the time of firing 
had been changed, and that the gim was to be fired at two 
o'clock on Tuesday instead of on Wednesday. I tried to find 
my men all that night up to one o'clock in the morning, 
but failed to do so. On applying at the hotel about nine 
o'clock in the morning I found that they had remained 
out overnight. As it was impossible to find them I had to 
imdertake the job all alone. In handling the heavy parts 
I got the first finger of my left hand very badly injured ; 
the French doctor told me I should never have any feeling 
in the tip of that finger afterwards, and he was quite right. 
However, I managed to fire the gun without making much 
use of the wounded hand. 

I finished up the job without finding the men, but they 
managed to get home with their return tickets. 

It was necessary to work the patents in France, so I had 
a gun made by the well-known firm of Bariquand et Fils, 
27 Rue Oberkampf , Paris ; but the small gun that I actually 
submitted for trial was made in my own shop in Hatton 



Garden. The man who had charge of the making of this 
gun was an old man who had been a gunmaker for many 
years at Birmingham and was wonderfully expert. He knew 
every trick of the trade. 

When Mr. Pratt, of Pratt and Whitney, was in London 
and we were talking of gims, he informed me that he had 
never succeeded in making V-springs for a gun that would 
last more than fifty thousand rounds, and that they generally 
gave out much before that. He had rigged up a machine 
by which these springs could be tested without firing the 
gun. He asked me how many times our springs could be 
used without breaking ? 

I told him that we never had had a broken spring, and 
I showed him the secret of making these springs, which I 
had learned from my old gunmaker. 

Pratt followed my instructions, made the spring when 
he went home, compressed it, and it went a million times 
without breaking. 

I entrusted my gunmaker with the job because I wanted 
the very best man that could be found. I knew that the 
tests would be very severe and wished to be prepared for 
them.* I was imable, however, to get any genuine French 
cartridges ; they would not allow one to go out of their 
coimtry. At that time, the Gras black powder cartridge 
was being used. I had the dimensions of the cartridge and 
the specifications as regards the bore of the rifle, but the 
actual parts that seize the cartridge, pull it from the belt, 
thrust it into the barrel, extract the empty case and expel 
it from the arm, were not quite finished, and so I wished to 
take my man with me to France to finish the job after we had 
the real cartridges. Before doing so I had a plain talk with 
him. I told him of the trouble that I had had with the other 

1 This was a small rifle calibre gun. 

188 MY LIFE 


men : how they had got drunk and were of no use. I told 
him I should take him to Paris first-class, take him to the 
Continental Hotel at first, and then find a httle place for 
him near the workshop. I told him that he must keep sober 
imtil the work was finished, and then he could get drunk 
and keep drunk if he liked. 

He assured me over and over again in the strongest 
language that he would not touch a drop of anjrthing 
intoxicating until after he had returned to England. 

We arrived in Paris on Simday. The next day I found 
him a comfortable boarding place and introduced him into 
Bariquand's shop. The day following, accompanied by one of 
our directors and the gimmaker, I took the gim to Versailles. 
We learned that it would not handle the French cartridges 
without some alteration, as we had expected. We were 
given a few empty cartridge cases and, taking the lock from 
the gun, went back to Paris. 

At the railway station I engaged a cab, intending to go 
to the workshop, but my fellow director said : " You are 
wearing yourself out ; you work too hard, you will not trust 

anybody except yourself. is a first-class man and will 

be sure to do the job properly." 

I therefore paid the cab in advance, pourboire and all, 
told him exactly where to leave the man, and went back 
to the Hotel Continental with my fellow director. 

He was to have all day Wednesday to work on the 
gim, and it was to be fired on Thursday. We had some busi- 
ness with officials in Paris in the forenoon of Wednesday, 
but in the afternoon, in spite of the protests of my fellow 
director, I took a cab for the workshop. 

On arriving there and going to the part of the shop set 
aside for the work I asked : " Where is the tall English- 
man ? " (they already called him " le grand Anglais "). 

• « 


• • . • 

• • • 


The reply was, " Pas encore arriv^/' 

As I discovered that he still had the parts of the gun 
with him, I went to his boarding place and asked again " Ou 
est le grand Anglais? " The woman said she didn't know 
but she thought that I might find him at " the house of 
a merchant of wines " farther up the street. On being 
questioned, the woman went on to tell me what had happened 
the night before when he had returned from Versailles. 
He didn't speak a word of French nor she a word of English. 
She had given him a small bottle of claret, and no sooner 
had he drunk it than he motioned for her to bring another, 
and after that, still another. This continued until he 
had managed to get outside of eight half bottles of win& 
One of the women bystanders raised her hands and eyes 
heavenward and said, " Mon Dieu, huit bouteilles k la 
fois ! " 

This information being of no service to me I went in search 
of the old man in the various drinking places in the vicinity, 
and at last had the good luck to find him. He was stretched 
out on a seat apparently dead drunk. I do not know what 
the people must have thought, but I at once searched 
his pockets, found the missing lock and cartridge cases, and 
left. By going at it myself, I succeeded in altering the parts 
so that they fitted the cartridge. 

The next day, in company with my fellow director, 
I was at Versailles promptly on time and had a first-class 
test of the new arm ; everything went very well indeed. 

The day following I returned to Bariquand's and found 
that the gunmaker had not been heard of. I left word that 
when he did return, they were to take him to the Gare St. 
Lazare, and pay his third-class passage to London, but not 
to give him a penny in money. 

He arrived m London on Sunday morning and had to 

1€0 MY LIFE 

walk home to Enfield. He was in a dreadful condition 
when he reached home, and it was a fortnight before he 
could resume work in the shop. 

The French officials asked me if I could not produce 
a gun in which the rate of fire could be regulated. Their 
idea was that if a gun could be made so that it would fire 
at the rate of about one shot per minute it might be secured 
in position so as to cover a breach in a fort or earthworks 
and prevent the enemy from making repairs during the night. 
I accordingly made a gun and took it over to Versailles ; 
and after firing a few rounds at all degrees of rapidity from 
650 to I per minute, I adjusted the regulator so as to fire 
just one shot per minute and left the gun by itself. While 
we were waiting a yoimg lieutenant came on the ground 
and asked if we were going to fire the gun, as he would like 
to see it. He was told that the gun was firing, but he didn't 
believe it ; however, in a few seconds the gun went off by 
itself. He then waited with his watch in his hand, and in 
just one minute the gun went off again. He threw the 
remains of his cigarette on to the ground, kissed his hand, 
and threw the kiss at the gun. 

Lord Wolseley, from the very first, took a great interest 
in the gun and suggested that I should take one to Pir- 
bright and fire it in his presence. I took one of the best 
guns that I had made up to that time, with a lot of empty 
belts, allowing his Lordship to furnish the cartridges. When 
I arrived on the ground with my gun I found that the 
target was of cast-iron, somewhat like an immense gong. 
It had a bull's-eye, painted after the conventional manner 
and the range was six hundred yards. 

The gun was mounted on a tripod, one member of which 
extended a long distance to the rearward and formed a 
support for the seat. I shook the gun about, stamped on 


the feet of the tripod and worked them down into soUd 
earth, and then took a few trial shots in order to adjust 
the sight. When ever3rthing was ready his Lordship came 
on the field. I put in a belt of 333 cartridges, pulled the 
trigger, and they went off in exactly half a minute. Then 
something altogether unexpected occurred, which for a time 
greatly puzzled everybody except myself. The big cast- 
iron target had been acting as a gong, and when I ceased 
firing the noise on the gong continued. We heard many 
bullets strike the gong after the last one had left the gun. 
I saw the point at once and explained it. When we stopped 
firing there was a considerable number of bullets in the air 
between the gun and the target, and a corresponding 
number of reports coming back from the target. His 
Lordship thought this very cmious and interesting. He 
examined my tripod mount, and putting his foot on the 
long member extending to the rearward, said : " That is 
the secret of the accuracy of fire." The gun did not budge 
while firing, and it made the best target ever made by a 
machine gun at Pirbright. 

I had considerable confidence in my gun, and when I 
received an invitation to fire at Enfield I was delighted. 
In the meantime the Government sent me an order for a gun. 
They specified that it should not weigh over one hundred 
pounds, should fire four hundred rounds in one minute, 
and six hundred rounds in two minutes. I had already hired 
a clever Scotch mechanician as foreman ; he was full of 
zeal and naturally wished to make a success of the trials. 
I took a gun to Enfield, with my Scotch mechanician as 
an assistant, and much to the surprise of all and to my 
own utter disgust, the gun jammed every time before twenty 
shots had gone off. Not only that, but the feeding gear 
broke. I took the gun back to my workshop and increased 

192 MY LIFE 

the strength of the feeding gear very much, tried it again 
at Enfield, and it again jammed every time before twenty 
rounds had been fired ; and this notwithstanding that it 
fired hundreds of rounds without the least hitch in London. 
On examining the gun several times after it had jammed, 
I found two cartridges wedged into the firing position at 
the same time ; I noticed also that the cases were much 
deformed. I was greatly puzzled. I again took the gun 
back to London, and as was my habit I studied the subject 
after I had gone to bed at night, but no solution came. The 
next morning I said to myself, " Certainly a thing like this 
is susceptible of solution ; I ought to find it out." It then 
occurred to me that there was only one way to get two 
cartridges into the feed box at the same time, which was by 
two separate means of forcing them in. The gun put in 
one cartridge ; some other agency must have put in the 
other. I put a short belt of cartridges into the gun and set 
it firing. I pulled on the empty belt with my hand, and, 
sure enough, the same thing happened — two cartridges were 
jammed together and both distorted ; my assistant in his 
overpowering zeal had pulled the belt while I was firing. I 
reduced my feeding gear back to its original dimensions, and 
took two guns back to Enfield. I placed one of the ordinary 
type on a tripod, put in a belt of cartridges and fired 666 
rounds in one minute of time, and as the gun only weighed 
sixty pounds it was accepted. 

In the meantime I had provided myself with a very long 
box, and a belt with three thousand pockets for cartridges. 
I had a very light gun, weighing forty pounds, and this I 
placed on a naval cone such as is used for machine guns on 
battleships, but the cone was partly filled with water, with 
compressed air on top of the water. On pulling the trigger 
a little valve was opened, when the water entered the water 


jacket and thereby ensured keeping the gun cool. I intro- 
duced the belt, and had a man whose duty it was to push 
the belt forward to the gun, so that it would not have to 
draw the belt too far. I pulled the trigger and the cartridges 
commenced to go off at the rate of about 670 a minute. 
Many of the bystanders had to retire before the belt was 
finished on account of the dreadful fatigue to the ears. Both 
gims were accepted and paid for by the Govenmient, and 
this was the commencement of my success as a gun-maker. 

Shortly after I had supplied the British Naval Department 
with a fully automatic three-pounder with cartridges 
21 inches long, and had fired it at Whale Island, Ports- 
mouth, and also at Shoebxiryness, I received a call from 
Lieutenant Marion, who I believe is an admiral at the 
present time. He told me that he did not know whether 
there was anything in the automatic system or not ; some 
people approved of it and others did not. " But," he said, 
" whether you have a good thing in the automatic gun or 
not, one thing is very certain. Your system of mounting 
the gun is altogether the best of anything in existence — 
have you got a patent on it ? " 

I found I had only patented the mounting in connection 
with an automatic gun. He said he knew that the mounting 
was so much better than any other that it would go into 
use everywhere : and he was quite right. Had I made 
myself familiar with the red book previously referred to I 
should have known that my mounting was new; but I 
naturally imagined that so simple a system could not 
possibly be new, so I made no special claim on it. However, 
later on I received the personal Grand Prix in Artillery at 
the Paris Exhibition. 

Not long after this I learned that there had been a trial 
of machine gtms in Switzerland, the competitors being 

194 MY LIFE 

the Catling, the Gardner, and the Nordenfeldt. The two- 
barrelled Gardner had beaten the field, and large orders 
were expected. I wrote to the authorities telling them 
what my gun had done and asking them if they would 
allow me to fire it in Switzerland in competition with the 
Gardner. On this occasion I was accompanied by Mr. 
Albert Vickers, who was deeply interested in the business. 
Our gun had been made to use a certain German-made 
cartridge that was not quite so large and powerful as the 
English, and when we came to test it against the Gardner 
we found that the Gardner gun was using cartridges of a 
new type with much smaller bore and longer range. I told 
Mr. Vickers that imless we were very sharp they would 
probably beat us at the twelve hxmdred metre range, which 
was a very long one for the kind of cartridge we were using. 
The next morning we were up early ; I managed to purchase 
some tallow and beeswax, mixed the two in the proper 
proportions, and after putting the cartridges mto the belt, 
dipped the projectiles in the hot wax. This would prevent 
the leading of the barrel and increase the range. We then 
took the gun on to the range to adjust the sights. The 
Swiss officers assisted us. We fired at various ranges and 
marked the sights correctly. Everything being ready, we 
took our places beside a big and heavy Gardner gun, which, 
with its moxmt, weighed fully four times as much as our 
gun and mount. The Gardner was fired first. A sandbag 
was placed imder each of the three legs of its tripod ; a 
common kitchen table was used on which the cartridges 
were placed, and then, with one man to sight the gun, 
another to tiun the crank, and two to place the cartridges 
in the hopper, they groimd away at the crank and succeeded 
in firing 333 rounds in a little over a minute, their gun having 
two barrels. 


We were then asked to fire at another target at the 
same range (two hundred metres). We did so, and our 333 
cartridges all went off m half a minute. On examining 
the targets it was found that the projectiles from the 
Gardner gun had scattered all over their target, while we 
had shot out a big hole in the centre of ours. 

The next range was five hundred metres, the Gardner 
having the first chance. On this occasion the man turned 
the handle a Uttle too fast, the cartridges failed to fall in 
quick enough, the gun jammed, and on removing the 
hopper a large number of cartridges fell out into the sand. 
We had to wait xmtil these were wiped and put back on to 
the kitchen table, when the firing was resiuned ; the whole 
occupying about three minutes. We then fired another 
belt of cartridges in the same time as before and made an 
excellent target. After this the Gardner was not fired 
at all. 

We were then asked to fire at one thousand metres ; we 
did so, and they expressed themselves as satisfied. The 
target was so far away that we could not examine it, but 
we received a telephone message sa3dng that it was highly 

Now came the crucial test of the day. The officer in 
conunand requested us to fire at a dummy battery of 
artillery at a distance of twelve hundred metres. The 
sights on the gun had only been marked up to one thousand 
metres. The sun was shining very brightly and the cold air 
was coming down from the snowclad Jungfrau at the same 
time. At first I was quite unable to see the battery of 
artillery. The officer informed me that it was the blue 
streak that I could see in the distance. When I sat down 
on the tripod and tried to sight the gun the refraction 
caused by the mixed currents of hot and cold air made it 

196 MY LIFE 

extremely difficult ; sometimes the target would be too 
high and again too low ; sometimes it would appear to 
rise up in the air and then drop down again ; then half of 
it would go up while the rest of it remained down. Mr. 
Vickers being a very good shot, I asked him to sit down 
behind the gun and see if he could sight it ; but the glimmer 
was too much for him. I therefore set the sight about where 
I thought it ought to be for twelve hundred metres, and 
marked it. I moved it a little higher and told Mr. Vickers 
that if we fired ofE the whole 333 rounds at once we might 
not hit the target at all ; they might fall short or they might 
pass over the top. The officers wished to see how many 
hits we could make in one minute of time. The gun- 
mounting was provided with two stops to limit the travel 
from right to left, so I adjusted these so that the gun just 
covered the length of the target, which might have been 
two or three himdred feet, and having put a belt of 333 
cartridges in position, I sighted the gun for what I thought 
would be a Uttle too high, and fired about one hundred 
rounds, sweeping the gun slowly round from left to right. 
I then changed the sight to the point that I had marked, 
and this time I fired rather more than one hundred shots, 
swinging the gun round as I fired ; again I changed the 
sights to what I thought would be a httle too low and fired 
the remainder, swinging the gun round as I fired. All 
was done in sUghtly less than one minute of time. After 
waiting about twenty minutes, the telephone rang and we 
were informed that we had technically kiUed three-quarters 
of the men and horses. I asked Mr. Vickers if he supposed 
they expected us to kiU the whole of them ; he said he 
didn't know, but shortly we were approached by the officer 
in charge, who informed us that we had done very well. 
He said enthusiastically : " No gun has ever been made in 


the world that could kill so many men and horses in so 
short a time," and they gave us an order. 

Several years later, when Lady Maxim and m3^self were 
travelling in Switzerland, we managed to find ourselves 
in a little pocket among the Alps, with high, snow-covered 
mountains all about us. A short distance away we saw a 
shop with a large number of postcards displayed in the 
window, and having finished our lunch, we proceeded to 
make purchases. We were much surprised to find that on 
nearly every one of them there was a picture of someone 
firing the Maxim gun. There was a wooden Maxim gun in 
the little village, and it was considered the thing for visitors 
to be photographed seated on the gun, with the mountains 
in the distance. If the mountains were covered with clouds, 
an excellent imitation painted on a large screen was used 
which did just as well, perhaps better. 

Before leaving London for the Swiss trials we had heard 
that there had been a trial of machine guns for the Italian 
Navy at Spezzia, and that the Nordenfeldt gun had been 
adjudged the best for the purpose, so we had requested the 
Italian authorities to allow us to compete with this gun. 
Mr. Vickers and myself accordingly took our gun from 
Switzerland with a sufficient number of cartridges and 
went to Spezzia. As the Nordenfeldt gim had already been 
thoroughly tested they knew exactly what it would do, so 
that we only had to beat the record made by that gun, 
which was a very simple matter. Our gun was lighter, 
fired much faster and with greater accuracy, and did not 
require so many men to work it. We were requested to 
throw the gun into the sea and allow it to remain there for 
three days ; we did so, and at the end of three days, without 
any cleaning, the gun did just as well as it did when it was 
dry. We then returned to London, leaving our gun at Spezzia. 

198 MY LIFE 

After some weeks, when they had received a fresh supply 
of cartridges, the old ones being bad at that time, H.R.H. 
the Duke of Genoa, Admiral of the Fleet, wished to see the 
new gun fired. As I was extremely busy at the time on 
other jobs, I was quite unable to go to Spezzia myself, but 
in the meantime we had obtained an agent in the person of 
Nicholas de Kabath, the Russian Consul at Spezzia, and 
he came to London to see me in order to become interested 
in the gun. We were old friends, as we had met in New 
York and also in Paris. De Kabath was most anxious to 
assist us. The day was fixed when the Duke of Genoa 
would be at Spezzia to see the gun, and he wished to have 
it fired from a battleship while both the battleship and the 
target were in motion. 

I detailed two men to go to Spezzia with De Kabath. 
One was an extremely good gunner, with a splendid record 
in the British Navy, while the other was one of my best 
mechanicians, a man who could make the gun from be- 
ginning to end — everj^hing except the barrel. I knew 
that these two men would do perfectly well, and it was 
quite possible that the experienced English gunner 
would be able to do better than myself on board a 

Before they left London, I told De Kabath something 
about English workmen. I informed him that when they 
were absent from the shop, it was to them an outing, and 
no outing was possible without a liberal supply of drink ; 
that the only way he could manage them would be to see 
to it that they did not have any money in their possession 
on leaving England ; that he should take complete charge 
of them, paying all of their bills himself, and should be 
sure not to allow them to have any money until the trials 
were over ; also that he should take them to the same 


hotel where he was to stop himself, in order to have them 
constantly under his eye. 

Everything went well until they arrived in Spezzia, 
when the men had many excuses why they should have a 
bit of money ; but he remembered my words and was 
obdurate. Finally, the night before the trial, at eleven 
o'clock, they rapped at his door, saying their washing had 
come home and they wanted to pay for it. He gave them 
ten francs each, and the next morning they did not put in 
an appearance on the ship. On searching for them, he 
found both of them helplessly drunk. Finally, the firing 
had to be postponed and the Duke had to remain over 
another day, when everything went off very well, and we 
received a large order from the Italian Government. 

Shortly after, we learned that they were having a trial 
of machine guns at Vienna, and that the Nordenfeldt gun 
so far had beaten the field. I wrote a very strong letter to 
the authorities, giving them the weight of my gun, and 
impressing upon them that it required no one to work a 
lever or turn a crank. I pointed out that considerable 
force was needed to work the lever on the Nordenfeldt gun ; 
that in the field, on soft ground or grass, the gun had a 
strong tendency to participate in the movement of the 
lever or handle, and therefore accuracy of fire was im- 
possible. I asked to be allowed to take a gun to Austria 
and fire it. A few days later I received permission to do so, 
and at once took a gun to the armoury in Vienna, and fired a 
few hundred rounds. All the officers expressed their amaze- 
ment that a little gun should fire so fast and that the crank 
handle should work without anyone touching it ; so it 
was arranged that a few days later we should take it to the 
Steinfeld and fire it at long range. 

Among the ofiicials who came out from Vienna was 

200 MY LIFE 

H.R.H. the Archduke William, who was a field-marshal in 
the Austrian Service. He greeted me warmly and looked 
with great curiosity at the gun. I showed him the mechanism 
and explained it to him. I was then asked to fire at various 

The day was very hot, so also was the sand under our 
feet. When I had fired at a target at about six hundred 
metres I ran down to the target myself to see what hits 
I had made and then ran back, very much to the astonish- 
ment of everybody. I was used to hot weather in America, 
and it seemed to have no effect upon me in Austria. A 
blonde German who was with me on that day shed the 
skin a few days later on his neck, face, and hands. 

We kept on firing all the afternoon at various ranges 
and at various angles, and when I had made an excep- 
tionally good target at one thousand metres His Royal 
Highness approached and congratulated me. I asked if it 
had fired fast enough to suit him. 

His answer was : " Ah, indeed, only too fast : it is the 
most dreadful instrument that I have ever seen or imagined. 
And now," said His Royal Highness, " I wish to tell you a 
little of my experience. Yesterday afternoon the agent of 
the other gun called at my office. He told me that the 
weather was very hot and advised me very strongly not to 
go thirty miles into the country and expose myself on the 
hot Steinf eld for nothing. He said : ' the Maxim gun never 
works and you will be greatly disappointed.' Now I come 
out here and see it fired without the least hitch, throwing 
every other gun completely into the shade — so you see 
how much we can believe of what we hear." 

All the officers were well pleased with the gun, but they 
wanted one using their own cartridges, which I agreed to 
make. Unfortunately, however, it was against the regula- 


tions to allow one of their Service cartridges to go out of the 
country ; but they gave me an empty case that never had 
been fired, and a correct drawing with all the dimensions 
given. On my return to England I ordered a lot of cartridges 
according to the specification, but it appeared that the 
people in Birmingham did not exactly understand French 
weights and measures : the shape and size were all right, 
but the powder charge was considerably Ughter than in the 
Service cartridge. 

I made the gun and fired it. All the springs had to be 
very light in order to work with so weak a cartridge, but 
still I made it go. 

I had been working very hard and was very tired. I 
crossed the Channel at night in very rough weather, and 
finally arrived in Vienna. When I took the gim to the 
Arsenal and tried it with real Austrian cartridges I was sur- 
prised at the rapidity with which it worked. I saw that 
their cartridges were much more vigorous than those made 
for me in Birmingham, so I adjusted the springs to fit them, 
but when I had fired a few hundred rounds, the gun worked 
very irregularly and finally stopped. On examining it 
I found that one of the side plates that carry the mechanism 
had apparently been elongated by the force of the explosion, 
the right-hand side plate being considerably longer than the 
left. I took the gun apart and found, very much to my 
surprise and disgust, that the greater part of the dovetail 
that secured the side plate to the barrel had been milled off 
and a loose piece riveted on, the whole being blackened 
over to deceive me. Had the English cartridges been made 
to specification this would have been discovered in England, 
but there was nothing for it. I had to take my gim back 
to England with me as baggage and make a new side plate. 

I was angry and tired when I arrived in London. As this 

202 MY LIFE 

vexatious trick was the fault of my English foremain, it 
occurred to me that it would be a splendid thing if I could 
get an experienced New England mechanic to take charge 
in my absence.^ 

On my taking the gun into the shop the foreman ad- 
mitted that he had riveted this piece on, hoping that it 
would be strong enough, and he regretted exceedingly the 
trouble he had put me to. He said the weather was so warm 
and drowsy that the man at the milling machine, after 
setting the machine going, had gone to sleep in his chair. 
When he woke up, the milling cutter had passed through 
the dovetail, and he had riveted a piece on. This little ten- 
minute nap of my sleepy workman was the cause of one 
of the greatest misfortunes of my life ; in fact, it was the 
greatest trouble I ever had, as it brought into my life an 
individual who caused me an immense amount of vexation 
and trouble, and the loss of many thousands of pounds in 
money. However, the man that I ultimately employed 
was all right ; the trouble was caused by the man who 
accompanied him to England. 

From America I obtained an extremely clever man from 
the well-known Winchester Rifle Works. He was a master 
of everything relating to gun-making, but he would not 
remain in England. 

When I supplied the new side plate to the Austrian gun 
and fired it with increased charges of powder, it worked 
splendidly and at a terrific rate. Again I crossed that 
dreadful Channel and went to Vienna. The gun was again 
tried at the Arsenal, and the agent of the other gun was 
on hand like a sore finger ; — not on the grounds, however, 
but looking through the gate with a lot of newspaper 
reporters. When we came to try the gun with the real 

* On this occasion 1 jumped out of the lr>'ing-pan into the fire. 


Austrian cartridge, everyone was amazed at the pace, and 
it was on this occasion that I cut out the letters F. J. on a 
new target at short range. Many high officials came to see 
the gun, including the Emperor himself, and everyone was 

When the trials were over the agent of the other gun 
sought an interview with the leading officers. He spoke all 
languages and was a very plausible talker. One of the 
officers reported the conversation to me in English in about 
these words : 

" Do you know who Maxim is ? I will tell you. He is 
a Yankee, and probably the cleverest mechanician on 
earth to-day. By trade he is a philosophical instrument- 
maker. He is the only man in the world that can make 
one of these guns and make it work ; everything has to be 
of the utmost accuracy — one-hundredth part of a milli- 
metre here or there and it will not work — all the springs 
have to be of an exact tension. Suppose now, that you want 
a quantity of these guns, where are you going to get them, 
as there is only one man in the world that can make them ? 
Maxim goes into the shop and actually makes these guns 
with his own hands, and, of course, the supply is limited. 
Then again, if even you could get them, do you expect 
that you could get an army of Boston philosophical 
instrument-makers to work them ? " 

At the time that these last tests were taking place, 
the newspaper men looking through the gate asked this 
agent what gun was being tested, and he said : " The Norden- 
feldt ; it has beaten all others," and this was printed in 
the Vienna papers, quoted in bthers, and circulated all over 
the world. 

On the next occasion of my going to Vienna I purchased 
a comic paper in the street The illustration on the front 

rt'^ I 

204 MY LIFE 

page was a representation of myself firing a gun that was 
made in the shape of a coffin, marking out F. J. on the 
target with Death standing at my back and holding a 
crown over my head. 

Ultimately I got an order for one hundred and sixty guns 
for Austria, but I had to work for it, as will be seen from the 

When the officers at Vienna were satisfied with the 
working of the gun and had given me a large order, I was 
asked to meet some of the highest officials, who would tell 
me what they would like to have me do. They wanted a 
field gun of a certain size and weight of projectile with a 
very long range ; and they wanted the gun so mounted 
on a carriage that the carriage itself would not run back 
on firing and have to be brought up again into position 
before firing the next round. In a word, they wanted a gun 
that a man could sit down on and fire any number of 
rounds without the carriage running back, the same as 
could be done with a small Maxim gun. After thinking the 
matter over for a few moments I saw that it could be done. 
I knew enough of dynamics and mathematics to know that 
if a gun were allowed to recoil on the carriage, instead of 
the carriage recoiling on the ground, the energy of recoil 
could be absorbed by an hydraulic buffer instead of tearing 
up the earth ; therefore, that the gun they desired could 
be produced. The trail would be provided with a spade- 
like projection that could be driven into the ground at the 
first discharge ; and after that the sighting or adjustments 
could be done by screws or apparatus interposed between 
the carriage and the gun. 

I at once went back to my hotel and sketched out the 
gun freehand on a piece of paper, and sent it to our office 
in London, asking that a clever draughtsman should be 


put on the job to make a drawing of the gun and its 
mounting without delay. 

When I returned nothing had been done, and my plan 

met with nothing but ridicule from Captain , the 

Company's military adviser. This wise officer told my 
fellow directors that no Government would accept a gun 
that weighed an ounce more than existing guns ; that my 
hydraulic buffer, springs, and carriage would weigh more 
than existing simple types ; that the gun would require at 
least two more horses to draw it ; that guns were not as a 
rule made for actual warfare, but for show, and that the 
gun I had designed was extremely ugly as compared with 
the graceful form of existing guns. Nothing was done for 
years, when finally practically every civilized nation com- 
menced to use a gun on the exact lines that I had laid down. 
They all had the spade, the long recoil on the carriage, the 
long hydraulic buffer to absorb the recoil, the powerful 
spiral spring to return the gun to the firing position, and 

the same seat for the gunner ; but Captain 's advice 

had prevented us from taking a patent, so that what might 
have been very profitable to our Company, was lost. 

The success of the Maxim gun at Vienna was followed 
by a request from the Austrian Naval Department that we 
should submit a gun for trial at Fiimie, on the Hungarian 
side of the Adriatic, and we made another gun with a 
mounting especially adapted for naval use. 

To the ordinary workman, English and American, oil is 
oil ; he does not recognize that there is more than one kind 
of oil in the world. He knows, however, that there are 
many kinds of alcohoUc drinks, and some of them even 
know that there are many kinds of religion, but at oil they 
draw the line ; they can recognize the existence of but one 
kind. I had been much annoyed by having lubricating oil 

206 MY LIFE 

mixed with paint, and linseed oil used on the machinery. 
The very best oil in the world for guns, clocks, and watches 
is what is known as " Porpoise Oil." It is expensive, never 
gets gummy, has a natural affinity for metals, and spreads 
over their surface. As it only requires a small quantity of 
this oil to prevent steel from rusting I purchased " Por- 
poise Oil " to use on our guns, and I had pasted up in several 
places about the works a short and concise treatise on oils. 

When the gim was ready for Fiume, it was carefully and 
thoroughly oiled, boxed^ and sent on, and as soon as it 
arrived, they telegraphed to us at Cra3^ord, and I started 
on my journey. I went to Paris in the day, took the night 
train for Vienna, arrived there twenty-five hours later, 
went to the Grand Hotel for a night's rest, and the next 
morning took the train for Fiume. At about ten o'clock 
at night the train stopped somewhere in the Austrian Alps, 
and I was told that it went no further that night. I in- 
quired of the man at the station at what time the train would 
go on in the morning ; and as he didn't understand what 
I was saying, I repeated the inquiry in French. This time 
he understood, and straightening himself up and preparing 
for a great effort he managed to give me the desired informa- 
tion in the following words : " A quartro heures et quarante 
chinq minuten du matin." I write it as he pronounced 
it. He had managed to use three different languages ; it 
seems a pity that he could not have mixed in at least one 
English word. 

On arriving in Fiume early in the morning I at once 
went to the Arsenal and had the gun taken out of the box 
The hour for firing had already been fixed at two o'clock 
in the afternoon. Imagine my disgust when I found that the 
gun had been liberally oiled with boiled linseed oil, of the 
quick-drying variety ; that is, it had been literally varnished 


and the varnish had dried on. It was necessary for me to 
dismantle the gun completely, separate the pieces, and 
scrape each one with my pocket knife. However, by 
keeping at the job I succeeded in cleaning it up, assembling 
the parts, reoiling, and then, after a rapid limch, I was 
ready for the trials. 

After a short trial to observe the rapidity of fire, I was 
asked to fire at a target about six hundred metres distant. 
I did so, and then the gun was turned over to their best 
shot at the same range. He did very well, but I had beaten 
him, and the job was finished. 

The second time that I had to go to Fiume I thought 
I could shorten the journey by going by way of Italy. 
Leaving Paris early in the morning, I arrived at Turin about 
nine o'clock at night. As very few people travel first-class 
in Italy, I had a compartment all to myself ; and as there 
were no sleeping cars on the line I gave the attendant ten 
francs to keep other passengers out of my compartment so 
that I could lie down and have a rest. Ever3rthing went all 
right until we arrived at Milan, when the attendant left, 
and another took his place. Three passengers entered, two 
of them English and one a German who spoke English. 
The Englishmen had two dogs and a lot of baggage, firearms, 
etc., and when they had put the dogs and some of the 
luggage in the retiring room, and filled the racks and seats, 
the compartment was pretty well occupied. It was summer, 
but the cold air is always coming down from the snowclad 
mountains at night, so that it was very chilly, and no sooner 
had the train started than the whole batch of my fellow- 
passengers commenced to smoke. I called their attention 
to the fact that it was not a smoking compartment, and they 
had no right to smoke, but they refused to stop. I then 
pointed out that there was a fine for smoking in any carriage 

208 MY LIFE 

except those set apart for the purpose, but they said it was 
the habit in Italy to smoke anywhere. I was sitting by 
the window on the side next to the mountains and let it 
down ; and as the air was, of course, very cold, they de- 
manded that the window should be closed, which I refused 
to do. Then one of them got up and closed it himself, but 
no sooner had he taken his seat than I opened it again. 
He looked at the other one and winked, walked up to the 
window and deUberately closed it. My idea was to smash 
the glass so that they could not close the window, and with 
that object in view I took up a soda-water bottle by the 
neck, got up and said, " Gentlemen, I am an American. 
God has made me on a plan that renders me eminently well 
qualified to take my own part. I cannot be imposed upon, 
and I wish you distinctly to understand this." 

I saw at once that they were afraid of me, so I opened 
the window, whereupon they stopped smoking, and when 
the smoke had cleared away I closed it. 

By their conversation I learned that these two English- 
men were travelling for their health. I weighed nearly as 
much as both of them. They were going through to Rome, 
but on parting from them near Venice I said : " Gentlemen, 
you are travelling for your health, but if you would employ 
me to travel with you with my little soda-water bottle I 
could do more to restore your health than all the doctors 
in the world." 

Of course, the Germans had become interested in my 
gun, and having obtained the services of a f&ie German 
ofl&cer who had been wounded by falling from his horse 
we gave him charge of the job. He brought us some of the 
real German cartridges, which were then known as Mauser 
cartridges. As they were short and vigorous we had not 
the least trouble in making a gun that would fire them with 


amazing rapidity. But when the officer in charge of our 
work took the gun to Germany to be fired, he had only fired 
a few rounds when the gun ceased to work. With a great 
deal of trouble and considerable injury to the brasswork, 
he managed to get the barrel out of the water jacket, when 
he found it was bulged and looked something like a snake 
that had swallowed a toad. He brought the barrel back to 
England and we made one of very strong steel, much harder 
than is generally used and rather difficult to make. He took 
this back and before one hundred rounds had been fired the 
gun stopped again, the barrel was bulged ; and a third barrel 
did the same thing. 

About this time, we amalgamated with the Nordenfeldt 
Company, and I consulted Nordenfeldt on the subject. I 
told him that I was of the opinion that the cartridges were 
improperly loaded. It appeared to me that there was only 
one way that this could happen, which was by a cartridge 
having had only a few grains of powder in it, just sufficient 
to force the projectile up the barrel about sixteen inches, 
and then when the next fully loaded cartridge was fired, 
the two projectiles in striking each other produced a pres- 
sure which stretched the barrel. But Nordenfeldt said 
that Germany, of all the countries in the world, was the 
most particular about her ammunition, and it could not 
possibly have happened in that way. I made another 
barrel, exactly like the others, and questioned our agent 
about the kind of cartridge used. From him I learned that 
the cartridges for machine-gim trials were those that had 
been fired and reloaded by hand by the soldiers them- 
selves, and that the resizing, scouring, cleaning the cases 
and loading was a kind of punishment for the soldiers 
for minor offences. The mystery was solved, and there 
was no further trouble in Germany. 

210 MY LIFE 

Although we had got a gun to work perfectly m Germany, 
matters hung on for a long time, thousands of rounds being 
fired, but no orders received ; " large bodies move slow." 
When things were in this state, H.R.H. Albert Edward, 
Prince of Wales, visited the Kaiser, and when the conversa- 
tion turned on arms the Prince asked the Kaiser if he had 
seen the Maxim gun. He said he had not, but that he had 
heard a lot about it. The Prince told him that it was really 
a wonderful gun, and that it loaded and fired itself over six 
hundred times a minute out of a single barrel. As the gun 
was at Spandau, only a short distatnce from Berlin, the 
Prince suggested that they should go out and see it. A day 
or two later, when everjrthing was ready, the Kaiser and 
the Prince visited Spandau, where elaborate preparations 
had been made to show all forms of machine guns. Three 
hundred and thirty-three roimds were to be fired from each 
gun at a large target at a range of two hundred metres. The 
old Gatling gun was worked by four men, and got through 
with the cartridges in a little less than a minute. The same 
number of men fired the same number of rounds in the 
Gardner gun in a little over a minute. The Nordenfeldt was 
also fired and did just about the same. Then one man 
advanced, took his seat on the trail of the Maxim gun, 
touched a button and 333 cartridges went off in less than 
half a minute. They examined the targets and found that 
the hand-worked guns had made bad targets because the 
guns themselves had participated in the action of the lever 
or the crank. All the projectiles from the Maxim gun were in 
the bull's-eye and the whole centre of it had been shot away. 

The Emperor walked back, examined the gun, and, 
placing his finger on it, said : " That is the gun — there is no 
other " ; since which time vast numbers of Maxim guns have 
been acquired by the German Military and Naval Services. 


• . ■ 


LATER on, when I was called upon to show a gun 
in St. Petersburg, I made one using well-made Eng 
-'lish cartridges, on which I could rely, and on the 
day of firing a large nimiber of officers in imiform assembled. 
It appeared to me that they were impatient, and looked with 
contempt upon the little gun. One young officer went up 
to it, took hold of the crank, turned it backward and forward, 
and, speaking in French, said : "It is absolutely ridiculous 
for anyone to pretend that this gun can be fired six himdred 
rounds in a minute. No man Uving can turn this crank- 
handle backward and forward more than two hundred 
times in a minute," and he made an offer to bet any amoimt 
that the gun could not be fired even two hundred times in a 

But it was not long before a belt of cartridges was in 
the gun, I sat down on the seat, sighted the gim on the 
bull's-eye, pulled the trigger, and 333 cartridges went off 
in exactly half a minute. The handle that the officer was 
talking about worked so fast by itself that it was impossible 
to see it plainly. I think that nearly everyone was 
astonished. They didn't seem to have the least conception 
of what an automatic gun was. A gxm was said to be 
automatic when one turned the handle, and in many of the 
newspapers it was described as " a gun that would load and 
fire itself simply by turning a crank-handle." When these 

Russians saw the handle working all by itself and that the 


212 MY LIFE 

centre of the bull's-eye had been shot away, they became 

But things move slowly in Russia ; I had not been in 
St. Petersburg more than two weeks when I was infonned 
that I could not be pennitted to stay any longer imless I 
went to poUce head-quarters to give some account of ms^self . 
My old friend, Mr. de Kabath, went with me. The official 
spoke English perfectly well, and commenced by asking 
me how old I was, and where I was bom. I told him I was 
bom in Sangerville, Piscataquis Coimty, State of Maine, 
the most easterly of all the States of America. The conversa- 
tion that ensued was about as follows : 

" Are you a Jew ? *' 

" No." 

" What religion have you ? " 

" None whatever — ^never had any." 

" That's what all the Jews say, and foreign Jews are not 
allowed to remain in Russia. What was your father's full 
name ? " 

" Isaac Maxim." 

" Ah ! Isaac is a Jew name, and so is Hiram. What was 
your grandfather's name ? " 

" Samuel Maxim." 

" That is another Jew name." 

" Not at all. It would perhaps be Jew if it were Maxim 
Samuel. My ancestors were Puritans, and nearly all of 
them had Bible names." 

" What was the full name of your maternal grand- 

" Levi Stevens." 

" There you are again, another Jew name." 

" But my grandfather Stevens was not a Jew ; he was 
a Puritan, which is an extremely hard-shelled variety of 




Christianity ; in fact, he had so much reUgion to the square 
inch that the neighbours called him ' Old Brimstone 
Stevens.' " 

" But that is trifling with the subject ; they are all Jew 

I then turned to my friend and said : " One of your names 
ii John, is it not ? " 

He repUed that it was, whereupon I asked him if John 
were not a Bible name and a Jew name. He admitted that 
it was, but nevertheless he was not a Jew. 

The official then continued his cross-examination. 

" If you are not a Jew, what reUgion have you ? " 

I rephed that, Uke Edison, I never had any use for one. 

He said, however, that no one was allowed to remain in 
Russia imless they had a reUgion. 

I repUed that in that case I should certainly have to find 
one, and asked him what particular brand he would recom- 
mend. De Kabath suggested that I was a Protestant, and 
I asked him if a Protestant were not someone who pro- 
tested against something ; he admitted that such was the 

I then said to the official, " Put me down as a Protestant, 
I am a Protestant among Protestants ; I protest against the 
whole thing." 

That was the way I became a Protestant. 

Since that time the Russians have purchased vast numbers 
of Maxim guns, and it has been asserted by those who ought 
to know that more than half of the Japtoese killed in the 
late war were killed with the little Maxim gun. 

While in St. Petersburg I was informed that I was to be 
presented to the Emperor, and I naturally supposed that 
His Imperial Majesty wished to see the gun more than the 
inventor ; nevertheless, the Russian ofiicials would not 

214 MY LIFE 

allow me to take the gun to the Palace. I then found that 
it was usual for all foreigners to be presented to the Emperor 
by the Minister of their country, and I accordingly applied 
to the American Minister. He informed me that the rules 
and regulations that he had received from Washington 
made it impossible for him to do so. He could only present 
high officials of the United States Government, and not 
private individuals.^ As I had been entertained several 
times by the British Ambassador, I appUed to him, and 
although he did not present me, he took the necessary 
steps so that I could present myself, and the American 
Minister wrote a letter certifying that I was a highly respect- 
able American citizen. 

When the great day arrived I put on evening-dress in 
the morning with the red ribbon of France as a decoration, 
and took the train for Gatchina, where I found a royal 
carriage and servants in Uvery waiting for me. 

After we had been ushered in, the Archduke Michael, the 
uncle of the Emperor, looked me over, found me presentable, 
and soon presented me to the Emperor. 

I conversed with the Tzar for about three-quarters of an 
hour, but he was greatly disappointed because I had not 
brought the gun. I told him I had tried to do so but that 
the officials would not allow it. I had, however, brought a 
large and elaborately bound album containing many photo- 
graphs of Maxim gxms, which I presented to His Majesty. 

Limch was served, at which I had my choice of many 
kinds of raw fish, after which the State carriage took me 
back to the station. After I had left Russia the Emperor 

^ The Russian officers could not understand why the American Minister 
should refuse to present me, especially as the Czar had expressed a wish 
to see me. They said : " C'est une (^ose extraordinaire, n'est-ce pas ? " 
They asked why it was that we had a Minister in St. Petersburg if he 
were forbidden to perform the duties of a Minister. 


came to St. Petersburg and the gun was fired for him by 
the Russian ofi&cers in the Riding School. 

While in St. Petersburg, waiting to bring matters to a 
focus, I made a night trip to Moscow, and arrived there 
on the anniversary of the Resurrection. I had a Russian 
gentleman with me, and on seeing some of the natives kiss 
their horses and go over some ceremony to them, I naturally 
inquired what it was. I foimd that the driver in address- 
ing the horse said : " Christ has risen," and the horse repUed, 
" Indeed he has." 

Moscow is the Holy City of Holy Russia, the Holy of 
HoUes ; while I was there reUgion was simply booming. 
When we drove out in a carriage I was told that I must take 
off my hat while passing imder several arches, otherwise 
the natives might kill me with a club, and having no desire 
to be killed, I naturally uncovered. 

I was surprised to find how many young clerics managed 
to fix themselves up to look exactly like the Christ of 
Leonardo da Vinci. It was rather startling to a man who 
had been brought up in a Puritan country. 

At that time there were a good many horse-drawn 
tramcars, full inside and out, and every passenger had to 
make the sign of the cross several times in passing certain 
holy shrines and the numerous arrangements which are 
called in French " Bon Dieu." Of course, the faster the 
tramcar was moving, the more rapid were the movements 
of the passengers, and this reminded me very much of- 
Christmas presents that I have seen in England, in which 
little figures are moved by the rotating wheel of a toy 

I went to see the largest bell in the world, which was 
useless on account of a big crack in it, also a bronze gun 
some hundreds of years old with a bore of thirty-six inches 

216 MY LIFE 

and the spherical stones that it was supposed to throw. 
The powder chamber was very much smaller than the bore 
of the gun, extending for a considerable distance to the rear. 

It is not generally understood that the Greek Catholics, 
imlike the Latin Catholics, are not supposed to have any 
images of their divinities or saints ; there are, however, 
innumerable paintings of the Virgin Mary arranged behind 
silver and gold foil which are known as icons. In Moscow 
there is one image of the Virgin Mary, the only one in Russia, 
but this was not made by man, it was handed down from 
heaven itself, and is, of course, the holiest thing in the 
holiest city of the hoUest country of the world. 

I was much amused in St. Petersburg. Having occasion 
to cross the Neva in a sleigh, I noticed a man working one 
of these icons at long range on the other side of the river. 
I was gone two hours, and on my return he was still there 
and still going through the performance. 

Nearly opposite the Hotel de I'Europe, where I stayed 
in St. Petersbm-g, there was a very large " Bon Dieu " or icon, 
said to be the largest in Europe. The interior was quite 
as large as a small bedroom and all lined up with gold. 
The paintings of the Virgin Mary and divinities were Ufe- 
size, and there were many diamonds and precious stones 
set in the gold filigree. I was told that it was very difficult 
to prevent the ultra-devout from removing some of the stones 
with their teeth while kissing the feet or robes of the Virgin. 

In St. Petersburg the houses are mostly very large, 
containing many flats, and there is generally a man at the 
front entrance all night. He would be called a concierge 
in France and a janitor in America. On one occasion 
two of these doorkeepers were discussing their family 
affairs, and one told the other that his old mother had saved 
,two hundred roubles, which is about £21. Between them 


they made up a plan to kill the old woman, and take her 
money, but before doing so they went to this big " Bon Dieu,*' 
bought two candles each about the size of a lead pencil, 
lighted them, placed them before the Virgin, and prayed 
for the success of their enterprise. They crossed themselves 
many times before the painting of the Virgin, then went 
home, murdered the old woman, and took her money. 

I do not know that it has ever occurred to anyone that 
there is any relation between prajdng machines and pigs. 
At St. Petersburg the praying machines are of enormous 
size and very expensive, with candles and lamps always 
burning ; there is one in every railway station. The pigs 
in that part of Russia have nearly all their weight on their 
forward legs, the head and long snout being nearly as heavy 
as the body. The praying machine in the St. Petersburg 
railway station is quite an imposing affair, but I noticed 
as we were travelling westward that the praying machines 
became smaller and smaller, and the noses of the pigs 
shorter and shorter, until we reached the German frontier, 
when the last praying machine was only about one foot 
square, with the lamp not burning, while the pigs had short 
noses very much like those foimd in England. 

Part of the time that I was living in St. Petersburg I 
stopped at the house of our agent, Mr. de Kabath. There 
was a large praying machine in the entrance hall and a small 
one in every bedroom, but as the oil lamp in my machine 
gave off smoke and smell I used to extinguish it at night 
and take my chances. It was probably a very risky thing 
for me to do ; nevertheless, my sleep was not disturbed by 
any ghostly influence. 

On one of my last visits to St. Petersburg I took Lady 
Maxim with me, and it was very fortunate that I did, 
because I had a very severe attack of the grippe, which I 

218 MY LIFE 

think is called influenza in England. We had a very 
expensive suite of rooms in the Hotel de I'Europe. One 
evening, while sitting at my desk, a Russian official called. 
He sat down on my left side, that is, my deaf side, and as he 
was speaking in French, a language that requires very 
careful attention, I put my hand up to my right ear and 
turned suddenly about so as to catch his words. The quick 
movement of my body caused the elaborately carved black 
walnut chair that I was in to collapse into what looked like 
a pile of kindling wood. When the officer had left, my wife 
said, " Now, Hiram, you will have at least a hundred dollars 
to pay for that chair." I rang the bell, and when the servant 
appeared I went for him like a hurricane. I picked up the 
pieces and showed him that the chair had been broken 
before and glued together. I scolded him severely for having 
endangered my life by giving me such a chair. He apologised 
and explained that the rooms had previously been occupied 
by an Enghsh lord who was very drunk every night, and he 
had practically broken up all the furniture in the room. 

We had arrived at St. Petersburg in the night, and when 
Lady Maxim looked out of the window the next morning 
she said, " This is the first time I have been in a place 
where I could not read the signs." She thought perhaps 
she might have better luck if she stood on her head, as 
everything seemed upside-down. 

The man that waited on us at the table was a Tartar, 
and as both he and Lady Maxim spoke French fluently, we 
learned a lot about hotel life in St. Petersburg. She asked 
him why it was that all the waiters were Tartars and 
Mohammedans. He explained that it was because a 
Russian Christian could not be trusted where there was 
either money or wine ; they would steal the money and get 
drimk on the wine. He said they did not like Mohammedans 


but were obliged to employ them. Straightening himself 
up and putting his hand on his breast, he said, " We are 
honest men ; we do not lie, we do not steal, and we never 
taste wine." There were a good many very eminent people 
at the hotel. When asked if he did not make a lot of money 
he said, " Yes " ; although the pay was small the tips were 
large, but he was always " just so poor." He said his 
family were very expensive ; he had twenty-one children, 
whereupon Lady Maxim remarked that their poor mother 
must have a lively time of it. He said, however, that he 
had four wives, which was all that the Mohanunedan law 

Tipping servants in hotels is universal throughout Europe. 
On leaving the hotel our agent suggested that the servants 
should be tipped to the extent of one thousand francs. 
This was vastly more than I had ever paid before, and I 
objected. I, however, gave them five hundred francs, which 
in Paris or London would have been excessive. 

When Li Hung Chang stepped ashore at Dover, almost 
his first words were, " I should hke to see Hiram Maxim " ; 
and shortly after this I called on him at the Embassy, 
having the secretary Loh Fimg Lu to interpret for us. I 
met His Excellency several times in London, and it was 
finally arranged that he should go to Eynsford and see the 
guns fired. On the day fixed we provided a special train 
which took not only Li Hung Chang and his staff, but also 
a large number of prominent Londoners. Three Maxim 
guns of rifle calibre were placed in position, each provided 
with 333 cartridges. These were first fired singly, keeping up 
a continuous stream of fire imtil the whole thousand had gone 
off ; then each was provided with another box of cartridges 
and all fired simultaneously, making a tremendous clatter. 

220 MY LIFE 

The Pom-pom was then brought into position and His 
Excellency asked how many shots it would fire in a minute ; 
on being told that it fired at the rate of fotu* hundred rounds 
per minute, he at once repUed that he didn't believe it. 
However, the gun was loaded, the projectiles being explosive 
shells that went off on striking the target. When we had 
ceased firing he observed that the projectiles continued to 
strike the target, and when this had stopped, he still heard 
the reports. He at once came to the conclusion that there 
was some trick about it ; he thought we had some sort of a 
machine for producing the flashes and the reports and that 
the machine had continued to work after we had ceased 
firing. I then explained, as I had previously done for Lord 
Wolseley,that as the target wasathousand yards distant, there 
was a considerable number of projectiles in the air on their 
way to the target when the gim ceased to fire, and that when 
the last projectile had struck the target and had exploded 
there was a considerable number of reports in the air coming 
back from the target. He was satisfied, and as he had timed 
the gun with his own watch, he said it fired rather faster 
than four hundred per minute. He wished to see one of the 
cartridges, and when one of these were placed in his hand, he 
asked how much they cost apiece ; on being told that the 
price was six shillings and sixpence he said, " This gun fires 
altogether too fast for China " (£130 per minute). 

The King of Denmark wished to see the Pom-pom fired, 
and when he had inquired the cost of cartridges, he said, 
" That gun would bankrupt my little kingdom in about two 

When my gun was first described in the Press I received 
some inquiries from the Shah of Persia and sent him a full 
description, which I think was written in French. Some 
years later, when the new Shah came to England, he was 



the guest of the Queen at Buckingham Palace. He was very 
anxious to see the Maxim gun fired, and arrangements were 
made to fire it in the Palace grounds. When everything 
was ready one of the Palace servants in a most extraordinary 
imiform came to me and said : 

" Mr. Maxim, do you wish for an interpreter ? " 

I said that I vras constitutionally opposed to interpreters, 
and asked if His Majesty did not speak French. 

The high and mighty one repUed, " Yes, His Majesty 
speaks French, but very bad French." 

I told him that that would be quite all right, because 
" very bad French " was the kind that I spoke. 

However, we got on all right, but the Shah could not 
exactly understand the name Maxim-Nordenfeldt, and when 
I explained he said : " Oui, maintenant je comprends — c'est 
maximiun et minimimi, n'est-ce pas ? " 

The Grand Vizier was as much interested as His Majesty, 
and would persist in leaning over the muzzle of the gun 
while the Shah was working the mechanism to see how the 
cartridges were loaded into the barrel. However, by 
constant vigilance I succeeded in preventing any accidents, 
and when the Shah had fired a few hundred rounds he was 

In the meantime the Prince of Wales had sent word 
that the Shah would certainly ask me to make him a present 
of the gun, and this is exactly what happened ; but I was 
ready for him, and explained that the gun was not my 
property but belonged to the company, and that I had no 
right to give it away. 


WHEN the time arrived for me to take a gun to 
Constantinople there was a cholera epidemic in 
that city, and all railway commimication had 
been stopped. It was therefore necessary for me to go via 
Marseilles in a very old and dilapidated slow steamer. This 
time I was accompanied by an EngUsh Admiral of the Fleet, 
retired, M. Zedzed, a clever and entertaining Russian 
gentleman, and an expert French mechanician who never 
got drunk. The ship was a very long one, with only a few 
cabins up in the stem ; we had sheep and cattle on board, 
a butcher's shop, a carpenter's shop, a paint shop, and a 
rather large machine and blacksmith's shop. The ship was 
also provided with a cat, and a monkey, who stood in great 
fear of the cat, which never lost an opportunity of punishing 
him severely. The monkey used to occupy a seat at table 
with the crew, and was always expecting that some trick 
would be played upon him. He never would touch anything 
until he had ascertained its temperature. It was really too 
bad that so many tricks were played upon this poor cousin 
of ours. My Frenchman at first made a great pet of the 
monkey, and for a time they were fast friends, but when the 
Frenchman got into the habit of buttoning the ship's cat 
inside of his coat and suddenly letting it out, the monkey 
gave him a wide berth. 

I was rather surprised when we landed on some of the 
Greek islands to find the men going about in petticoats with 



white starched skirts standing straight out like those of 
ballet girls. No sooner were we in port than the old woman 
who was a kind of a ship's housemaid would have half a 
dozen lines overboard for the purpose of hauhiig in fish. 
She generally caught enough in an hour to last the ship for 
about two days. On one occasion I landed, and as the ship 
would remain in port about three or four hours, taking on 
peas and the very small grapes which masquerade as 
currants in cakes or take the place of dead flies, I took a 
walk inland. There was an immense quantity of dates 
hanging from the trees, which I did not want, being in 
search of grapes. I was pestered by a guide, the most 
persistent fellow that I ever saw. He jabbered away to me 
in French, finally offering his services at the low price of 
one franc, but although I declined he still stuck to me like 
a tax-collector. Just before I returned to the ship I saw an 
old woman with an immense basket heaped up with beauti- 
ful grapes. I bought practically all I could carry for fifty 
centimes, whereupon my would-be guide told me I had 
paid vastly too much, that I had been swindled, and that 
he could have purchased the same amount for twenty 
centimes. However, I had enough grapes for almost every- 
one on board, and was comparatively happy. 

About two da3rs before we reached Constantinople an 
old and fat Turkish woman came on board. She spread 
out a carpet on the top of one of the hatchway covers which 
was about three feet high, got out numerous little coffee- 
pots, a plentiful supply of cigarettes and matches, and 
folding up her legs sat down, the image of contentment. 
She spoke a few words in French, and every time I passed 
she begged me to take some of her coffee or a cigarette. 
Her coffee cups were about the size of large thimbles and 
the coffee as black as ink, but as I had never tasted tobacco 

224 MY LIFE 

in my life, and never drunk coffee, I declined respectfully. 
When night came on one of the petty officers told the old 
lady that she would have to go below, as no ladies were 
allowed on deck after ten o'clock at night. She declined. 
He then brought one of the mates, then two, and as these 
gentlemen were imable to make any impression on the old 
lady, who only bowed and smiled, but still declined to go, 
they sent for the captain. He was a rather pompous 
individual, who told her that according to the rules and 
regulations of the company who owned the ship no ladies 
were allowed on deck after ten o'clock at night ; therefore 
she must certainly go below into the ladies' cabin. Still 
she only smiled and bowed, and I understand that she 
actually remained in possession all night, in fact, all the 
time until the ship reached Constantinople. 

Having arrived in Constantinople, we were invited to 
the house of a French gentleman. At dinner his wife said 
to me that she was in Paris about five years before and 
returned by way of the Mediterranean on a very old and 
dilapidated ship, which then, according to her, was making 
its last trip. I asked her the name of the ship, and sure 
enough it was the very one on which we had come ourselves. 

I was constantly being taken for a missionary in Con- 
stantinople ; they could not understand how an American 
could be anything besides a missionary, or at least a teacher. 

While waiting for the Turks to get ready for us we paid 
a visit to Scutari in Asia Minor. We went over in a Turkish 
boat with a name that sounded like " cake," but returned 
in a Greek boat. Just before landing, in running through 
a veritable fleet of boats, we collided slightly with a Turkish 
boat, when the boatman hissed something very fiercely 
through his teeth, of which I understood but a single word, 
namely, " Nawrene." I then asked M. Zedzed, who was 


with me at the time and who spoke all languages, for an 
explanation, which he gave to the effect that the Tm-k had 
called me " a miserable unbeUeving infidel dog of a Chris- 
tian." I then thought the matter over, and discovered 
that there was no question about it ; I was certainly an 
infidel in Turkey, because I did not accept the prevailing 
religion of that coimtry, so I told my friend that the Pope 
of Rome, the Archbishop of Canterbury, General Booth, 
and the Grand Llama of Thibet, as well as myself, were all 
infidels in Turkey, and that it would be impossible for 
anyone to take over any reUgion that would not make him 
an infidel in at least three-quarters of the world. 

Among the guns that I took to Constantinople was a 
Pom-pom — 2i 37 mm. gun mounted on a cone for naval 
purposes. In order to fire this on the field it is necessary 
to find something very heavy to which the cone can be 
attached. I found a very large piece of timber in one of 
their military depots and had about a dozen soldiers detailed 
to assist me. They worked like Trojans, boring the holes 
for the bolts with some old augers that had been worn out 
by Noah when he built the Ark. After a great deal of labour 
the job was finished, and I sent out a twenty-franc piece 
and had it changed into silver, which I handed to the ser- 
geant to distribute among the men. He looked surprised 
and did not know what to say ; the men would not accept 
the money, and one of them, a private, came forward and 
made a neat little speech in French, which in English would 
be about as follows : " We have done nothing that it was 
not our duty to do, and certainly Mr. Maxim does not 
expect that we, Turkish soldiers, will accept pay for doing 
our duty." I had offended their dignity, and they handed 
the money back to me. This would never have happened 
in any other country on this planet. 

226 MY LIFE 

At the trials, which were a long distance out in the 
country, the weather was very hot, and the firing attracted 
a crowd of all sorts, sizes, and conditions of men. As I 
didn't want to have the cholera I drank nothing but mineral 
water bottled in France. At the end of the firing, being 
very dry, I had a bottle of this opened for me, and, pouring 
it out into a glass, I continued drinking until the bottle 
was finished, very much to the siuprise of the bj^tanders, 
a good many of whom were Greeks. They passed the bottle 
round and smelt it, expressing every symptom of absolute 
disgust. As there was no hotel, I was given permission to 
sleep on a seat in the railway station. Finding the seat 
very hard I thought I would take a walk about ten o'clock 
at night, but I had not gone more than a hundred yards 
from the station when someone touched me on the back. 
It was the station master, who said, " If I were in your place 
I would not go very far from the station ; I have noticed 
a good many Greeks hanging about here to-day, and some 
of them seem very much interested in you." I perceived 
at once that I was in a coimtry where brigands were not 
imknown, so I stuck to the station during the night and 
continued my firing the next day. 

While in Constantinople I became acquainted with the 
editor of the Levant Herald, who consulted me on various 
occasions. One day he asked me to go to his ofiice as early 
as possible. If I remember rightly his paper was half in 
English and half in French. He said he had his forthcoming 
issue set up and a few copies printed and submitted to the 
censor, who had forbidden the publication of a certain 
article. He showed me the article, and on reading it I found 
that it had been copied verbatim et literatim from an article 
written by the great French astronomer Flammarion, in 
which he told his readers that the. Earth would pass through 

DOGS 227 

the great meteoric belt in November, and that we might 
expect a very brilliant display. He had something to say 
about the nature of falling stars, such as we often see in the 
English papers. The censor had objected to this on account 
of the reference to falling stars, saying that anyone could 
see it was only a covered attack upon the Sovereign ; that 
it was simply a prophecy that His Majesty the Sultan would 
fall in the coming November. Consequently he could not 
allow the article to be published. 

Deaths from cholera were constantly taking place all 
over the city, and the Sultan is said to have spent fully 
£100,000 in disinfectants, principally crude carbolic acid. 
The ignorant people, who regard the Sultan very much as 
Roman Catholics do the Pope, that is, as the earthly repre- 
sentative of God, imagined that the carboUc acid must be 
a good thing for the cholera ; so whenever one was taken 
with this dread disease, they used to scrape up some of 
this thick, greenish material from the gutter, prise the 
patient's mouth open, and administer a dose very much 
against his will. The united effects of the cholera and the 
carbolic soon ended the matter. They did not, however, 
always wait for the patients to die before they buried them, 
and it is related that an EngUshman, watching at the burial- 
place, succeeded in rescuing and saving quite a number of 

It was reported that a man had been taken and died 
almost instantly at a large drinking-place quite near our 
hotel. The next morning, walking past the place, I saw it 
was closed and in charge of soldiers. My French mechanic 
was leaning against the wall, and said, " I am going to 
have the first drink in this hotel after it is opened, and set 
the example for others." 

Much has been written of the Constantinople dogs. 

228 MY LIFE 

They are, for the most part, rather large and yellow, and 
probably all dogs, if left to themselves and to natural 
selection alone, would degenerate in a few hundred years 
into this particular variety. As far as I could see they 
have the town mapped out into lots of about four blocks 
each, and the dogs belonging to one lot or county are not 
allowed to trespass on others. Returning from a long walk 
one Sunday morning, I saw an Englishman walking in the 
same direction, who had with him a very large, beautiful 
dog. She was a Great Dane, partly brindled, partly of a 
dazzling white, and was extremely tall. She was on a leash, 
and on entering one of the dog-counties was pursued by a 
howling mob of yellow dogs, snapping at her heels, but not 
touching her. The hubbub was sure to attract the dogs 
in the next county, and they would assemble on the linq 
ready to receive her, and would follow her up for two 
blocks, where she would be met by another gang. Each 
time the number increased, but while things were at their 
worst the Great Dane, who was very nervous and much 
annoyed, was released by her owner. Her persecutors knew 
exactly what this meant, for when she turned round and 
looked at them they scampered away, and in a few seconds 
there was not a yellow dog to be seen. 

I was asked to take lunch with a high official to whom, I 
was told, the Sultan had just made a present of a very 
beautiful Circassian girl. It appears that the Sultan had 
found it very expensive to take over the conventional 
number of yoimg ladies due to his exalted rank. Each one 
had to be furnished with gorgeous apartments and at least 
four servants, which meant expense. When, however, he 
attempted to limit the number, he was warned that it might 
cause a revolution. Many of the leading families in the 
Caucasus had stall-fed their most beautiful daughters with 


a view to their becoming inmates of the Sultan's harem, and 
it was sure to occasion a great deal of trouble if he refused 
to receive them. The Sultan had therefore to do the next 
best thing ; he accepted them and afterwards presented 
the superfluous girls to the high officers of State, some of 
whom, I suppose, might have passed them on to the next 
in rank. Someone intimated to me that the Sultan had a 
high opinion of my ability, and that he intended to decorate 
me, which he did, and in all probability would make me a 
present of one of the rarest gems of the collection in his 
harem. I was asked what I would do with it when it 

Just before we left Constantinople and while I was reading 
my newspapers in the hotel, suddenly everybody's hair 
seemed to stand on end — something alarming had happened. 
Several Turkish officers, I discovered, had brought some 
kind of a mandate from the Sultan, and I think the hotel 
people were greatly relieved when they found that I was 
the man at whom this mandate was aimed. It was written 
in French and amounted to this : "A ship has arrived in 
the Bosphorus which has on board a considerable number 
of Maxim guns. The Sultan demands that these guns should 
be disembarked at once, as he cannot permit them to go 
up the Bosphorus, where they might fall into the hands of 
his enemies." 

As my Russian friend, our agent, and the Admiral were all 
absent, I asked the hotel proprietor what I had better do. He 
said he would furnish me with a dragoman who spoke all 
languages, and in about twenty minutes this individual 
arrived. He was a Montenegrin, and if not seven feet tall, 
was very near to it. He was dressed in light-coloured blue 
woollen goods, with a lot of silver braid and silver buttons. 
He had two old-fashioned pistols, with an immense amoimt 

280 MY LIFE 

of silver filigree about them, and a large collection of daggers 
of the same variety. I started out at once to go down to 
the harbour and see what I could do. I first commenced 
to talk to my dragoman in English, but he could not under- 
stand a single word : I then fired off my poor French, but 
only with the same result. At last I took this gentleman 
into Thomas Cook and Son's office, where they told me that 
he only spoke Turkish and the language of his native 
country. I asked them to pay him off, and they supplied 
me with a man who spoke French. 

I concluded that the best thing I could do would be to 
see Sir Clair Ford, the British Minister. I had met him 
many times, and I think there was a rather strong friendship 
between us. He at once put his steam launch at my disposal. 

There were many ships riding at anchor, but at last we 
found the right one* I went on board, showed the captain 
what I had received from the Sultan, and warned him that 
he must not attempt to take the guns through the Bos- 
phorus. The guns were landed, and as our Admiral insisted 
that we had a perfect right to send guns through the 
Bosphorus, the Sultan took them and paid for them himself. 

In Constantinople I was known as " The State of Maine 
Yankee with no civilized vice." There were so many things 
that I did not do, that they seemed to be surprised, and on 
one occasion an English-speaking official said to me, " Hang 
your guns, we don't want guns. Invent a new vice for us 
and we will receive you with open arms ; that is what we 

For a few days I employed a very intelligent Turkish 
Secretary. It was his business to translate what I had 
written into the Turkish language. He brought his own 
ink and paper, a very sharp little knife, and some small 
reeds which he made into pens. He spoke English very 



well indeed, and often claimed that the Turks were the most 
liberal-minded people in the world in regard to religious 
matters ; that a man was allowed to have any kind of 
religion he liked in Turkey or no religion at all, which was 
not the case in some other countries. In England, he said, 
men had been sent to prison in recent years on account of 
their religion, or the lack of it. I had to admit that this was 
true, but assured him that it was not true in France. 

As all the railways were still blocked it was necessary to 
return by the Mediterranean, which happened to be very 
stormy at the time, and I was extremely glad when we 
landed in Marseilles. 


AVING finished some of the gun trials m Central 
Europe, I returned to Paris, where I was joined 
by Lady Maxim, who had come over from London 
to meet me. The company was desirous that I should 
proceed at once to Spain, as the guns had already arrived 
there ; so after remaining only one day in Paris I took the 
night train for Madrid, and a few days later everything was 
ready for the trials. 

The first day's trials were to be with a fully automatic 
37 mm. gun — " The Pom-pom." I was on the ground early 
in the morning, and found a very heavy foundation where 
fortification guns had been fired ; to this I bolted the cone 
of my gun ; it was very solid, and I was sure of making a 
good target. I then sent a young officer, who spoke French, 
to the target, which was twelve hundred metres away. 
I sighted the gun according to the markings on the sight 
and fired three rounds slowly. The officer then, with his hat 
attached to a long pole, placed it over the holes which I 
had made in the target ; I adjusted the sights so as to bring 
them into line with the hat, and then with a penknife 
marked the sights and found that they were not exactly 
like the markings that had been put on at the works. This 
was repeated at the eight hundred metre range, and by this 
arrangement the projectiles would alwaj^ hit the spot aimed 
At two o'clock the Spanish officers put in an appearance, 



and I fired fifty rounds automatically at the rate of four 
hundred per minute, making an exceedingly good target. 
I had aimed directly at the bull's-eye after the hat had been 
taken away. I then fired another fifty rounds at a target 
eight hundred metres distant, again making a good target ; 
but when a gun is fired so rapidly every particle of metal 
in it is in a state of violent vibration, so that the hits are 
bound to be spread over the target. The next order was to 
fire fifty rounds deliberately at a fresh spot on the target ; 
this time I fired slowly, never pulling the trigger imtil the 
gun had ceased to vibrate, and made an unbelievable target. 
I had made a rectangular hole in the target about twelve 
inches wide and five inches high ; almost everybody would 
have said that it ought to have been twelve inches high and 
five wide, but it was not. Even Nordenfeldt was in doubt 
about the small size of the hole that I had made. I did not take 
anyone's word for it ; I actually ran down to the target and 
back again, and the Spanish officers were much surprised 
to see a heavy middle-aged man get over the ground so 

The next day the trials were with the small rifle calibre 
Maxim gun at a distance of one thousand metres. I was 
allowed to make a few trial shots, which didn't hit the 
target at all, although it was as big as the side of a house. 
The wind was blowing a gale, and I kept moving the gun 
to the left until I compensated for the wind, and hit the 
target, but the gun was actually aimed at least twenty feet to 
the left of the target. We then waited for the officers to get 
ready and give the word. I fired a belt of 333 cartridges 
without hitting the target once, the wind in the meantime 
having changed to the opposite direction. However, we 
finally got on all right, and we hoped that the morrow would 
be more favourable. 

284 MY LIFE 

When I arrived on the ground the next day, there was a 
company of mfantry firing from the other side of an earth- 
work which was rather steep, and in order to scale this 
I went for it at a gallop. However, when I had got about 
half-way to the top I slipped backwards, and, digging my 
toes into the earth, broke one of the muscles of my leg, and 
fell helplessly to the ground. Six Spanish soldiers had all 
they could do to remove me to the hospital which was near 

The doctor told me what muscle I had broken, adding 
that my foot and the lower part of my leg would be black 
in about four days. He did it up in bandages and I was 
taken back to the firing ground. Improvising an artificial 
leg out of a cane-seated chair I went on with the trials, 
walking about with my knee in the chair, but I finished 
the job all right. The Spanish officers said that this 
little affair showed the kind of material Americans were 
made of. 

After I had remained for some weeks at the hotel the 
doctor thought it was safe for me to leave Madrid. In the 
meantime I had received a telegram to go direct to Spandau, 
near Berlin. My leg troubled me all the way. 

The Germans had a Pom-pom (37 mm. gun), but were 
quite unable to make it work. They had provided their 
own cartridges, and these were loaded with some sort of 
explosive in which nitrate of anunonia was used. When a 
shot was fired about a spoonful of the melted products of 
combustion remained in the case, looking very much like 
melted iron. If the case were allowed to remain in the 
chamber for a few seconds after being fired this material 
would have solidified and been drawn out with the case ; 
but in the Maxim gun the case is instantly extracted, and 
this is done so quickly that the melted material is left in the 


chamber, which of course prevents another cartridge from 

I could do nothing to remedy the trouble except to advise 
a different kind of cartridge, which I offered to furnish. 
The gun had already been successfully fired with our own 
cartridges, and they were satisfied ; so I returned to Eng- 
land, taking my bad leg along with me. 

However, it got better in time, and then I was notified 
that experiments were about to be made at Cadiz in Spain, 
with a view to the introduction of our guns into the Spanish 
Navy. Again I started for Spain, stopped one night and 
part of a day at Madrid, where I took a train for Cadiz. 
From some cause or other it only went as far as Seville that 
night, and there was no train to Cadiz until noon the next 

Seville is a very interesting town, and I wished to see as 
much of it as possible before the train left. I was very 
fortunate in running across an Englishman who had studied 
the guide-book and knew all about the town. 

After purchasing some of their celebrated oranges, he 
suggested that we should pay a visit to the Government 
tobacco works, the largest in the world, where nine thousand 
operatives were employed. 

When we arrived at the works and had obtained per- 
mission to view, by pajdng a small fee, a guide took us in 
hand, but as soon as I entered the factory the smell of 
tobacco was so strong that I stopped and suggested that 
my friend should see it alone. 

" Nonsense," he said ; " you will get used to it in a little 
while. Come on." 

So I went in. There was an immense number of young 
women making cigars and cigarettes, but what attracted 
my attention most of all was the number of cradles and 

286 MY LIFE 

baskets with babies ; about a third of the young women 
seemed to have a baby to take care of while they were 

At Cadiz the trials were very successful, with no hitch of 
any kind. • 

I was astonished at the extraordinary size of the prawns 
at this place, some of them being fully eight inches long ; 
and as they were delicious I thought it would be a good 
plan to take a few of them back to Madrid with me. I 
purchased some in a paper bag, put them in my overcoat 
pocket, forgot all about them, arrived at Madrid in the 
night, and went to bed. The next morning my friend, 
M. Zedzed, came into my room, and at once commenced 
to open the windows and doors, sa3dng that the grippe, from 
which I had recently been suffering, had left my throat and 
nose in a very bad condition, and he advised that we should 
call in a doctor at once. When I protested, however, he 
traced the smell to my overcoat ; it was the prawns and 
not my throat that had gone bad. 

The trials in Portugal were about the same as in Spain. 
The King himself fired the gun and conferred upon me a 
high decoration. 

We purchased an old gun factory at Plencia in Spain. 
There was also a small factory there in which they made 
very cheap imitation Winchester rifles ; nearly all of the 
breech action was made of malleable iron castings, and the 
barrels were very largely those that had been rejected at 
the various gun factories in Europe, or the barrels of con- 
demned and obsolete mihtary rifles. The gun itself when 
finished looked very much like a Winchester rifle. On 
examining it I found that it was stamped with the dates 
of all the patents on the Winchester rifles, and was told 
that the Africans, who were their best customers, would 



288 MY LIFE 

not purchase a rifle unless it was stamped with lettering 
exactly like that on a real Winchester rifle. 

When I had perfected my gun in Europe I wrote to all 
the prominent gun and pistol makers in the States telling 
them that the automatic system would soon be applied to 
firearms of all sizes from pocket-pistols up, and advising 
them to work my system, which had been broadly patented 
in the States. I did not receive a single favourable reply, 
in fact, I might say that the repUes were scurrilous — ^tbey 
ridiculed the idea : but at the present time I think every 
maker of firearms in America is using the automatic system. 
The patents, however, have expired. 

I think it will be admitted by the readers of this book 
that the lot of the inventor, even if he has something that 
is radically new and very valuable, is not " all beer and 
skittles." Property in patents is not respected by the 
majority of mankind as other property is. 



WHEN Lord Wolseley first saw the Maxim gun 
fired at Pirbright he was amazed at the cloud 
of smoke that it produced, and told me that 
I ought certainly to find a smokeless powder for my cart- 
ridges. Others said the same thing, and when I was called 
away to Vienna one of our directors who saw me to the 
station said : 

" Now you will be on the train several days ; you will 
have plenty of time to think, and when you arrive in 
Vienna sit down and write to me, telling me exactly how 
to make a smokeless powder." 

I told him that there were many much better chemists 
in London than myself, and that I only understood as much 
chemistry as an electrician was expected to know. 

But he insisted. " These men may be much better all 
rotmd chemists than you are, but you certainly know all 
the chemistry there is regarding powder; moreover, you 
have an imagination, which they have not, so write to 

I did as he requested. The first evening I was at my 

hotel I sat down and wrote a very long description of how 

a smokeless powder could be made. Gim-cotton of the 

highest degree of nitration was to be employed, and this 

was to be dissolved or softened with ether and acetone, 

soUdified, and cut up into proper-sized grains. On my 

return to England I made some powder according to this 


240 MY LIFE 

specification ; it worked very well when freshly made, but 
when kept for a considerable length of time, it became 
Ughter-coloured and produced very high pressures. I saw 
at once that it did very well when freshly made, because 
it contained some of the solvents, and that when the sol- 
vents were completely dried, the powder became violent in 
its action. I then added to the solvents a small quantity 
of castor oil ; of course, this could not dry out, and the 
powder made in this way remained stable. 

I had had something to do in the way of inventing 
powders before this. On January 14th, 1885, I took out 
patent No. 552 for charges of powder having perforated 
grains, in which the rapidity of burning was varied by the 
size of the grains of nitre in the compound. On February 
14th, 1885, I took out another patent for a progressive 
charge, the number being 2090. In this patent a progres- 
sive powder charge was shown having multiple perforations. 
On May 30th, 1885, I took out patent No. 6591 for a large 
gun for throwing aerial torpedoes. I designed this gun, 
and the projectile to use an explosive composed of nitro- 
glycerine and true gun-cotton. In the preparation it was 
spun into fine threads. As I could not make this explosive 
in London, I went to Glasgow and had it made at the Nobel 
Works by Mr. MacRoberts, the works manager. I thought 
that perhaps this material, which had been made into fine 
threads, might be used as a propelling charge in small arms, 
but when I mentioned it to our military adviser, he told me 
that no nation on earth would look at a powder that 
contained even a trace of nitro-glycerine. However, I went 
on with my experiments, and found that nitro-glycerine 
could be used with perfect safety. I made some excellent 
smokeless powders, containing true gun-cotton and nitro- 
glycerine, with a small quantity of castor oil, which powders 


have never been surpassed in 
efficiency. Some were tested in 
England and others sent to 

Shortly after I had sent a 
quantity to Springfield, Mass., 
U.S.A., I met Mr. Marcellus 
Hartley, a large dealer in fire- 
arms in New York, and I remem- 
ber what he said to me on that 
occasion : "In electricity or 
mechanics we would have backed 
you against anyone in the world, 
but we did not expect much of 
you in the way of chemistry. 
However, we find by the reports 
that of all the smokeless powders 
tried at Springfield, yours has 
proved the best. This is a feather 
in your cap, but don't imagine 
that there is any money in it for 
you ; the officials may not be 
clever enough to invent a powder, 
but they are quite equal to 
imitating one." 

As soon as I found that nitro- 
glycerine could be safely used I 
applied for quite a number of 
patents. No. 16,213 of November 
8th, 1888, being the most im- 

But there were others working 
on the same kind of powder. 

J^VVJ>.Vf^SMJJ^ Sg^ 


Patented February 19th, 1S87. 

With this simple device I made 
cordite, identical in size and ap- 
pearance to the Government cor- 
dite, several years before cordite 
was re -invented by Professors 
Dewar and Abel. 

242 MY LIFE 

Professors Abel and Dewar applied for a patent almost 
identical with my own, but fourteen days too late. 
Shortly after this, the British Government commenced to 
make cordite, which was practically the same thing that I 
had made in Scotland years before, the composition and 
the diameter of the cords being almost identical. However, 
the Government cordite factory had not been in operation 
long before the Government was sued by Nobel. Nobel 
claimed a smokeless powder made of a peculiar form of 
nitrated cotton generally known as collodion cotton. This 
was soluble in nitro-glycerine, and he contended that it 
was a gun-cotton and nitro-glycerine powder, but Sir 
Richard Webster, who represented the Government in this 
so-called " great cordite case," repeatedly asserted that 
" Hiram Maxim was the first to combine nitro-glycerine 
and true gun-cotton in a smokeless powder," and this was 
the decision of the court that defeated Nobel. The court 
also decided that Nobel's powder did not contain gim- 
cotton. ^ 

The most reliable of all engineering publications in 
Europe is without doubt Engineering, edited and published 
in London by William H. Maw and B. Alfred Raworth. 
In their issue for January 27th, 191 1, will be found a very 
exhaustive article relating to the invention and early history 
of smokeless powder. They obtained all the available 
data in England, France, and America, and the following 
is the conclusion to which they came at the end of their 
long and carefully written article : 

" A casual glance at the Patent Office records is quite 

^ In this great lawsuit all the patents ever taken out on smokeless 
powders were thoroughly examined, and I was the only American that 
was found to have done anything whatsoever in the early invention of 
smokeless powder. 


sufficient to put the matter of smokeless powders in its 
true light. Sir Hiram Maxim appears to us imquestion- 
ably to be the inventor of the class of powder used in the 
United States at the present moment. This, we believe, is 
disputed, but since new powders are always patented there 
should be no difficulty in procuring evidence as to the 
subject, if it exists. If the records of the Patent Office do 
not furnish the material we may be fairly certain that our 
opinion is correct." 

I know to a certainty that all of the first powders ex- 
hibited in the United States were invented by me and sent 
over from England, and also that there is no patent in the 
world on a smokeless powder containing nitro-glycerine and 
gun-cotton that antedates my own. 

There are many kinds of nitrated cotton but only one is 
stable, and this is what is known as tri-nitro-cellulose. For 
many years it was believed that there was no stabihty in 
nitrated cottons ; they are liable at any time to give off 
nitrous fumes and explode spontaneously. It was an 
Austrian chemist who first discovered how to make a stable 
gun-cotton, and this is the kind made and used by the 
British Government in all of their smokeless powders. 
Nitro-glycerine when well made can be depended upon 
to keep, and a mixture of nitro-glycerine gun-cotton and 
oil makes a powder that can be relied upon to keep 
in any climate and for any length of time, provided, how- 
ever, that the quantity of nitro-glycerine is not over 40 per 

When the French Government commenced experiments 
with the Pom-pom everything worked perfectly well, except 
that with the short cartridge employed they were unable to 
obtain the desired velocity. When I offered to furnish a 

244 MY LIFE 

powder that would give the velocity without exceeding 
the pressure admissible my offer was accepted. I made my 
powder into small thick tubes, the hole being very small, 
and cut the tubes into lengths of about a quarter of an 

I found that the French had been using a small bag of 
black powder near the primer to set off the smokeless 
powder, which was the cause of so much smoke that it 
would sometimes obscure the target. I determined to remedy 
this. As soon as I returned to England, I obtained some strong 
and heavy closely-woven cotton canvas, which I boiled, 
made chemically clean, and dried. I then dipped it in a 
solution of nitrate of soda, dried it and nitrated it in the 
ordinary way, and cut out little discs one and a half inch in 
diameter to be used as primers. When I took the primers 
and the powder to Paris I obtained the necessary velocity 
without exceeding the pressure admissible, and what was 
more, I got rid altogether of the smoke which was due to the 
black powder primer. 

The French officials asked me if I had nitrated the cotton 
first and then spun and woven it into canvas. I told them 
that I had not, but had nitrated the canvas, which they said 
at once was impossible, as when the cotton was very dense 
it could not be made into tri-nitro-cellulose, but only into 
di-nitro-cellulose, which was unstable and would not keep. 
When I asked them what test they used for the gun-cotton, 
they answered that they placed it in a mixture composed 
of equal parts of strong alcohol and ether. This would 
completely dissolve all the unstable varieties, but would 
not touch the stable tri-nitro. I asked them what, in 
percentage, the real gun-cotton ought to shrink by this 
treatment, and they placed it at about 2 or 3 per 
cent. They then tried my nitrated discs, and found that 


they were the purest tri-nitro-cellulose that they had ever 
seen, the shrinkage being hardly perceptible. I revealed 
to them the secret of the process, after which they had no 

While in Paris I visited the works of Bariquand et Fils, 
who told me that they had great trouble in making tools 
that would work accurately enough to make what they 
called " the fret," that is, the Uttle jackets that were shrunk 
on to their rifle barrels after the manner of larger guns 
in England. They said the work was difficult, because, 
being so small, it had to be very accurate. It was no 
trouble to do a few, but when a million were to be pro- 
vided it was a decidedly long and difficult task. 

On being asked why they made the barrel two thick- 
nesses at the breech, they said that their new powder gave 
a pressure of three thousand atmospheres, and that the 
only way to make a barrel that would stand this was to 
shrink on a strong piece of steel at the breech. 

I offered to furnish them with a barrel that would stand 
the test. I made it of a choice bit of Vickers' steel, and 
when it was finished I mounted it vertically in a small 
gas furnace, allowing a current of coal gas to flow through 
it while it was being heated. This, of course, prevented the 
oxidization of the inside of the barrel. When the right 
temperature had been reached I turned on fish oil under 
pressure, extinguishing the gas, and, of course, the barrel 
was cooled down from the inside ; ^ as the inside was the 
first to cool, the outside was shnmk on to it after the 
manner of the old cast-iron Rodman gun of the American 
Civil War. This barrel stood the test perfectly ; in fact, it 
would stand almost any test that one could imagine, except 

^ The barrel vras rotated slowly in the furnace. The heating was thus 
equalized and the barrel kept perfectly straight. 

246 MY LIFE 

pure nitro-glycerine. I was told that this saved a lot of 
expense in the making of the Lebell rifle. 

On another occasion, having been with a lot of officers 
all the forenoon, a fellow-director, who happened to be 
with me at the time, invited them to take lunch with us at 
the Caf6 Anglais. There were three French officers present 
who were telling us in their own language of a very wonderful 
explosive that they had discovered ; it was stronger than 
dynamite, and nearly as strong as pure nitro-glycerine, but 
unlike these explosives it was perfectly safe ; in fact, the 
rough treatment that it would stand was unbehevable. It 
could be stirred up with a red-hot poker and would not 
go off. They had actually melted cast-iron and poured it 
into a pot containing the new explosive, and it simply 
burned like so much pitch. They had thrown packages of 
it into a white-hot fimiace and it did not explode ; but if 
loaded into a very strong receptacle like a bombsheU, and 
set off with a powerful fulminator, it exploded with great 
violence ; the disruptive effect was surprising. 

My fellow-director touched my foot under the table as 
though intimating that I should remember what these 
gentlemen were sajdng. 

About that time a taU gentleman entered the caf6. 
He had on a fur-lined overcoat with the most remarkable 
collar I had ever seen, and one of the officers told us that 
the collar had been purchased in St. Petersburg at the 
price of twenty-five thousand francs, that is ;£iooo. They 
informed us that he had made an immense amount of 
money recently, and was going in for all the good things 
of this world. When my friend asked how he had made 
his money, the reply was, " He went to England — pur- 
chased every kilo of crude phenol that he could find, and 
sold it to the French Government." 


My friend again touched my toe and the conversation 

They told us that this explosive could be struck with a 
sledge-hammer on an anvil and would not go off, that a 
projectile loaded with it could be shot through a hard steel 
armour plate, and that even this shock would not set off 
the explosive. 

This was certainly wonderful, and as soon as we found 
ourselves alone my fellow-director asked me if there was 
any connection between phenol and high explosives ? 

I told him that phenol was what was vulgarly known in 
England as carbolic acid, that this acid, when treated the 
same as glycerine, was converted into tri-nitro-phenol, 
known generally as picric acid, that originally this chemical 
was prepared from indigo, that it had been used in the 
arts for two hundred years before it was ascertained that 
it was an explosive, although chemists knew that it con- 
tained all the elements of a very violent explosive, and that 
some years ago, when there was a big fire in a chemical 
works in Birmingham, there was a terrific explosion of a 
force and character that seemed amazing, for which no one 
could account. Some suggested that it must have been the 
picric acid that had exploded, so they made the experi- 
ment and found that, when this remarkable explosive 
was set off with a strong fulminating cap, it behaved 
exactly like dynamite, only with greater force. It was 
probable that it was stored in close proximity to fulminate 
of mercury, and that when the fulminate exploded the picric 
acid joined the procession, going off at about the same rate 
of burning. 

We both thought that we had found out the secret, and 
as soon as I returned home and before going to bed that 
night I experimented with picric acid, as I happened to 

648 MY LIFE 

have a considerable quantity in my laboratory at the time. 
I foimd that it would stand any test suggested except being 
struck with a sledge-hammer ; if struck hard enough it 
went off like a fulminating cap. 

The next day, taking advantage of my experience with 
other explosives, I mixed a Uttle vaseline with the picric acid, 
and then found that it stood all the tests claimed by the 
French ; but later on, I added a quantity of di-nitro-benzol, 
which with a smaU quantity of vaseUne was foimd quite 
effective, reducing the melting point, so that the new 
explosive could be melted in boiling water and poured into 
the projectiles just like so much treacle. 

This, together with a delayed action fuse that I had 
invented years before, made it possible to produce a large 
projectile that could be shot through armour-plate and 
would go off after it had passed through, while the Lyddite 
made in England would explode by shock before it went 
through the armour plate. 

This new and powerful explosive, which was first dis- 
covered in France and called " Melinite," and was after- 
wards rediscovered by me in England and called " Maxim- 
ite," was re-invented by many others later on and called 
"Dunnite," " Smithite," " Jonesite," or " Bugginsite," 
always bearing the name of the last man who re-invented it. 
It was also re-invented in Japan, and if I remember rightly 
was called " Hashite." It seems to have done very well 
in the States under the name of " Dunnite." It was so 
very simple a matter to prepare this explosive that anyone 
could do it. 

But the Americans were not so successful in making 
smokeless powder for large guns. I had experimented in 
England with multiple perforated grains of powder and 
found that they were hkely to produce phenomenally high 


pressures. Sir Andrew Noble also made experiments, and 
said at a lecture delivered in London that it was a very 
interesting form of powder, but liable at any time to produce 
formidable, unexpected, and dangerous pressures. The 
Americans, however, had not foimd this out, and did not 
find it out until after they had destroyed many valuable 
gims of large bore, and killed a considerable number of men. 
When I wrote to them on the subject and pointed out why 
it was that this form of powder was dangerous, they did not 
by any means agree with me ; but ultimately the whole 
batch (over 200 tons) was condemned and ordered to be 
destroyed. Instead of throwing it into the sea or burning 
it up, it was spread out over the land and ploughed in, and 
as the cotton had not been properly nitrated, it gave off 
nitrous fumes, just the thing required to support vegetation. 
According to the newspaper reports amazing crops were 
produced : 

" In the earlier days of the Navy, when gims were manu- 
factured of cast iron, and a fine-grain black powder was 
used, gim explosions frequently occurred, and it was very 
generally prophesied that when a charge was made from the 
large -grain prismatic powder — some of which was known 
as * brown powder ' — and nitro-glycerine and gim-cotton 
powders entered into use as a propellant, there would be 
a renewal of disastrous explosions. As far, however, as 
Europe is concerned, very few gims have been destroyed 
by smokeless powder, while in England practically no 
accidents of the kind are on record. Such is not the case 
in regard to America, where disastrous explosions, frequently 
accompanied by loss of life and destruction of property, 
have happened. We herewith give a list of gims which have 
been destroyed in the American Navy during the last ten 

250 MY LIFE 

years, and from this it will be seen that fifteen giins have 
been destroyed by smokeless powder. 

List of guns which have exploded in the American Navy, 

1901 to 1910. 

i2-in. gim, April, 1903. 



January, 1905. 



Febniary, 1906. 



November, 1908. 



September, 1910. 



September, 1910. 



February, 1904. 



February, 1904. 



March, 1905. 



January, 1907. 



January, 1907. 



February, 1900. 



November, 1908. 



April, 1905. 



December, 1902. 

" Among the American officers in command there are a 
number who attribute the result to the quahty of the steel, 
or to the guns being too light in the chase, but in one case 
at least a large and heavy mortar for the fortification 
service was blown into fragments with multi-perforated 
smokeless powder, and certainly this short and heavy gun 
could not have had a thin chase. It has been explained 
that explosions have happened owing to seams or cracks 
in the steel and to a faulty design of the gun, while other 
explanations trace the explosions to the fact that the per- 
forated powder occasionally breaks up into fine scales, and 
becomes virtually a fine-grain powder, thus producing 
extremely high pressures. On the other hand, the fault, 

- i M il 


according to some theories, lies in the shape of the grains, 
the multi-perforated grains being found inherently bad, 
thus stating that the real cause is that which we set forth 
in a former article. A curious fact to which we may again 
call attention is that with multi-perforated powder him- 
dreds of rounds can be fired with uniform results, when 
suddenly, without any rhyme or reason, the pressure will 
mount to a point which the gun is not able to stand. As 
Sir Andrew Noble said, ' The multi-perforated powder is a 
very interesting powder, but it is always liable to produce 
extremely high pressures,' and Sir Andrew is not the only 
artillerist in England who arrived at the same opinion from 
actual experiment." {Engineering, January 27, 1911.) 

The true cause of these disastrous explosions is not far to 
seek. When smokeless powder is in rods or blocks, it only 
bums from the outside. The rate of burning increases as the 
pressure increases, and as the pressure increases, it, in turn, 
increases the rate of burning — one reacts upon the other. 
To compensate for this the blocks or rods of powder are 
always getting smaller, thus diminishing the burning sur- 
face, and under these conditions phenomenally high pres- 
sures do not occur. When, however, the blocks are per- 
forated with many small holes, the burning surface increases 
as the charge is consumed ; and thus there are three agencies 
that have a tendency to react upon each other and increase, 
and no agency to prevent a rapid rise in the rate of burning 
and in the pressure. It is a lack of knowledge of these facts 
that has caused so many disastrous explosions in the States. 


WE will now return to Crayford and see how 
things were going there. I feel convinced that 
my readers will soon have come to the conclusion 
that the production of high-class machinery, especially of 
a new type, is not such a simple matter as one might 

When we found that our little factory in Hatton Garden 
was altogether too small to turn out guns on a commercial 
scale and to fill the numerous orders that we had on our 
books, we looked about for a larger place, and finally found 
a lot of large empty buildings at Crayford, in Kent, which 
were very suitable for the purpose. There was a large boiler 
house with two large Lancashire boilers, and the landlord 
would not allow us to take over the premises unless we 
purchased the boilers. I looked into the fire-box and saw 
at once that the boilers had been overheated with Uttle or 
no water in them ; that they were extremely rusty and 
probably of no value. I agreed to take the boilers on a valua- 
tion, but later on, when I was very busy, one of my fellow- 
directors went down to Crayford, saying that he understood 
English business much better than I did, and that he would 
close up the deal and get the lease. 

The landlord told him that I had agreed to take the boilers 
at a valuation, which was very indefinite ; would it not be 
better to state who the valuers should be ? He mentioned 
a firm, and my fellow-director, consenting, signed the 



provisional lease, which was afterwards completed by the 

I insisted that the boilers should be actually tested by 
the engineers who were to make the valuation. They 
brought down their gauges and pumping apparatus, and 
when I attempted to enter the boiler house they said : 
" No, you must not interfere ; it is our business, not yours, 
to test the boilers " ; but I stood in the door while they went 
on pretending to test the boilers. Of course, as these boilers 
were of great size, a single stroke of a hand-pimip would 
only make a slight difference in the pressure. It would 
take many strokes, even after the boiler was full, to show 
on the gauge, while the individual strokes would not show 
at all. But when I saw them pumping, I noticed that the 
gauge moved at every stroke of the pump, and very soon 
they had apparently tested the boUer at the pressure agreed 
upon, which I think was 150 lbs. to the square inch. 

I saw at once that this was not an actual test. As a 
matter of fact, these fellows were to receive 5 per cent on 
the valuation of the boilers for testing them, and they 
wished to make as high a valuation as possible. 

What they had done was to tap the boiler, run a pipe 
inside, and then return it to the gauge with some small 
receptacle inside that would really hold a bit of water — a 
quart or so ; and it was this that they pumped up instead 
of the boiler. 

I was too old an engineer to be taken in by such a trick 
as this. I knew that the boilers would not hold water and 
ordered them out at once. When they were in the yard I 
found that close to the rear end where they rested on the 
brickwork there was nothing but rust, and with the toe 
of my boot I kicked a hole through the boiler big enough 
for a cat to pass through ; moreover, the fire-box had been 


The valuation of these worthless boilers was ;£8oo. I 
then obtained a valuation from a real engineer, who placed 
it at £30— just what they were worth for old iron. It is 
interesting to note that I purchased an excellent pair of 
new boilers of the same size and kind for £800. 

Before the amalgamation with Nordenfeldt, his company 
had built a rather large and fine works at Erith, and these 
too were using a large number of American tools. Norden- 
feldt was supposed to have charge of the Erith factory, 
while I had charge of the one at Crajrford, and somehow or 
other I succeeded in purchasing American tools at a price 
considerably less than that paid by Nordenfeldt. 

I had a good deal of experience at Crayford, Bexley Heath, 
and Baldwyn's Park. The shifting of the factory to Cray- 
ford necessitated my giving up the place I had purchased 
in I-ondon and going to Bexley Heath to live. I hired a 
large house with five acres of land, but before going into 
the house I had the inside done up, I told the painter that 
I knew all about painting, was thoroughly well up in the 
chemistry of it, and wished him to use real paint instead of 
the bogus imitation. I assured him that the proper materials 
could be found in England, otherwise it would be impossible 
to paint a coach ; that the paint on a coach was very hard 
and not the least sticky, but that I had noticed that the 
paint used on houses remained soft and sticky. He said 
he knew all about it and would use the proper material, 
which would get hard in a few days. I lived there about 
four years, but not long enough for the paint to get 

Previous to moving to Bexley Heath I hired a gardener 
to put the grounds in order and left him for a week. On my 


return I could not see that he had done any work at all, and 
I was told by one of my neighbours that he had not even 
pretended to work ; however, he demanded his pay. As 
he was said to be the best gardener about the village, I gave 
him a good scolding and told him he would be looked after. 
The next Saturday that I put in an appearance it was not 
difficult at all to see that he had been doing something. 
He had cut down a lot of the shrubbery and small trees and 
had piled them up and burnt them, very much to the 
damage of the place. When I asked him why he had cut 
down the laurel trees level with the ground, he said they 
would grow up again in a few years, and that his object in 
cutting them down was to make a show, so that I could see 
that he had been at work. 

After we had moved into the house he told us that gravel 
was required on the paths in the garden and around the 
house, and he was given permission to order sufficient to 
make the place look tidy ; but for many days the material 
kept arriving until there was altogether too much of it. 
We then learned that he was receiving a shilling a load 
commission. We discharged him and hired another 
gardener, and there was no more trouble in that direction. 

I purchased horses and carriages and hired a coachman 
and groom. We bought the oats of a local dealer, but Lady 
Maxim, suspecting that we were being imposed upon, 
stopped a load of oats in front of the house and asked for the 
bill. It was presented, and was found to specify the weight 
of the oats. Lady Maxim ordered them to be brought into 
the house, where they were weighed on reUable scales and 
found to be 33 per cent short. It was only too evident that 
the coachman was receiving a commission. We sent the 
oats back, but the dealer pretended that there was a mistake; 
this was altogether " too thin." We then ordered our oats 

256 MY LIFE 

from the Army and Navy Stores, and they were always full 
weight. But somehow or other our horses became thinner 
and thinner. Investigation showed that the coachman had 
been in the habit of selling about half of the oats. He in his 
turn was discharged. 

We employed a middle-aged woman as cook, and she was 
always complaining about the kitchen range. Much of our 
food was smoked and spoiled. We ordered the local range 
man to examine it and put it right, but still it went wrong. 
He came several times, and finally, as things got worse 
instead of better, I brought up a very clever mechanician 
from the shop, who was able to do all kinds of work. The 
range was of the very best make, and I saw no reason why 
this man could not put things right, but he had not been 
many minutes in the kitchen when the cook commenced to 
scream. She ran to my wife in a great state of excitement 
and said that the man had grossly insulted her ; the man 
of course was turned out. When I asked him about it, he said 
that the woman put everything in his way to prevent him 
examining the range, but as he persisted she conunenced 
to scream. The cook in her turn was discharged. 

I then called on the range man, and he told me that when 
he went to examine the range the cook told him that it was 
all right ; " but," said she, " they've got loads of money, 
and if you take it out and we get another one my husband 
can get a big commission on it, and you can sell the old one, 
which is as good as new." 

Shortly after this my wife went to the States for several 
weeks, and before leaving she engaged another cook. When 
she returned she was simply amazed at the butcher's bill. 
She soon learned that the cook had been ordering vastly 
more meat than was required, some of which she gave away, 
while some was buried in the garden. The cook told one 


• • 1 


of the other servants that she was getting 5 per cent com- 
mission on all the meat and groceries that she purchased. 

While I was Uving at Crayford I had a call one evening 
from a very interesting American. He was a handsome 
man of middle age and a good talker. He told me that coal 
that would produce fourteen candle-power gas was scarce 
and dear in London ; there was plenty that would produce 
twelve and even thirteen candle-power, but that would not 
do. The City government demanded a fourteen candle- 
power gas. The gas of from twelve and thirteen candle- 
power was cheap, and it only required a Uttle to change it 
to fourteen. Could I not do it ? He had heard from New 
York that I was the leading expert in such matters. He 
told me the gas pipes that I would have to deal with were 
four feet in diameter. I saw at once that only a relatively 
small quantity of gasoline would raise the twelve and 
thirteen gas to fourteen, but if a common carburetter were 
to be used it would have to be as large as St. Paul's Cathe- 
dral, so that was out of the question. 

While we were at dinner I thought out a totally new 
form of carburetter, which would be small, cheap, and 
effective, and which could be used without a four-foot 
connection. Hunying through my dinner, I went directly 
to my drawing table ; I went at the job tooth and nail, and 
the gentleman left my house before eleven o'clock with a 
set of well-made coloured drawings. These he had traced, 
and commenced to make the apparatus at once. 

In this new system of carburetting I converted the 
gasoline into vapour under a pressure of thirty pounds to 
the square inch. This was allowed to escape through a 
relatively small jet in a species of injector. It sucked the 
gas out of the four-foot main through a three-inch pipe, 
and then forced it back again into the main mixed with the 

258 MY LIFE 

vapours of gasoline. This extremely rich gas, by entering 
the main with great force, caused the rich gases to mix at 
once with the poor gases in the main, and in this way any 
degree of enrichment could take place and was completely 
under control. It was adopted and used by several of the 
largest gas companies in the worid, and in a short time caused 
a famine in the gasoline market. 

In the eariy 'eighties the British Government was having 
a lot of trouble with the Arabs of the Soudan. Like their 
early ancestors the Saracens, these half-savage tribes were 
very fierce and warUke, and on many occasions the British 
troops received a check. At that time the Gardner gim was 
in the service, and whenever they had occasion to use it 
the man turning the crank got excited and turned the crank 
so fast that the cartridges did not have time to fall into 
position, whereupon the gun jammed and the brave detach- 
ment became the victims of the sharp swords of the Arabs. 
This was repeated several times at different dates, and 
finally the Gardner guns were displaced by the Maxim. At 
the last, and by far the greatest battle of all, Omdurman, 
there was no jamming, and the newspaper reports stated 
that as the Maxim gun was turned round over the plain 
" a visible wave of death swept over the advancing host." 
The Arabs were defeated and the war ended. Sir Edward 
Arnold, in writing of this battle, said : ** In most of our 
wars it has been the dash, the skill, and the bravery of our 
oflftcers and men that have won the day, but in this case the 
battle was won by a quiet scientific gentleman living down 
in Kent." 

And even the German Emperor said practically the same 

A great deal was said in the EngUsh Press about the 
terrible slaughter of Arabs due td the Maxim gim, but those 


who might have imagined that the writers had rather over- 
drawn it should have seen the American papers. At that 
time I had a kind of a double in America, who was rather a 
florid writer, and as he was masquerading as Maxim, the 
gim inventor, it may be imagined that the accounts he 
wrote of " the terrible wave of death that swept over the 
advancing host " were lurid in the extreme ; in fact, the 
English accoimts were not in it. 


IN the winter of 1884-5 there was a good deal of dis- 
cussion among naval officers and others regarding the 
efficiency of the Whitehead torpedoes. It was claimed 
by many that it would be very difficult to hit a ship even at 
short range if the ship were in motion at the time. While 
this discussion was at its height, Bryce Douglas, a very 
clever and well-known Scotch engineer, came to see my gun 
at Hatton Garden. The very fact that I had made a gun 
that would load and fire itself more than ten times in a 
second seemed to make him believe that I might be of some 
use in other directions. He told me that he did not believe 
the Whitehead torpedo would be of any use in the Na\'y. 
He expressed the opinion that when both ships were in 
motion, in a fleet action, or perhaps in a rough sea, the 
Whitehead torpedo would be quite as dangerous to a friend 
as to a foe. He was in favour of increasing the size of the 
torpedo and of propelling it through the air instead of 
through the water. He believed that if a large torpedo were 
exploded within a few feet of the hull of a ship it would open 
a large hole which would let in more water than could be 
dealt with ; and he asked me if I could produce a gim of 
very large bore for throwing aerial torpedoes. 

I told him that I could, and when I brought the matter 
before my fellow-directors it was agreed that I should design 
such a gun. I commenced at once to make the drawings ; 
being fully engaged in the daytime, I made them in the 




Before that time a good many artillerists had been racking 
their brains with a view to finding some kind of fuse that 
would not go off instantly when the projectile struck the ship. 
They wanted a delayed action, even if it were not more 
than a thousandth part of a second ; but somehow no one 
tumbled on to the right system. However, it seemed very 
simple to me ; I certainly must have a delayed action fuse, 
for it would not do for the big torpedo to explode until it 
had gone some distance into the water. This I accomplished 
by placing the firing-pin a considerable distance from the 
primer instead of in close proximity as in all other fuses. 
This system, being a complete solution of the long-vexed 
question, is now used everywhere and has beeYi repatented 
by others. 

Having designed the gun, I took the drawings up to 
Glasgow, where Bryce Douglas was employed as Chief 
Engineer at the Fairfield Shipbuilding Works. My drawings 
being approved of, Bryce Douglas made a model of the gun, 
four-inch bore and about twelve feet long. At the same 
time I visited the works of Nobel with a view to arranging 
for the manufacture of the explosives to be used in connec- 
tion with the big gun. 

On my return to London I received a visit from the 
American Naval Attach^. He was very strongly in favour 
of the new system of throwing torpedoes, and, thus en- 
couraged, I had further discussions with the Fairfield Ship- 
building Company, who designed a very fast cruiser to be 
armed with one of these guns. 

At first we thought of making the gun with a bore of 
twenty inches, but later on we decided to make it twenty-six 
inches. It is needless to say that a torpedo of this diameter 
and eight feet long would hold a lot of high explosives, and 
on going off would produce something like an earthquake. 

262 MY LIFE 

It was believed that such a torpedo exploding eight or ten 
feet below the surface, even if twenty feet away from the 
sliip, would rupture the hull sufficiently to sink the ship. 

The big gun was provided with what is known as a sub- 
calibre powder chamber, that is, the powder chamber was 
nothing like as large as the bore of the gun. The design 
allowed a lot of space between the projectile and the powder 
charge, the powder being loaded into a steel tube about a 
quarter the diameter of the bore of the gun. The powder 
was to be of different degrees of burning and to be com- 
pressed into the tube : a very slow-burning variety would 
be ignited at first, while the quick powder would be the last 
to go off. In this way very little shock would be communi- 
cated to the torpedo. 

But as some of the wise (?) ones were of the opinion that 
no Government would ever consent to the throwing of high 
explosives with a powder charge, I also designed an air-gun 
which was much more efficient than any other air-gim that 
had ever been made. 

The true theory and law regarding the action of air-guns 
had not been imderstood by most engineers. They imagined, 
for example, that if the pressure in an air-gun were doubled, 
the energy in the projectile would also be doubled, but this 
was very wide of the truth. To double the pressure it is 
necessary to double the weight of the air, so that it is highly 
doubtful if we should get a higher velocity of discharge 
of air through a tube at 400 lbs. to the square inch than 
we get at 200" lbs. With 400 lbs. pressure there would be 
twice the energy, but it would be opposed by twice the 
weight of air. 

Understanding this law, I constructed an air-gim on a 
new plan. First, I charged my reservoir with air impregnated 
with gasoline sufficiently to make it explosive at 800 lbs. 


pressure to the square inch, and had a very effective balanced 
valve that opened suddenly. On the opening of the valve 
the projectile was urged forward with a force due to the air 
pressure, but when it had travelled about two feet up the 
bore of the gun, the passage of the projectile uncovered a 
tube and drove a small cartridge against a firing-pin, the 
cartridge being charged with gunpowder and pulverized 
magnesium. This, of course, ignited the explosive air, 
whereupon the pressure suddenly mounted to more than 
3000 lbs. per square inch. The air pressure was therefore 
greatly increased while its weight remained constant. 
This was very effective and gave to the projectile a much 
higher velocity than had ever been obtained before from an 

In firing the model gun with a four-inch bore near a 
large building, the report was so sharp that it broke the 
glass in the windows exactly as black powder would have 

When everything was ready, a beautiful drawing of the 
ship armed with the gun was submitted to the American 
Naval Attach^ and then sent to the Secretary of the Navy, 
Washington, D .C. It may be imagined that the specification 
which I sent out with this gim made out a strong case in 
favour of aerial torpedoes, instead of submarine. But it 
was altogether too new, too drastic a change, and the Navy 
Department declined to allow us to build them a cruiser 
under the plan laid down in my drawings and specifications, 
or to build one themselves. 

The big powder gun, with its projectile and delayed action 
fuse, were patented by me in England on 30 May, 1885, the 
number of the patent being 6591. 

As the English Admiralty seemed satisfied with the 
Whitehead torpedo, and as the American Navy declined 

26^ MY LIFE 

to have anj^hing to do with my big gun for throwing aerial 
torpedoes, the whole matter was hung up for several years. 
However, about ten or twelve years later, at the time of 
the breaking out of the Spanish -American war, I was some- 
what surprised to receive another communication from the 
Secretary of the American Navy, again declining to have 
anj^hing to do with my gun or cruiser. The letter was 
addressed to " Hiram S. Maxim, Esq., 32 Victoria Street, 
London." It referred to a letter of recent date that I was 
supposed to have written renewing my offer. It appeared 
to me that someone had been writing from London without 
my authority. 

Shortly after this the Spanish war broke out, and it 
was reported in nearly all of the American newspapers that 
" Mr. Hiram Maxim, of gunmaking fame, London, had 
offered to build for the U.S. Navy a small cruiser, and to 
arm it with one large gun that was fifty thousand times as 
effective as any other gun, one of which would wipe out 
the whole Spanish fleet at a distance of nine miles." As I 
was the only Maxim in the world that had ever invented, 
patented, or made a gun of any kind, there could not be 
the least particle of doubt that I must be the party re- 
ferred to. 

Some little while after this notice of my great hberaUty 
had appeared in the American papers, I was aroused from 
my sleep at two o'clock one morning by a violent rapping 
and ringing at my door. Slipping into my dressing-gown as 
rapidly as possible, I managed to get to the door ahead of 
my manservant. I found, much to my surprise, one of 
my fellow directors in a high state of excitement. 

" Maxim," he said, " what in the world have you been 
doing ? It is all right and highly commendable for a man 
to be very patriotic and do all he can for his country, but 


you are one of the directors of an English company ; we are 
neutral ; we cannot take sides." 

Upon asking him what had happened, he told me that 
he had just received a telegram from Spain stating that 
there was great excitement there and our factory was 
liable to be destroyed at any moment on account of the 
offer that Hiram Maxim had made to the American Govern- 
ment — ^namely, to supply them with a cruiser armed with a 
gun of extraordinary power that would wipe out the whole 
Spanish Navy at a distance of nine miles. 

I assured my fellow director that I had made no such 
offer ; that the only offer I had ever made to America was 
many years before when that country was at peace with the 
whole world. However, we dispatched a telegram assuring 
the Spaniards that neither Hiram Maxim nor any of his 
fellow directors had anything to do with what had appeared 
in the American papers, and that no such gun was in exist- 
ence. This satisfied the Spaniards and our works were not 
interfered with, but the extraordinary statement gave us a 
lot of trouble from other sources. Of course it led to much 
ridicule, and we received letters and telegrams from all over 
the world. 

In order to combat this annoyance we put a notice in the 
newspapers to the effect that we had never made any such 
ridiculous claims, and that the reports had probably emanated 
from someone who had never made a gim in his Ufe. 

Shortly after this I saw by the London papers that it was 
announced in the American Press that I had taken a certain 
ship for New York and would arrive on a certain date. 
To the best of my knowledge and belief I was still in England. 
About a week later it appears that I arrived in New York 
and was received by about forty newspaper reporters, to 
whom I gave plenty of copy and all the particulars about my 

266 MY LIFE 

big gun which was " fifty thousand times as effective as any 
other gun." 

I obtained copies of some of the newspapers that con- 
tained accounts of this wonderful gun and of the great 
success I had met with in England. The New York Herald 
had a very large coloured engraving showing a gun having 
a bore of about ten feet and a length of about half a mile — 
that is, the gun was about the size of the Brookljm Bridge — 
and it was claimed that one of these guns would protect 
New York from the navies of the world. It was described 
in the newspapers as " the maxim gun for throwing 
AERIAL TORPEDOES," and as I was the only man in the world 
by the name of Maxim who had ever made a gun, or taken 
out a patent on a gun, of course there could be no mistake 
about it. 

Mr. Henry Clair, who had charge of one of A. T. Stewart's 
hotels, told me that on one occasion a group of about a 
dozen men, mostly newspaper reporters, were interviewing 
a man at the hotel. One of Clair's assistants said, " That 
is Maxim, the great gun inventor from London." Clair 
approached the party and asked : 

" Are you Maxim, the great London gunmaker ? " 

He repUed that he was. 

" That is very curious," said Clair ; " I count Hiram 
Maxim among my greatest friends ; he is about twice your 
size and a d sight better-looking." 

Only a few weeks ago a gentleman called to see me at 
my oflftce in London. On leaving, he remarked to my secre- 
tary that I had greatly improved since he last saw me. I 
had a much better colour, held mj^elf more erect, and 
seemed to be considerably taller than when he had seen me 
in Chicago, whereupon my secretary told him that I had 
never been in Chicago. 


I often see in the newspapers that I am lecturing on high 
explosives in the States, that I am bragging about my guns, 
that I am burning nitro-glycerine in a lamp or doing some 
other foolish trick, when I know all the time that I am in 

It may be laughably funny to have a double — ^but I find 
it a decided nuisance. 

As may be imagined, there was a good deal of uncertainty 
about my identity, and eventually an American journalist 
came out from New York with the avowed purpose of proving 
that the London Maxim was the bogus edition. He wrote 
me that " facts were very stubborn things to deal with," 
and that he proposed to show me up in my true colours. 

In my reply I told him that I agreed with him in regard 
to the difficulty of dealing with facts. I then gave him a 
list of my patents, showing that I was the first to patent 
an automatic gun, that I was the first to combine nitro- 
glycerine and gim-cotton in a smokeless powder, that I 
was the first to design and patent a delayed action fuse, 
that I designed and patented the large guns for throwing 
aerial torpedoes, that these patents were undoubtedly ahead 
of all others, and I advised him strongly, before he com- 
menced to annihilate me, to make a search at the Patent 
Office, when he would find that I was the only Maxim that 
had ever patented a gun, and that if he wished to go a 
little further he would find that I was the only Maxim who 
had ever made a gun. 

I think this gentleman took my advice, because he made 
no attempt to annihilate me as he had threatened ; and I 
would invite all those who attempt to dispute what I have 
written in this volume to follow the advice I gave to this 

At the time these extremely misleading tales were being 

268 MY LIFE 

circulated in America, I engaged an expert to examine the 
English and American patents, and he reported that no 
gim patent could he foimd in the name of any Maxim 
except that of Hiram Stevens Maxim, which happens to 
be my full name. 

I learned from my brother Samuel who lives at Wayne, 
Maine, that my aged mother had expressed a wish to see 
" her Hiram " ; she was satisfied that she could not last 
much longer and she wanted to see Hiram, whom she had 
always referred to as " a very good boy," before she died. 

In company with my wife, I took the steamship for New 
York, but I had not been there very long when I learned 
that I was supposed to be getting up a Maxim Gun Company 
in that city. I discovered that Judge Diffendorfer was to be 
the president of my new gun company, that it had been 
represented that I had made a lot of money in Europe, and 
was now going to allow my friends in the States to make 
some money out of my gun invention. This was certainly 
amazing. I positively had no right to organize a gun com- 
pany in New York without the consent of my fellow direc- 
tors. Only a short time had elapsed when I received an 
ultimatum which I was asked to sign. This was an agree- 
ment on my part that I would not put in a disclaimer, stating 
that I had nothing to do with the " Maxim Gun Company 
of New York." The ultimatum also demanded that in the 
event of my fellow directors in London repudiating the new 
company, I would come out in the teeth of them and endorse 
it, stating that it was all right ; otherwise my " mother's 
grey hairs would be brought down to her grave in sorrow." 

The Maxim gun patents were of enormous value. When 
Herr Krupp saw the gun fired in England, he said to me : 
" I do not believe any of your associates appreciate the 
great value of that invention." When, however, the 


Maxim-Nordenfeldt Company was formed the Maxim gun 
patents for the world were put in at £900,000, and the 
shares were subscribed for many times over in a few hours. 
It will therefore be seen that as I had disposed of my patents 
and received my pay for them, it was certainly very difficult 
for me to authorize the bringing out of another Maxim Gun 
Company in New York. 

If anyone feels called upon to criticize what I have writ- 
ten, I beg him to consider the following points, and ascertain 
how they can be explained away. There certainly was a 
very strong attempt made to bring out a Maxim Gun 
Company in New York. No one will dispute that the news- 
papers were full of illustrations and descriptions of " A 
Maxim Gun," and if they will take the trouble to search the 
patent offices they will find that at that time I was the only 
man in the world by the name of Maxim who had patented 
a gun ; not only this, but I was the only Maxim who had 
ever made a gun. My gun was an absolutely new departure, 
quite different from all other guns, and was alwa}^ known as 
" The Maxim Gun." 

Of course it was impossible for me to be bullied into such 
an arrangement as the ultimatum demanded, and the Maxim 
Gun Company of New York was not brought out as the pro- 
moters had expected. 


ALTHOUGH I liave been swindled and cheated 
almost an infinite number of times, it is safe to say 
that I do not enjoy it. I do not like to be taken in. 
Lady Maxim, having discovered a first-class American 
dentist, who was quite able to take care of her teeth and 
prevent her from losing any of them, recommended him to 
others. Ultimately he came round to our house at Queen's 
Gate Place, and I foimd him to be a very charming and 
interesting young man. Shortly after this he told my Mrife 
that he had become engaged to a yoimg lady who was sole 
heiress to a large fortime, but it was necessary for him to 
keep up an appearance in order that ever3rthing should go 
through without a hitch. He wanted to borrow ^^240 to 
enable him to carry through the affair in style and make a 
good impression. For security he would offer me some very 
elegant furniture, and also the goodwill of his business. 
I went up to his surgery and foimd that he had some of the 
very finest carved Venetian cabinets and bookcases. I saw 
that they were well worth the money, so he gave me a 
chattel mortgage on all the furniture in the place, including 
a very elaborate and expensive American dentist's chair. 
I thought I was well secured. The next thing that I heard of 
him was that he had gone off to Paris with a chorus girl fix)m 
one of the theatres, whom he was passing off as his wife, and 
that my £240 was paying for this httle outing. When I 
went to see what could be done about the furniture. I found 



that another man had a chattel mortgage on it prior to 
mine. Worse still, I learned that he had obtained the 
furniture on the hire system and had never paid for it. 

Shortly after I had purchased Thurlow Park, as it was 
called, at West Norwood, where we had very large groimds, 
my wife became much interested in chickens. We had 
various breeds — ^among others some prize bantams which 
we had purchased at the Crystal Palace Show ; and the 
next year we reared a lot ourselves. They were of the black- 
breasted red game variety, their ancestor being no less than 
Lord Chesterfield ! ^ When it became necessary for us to 
go to Bexley Heath to live, we hired a large van, put our 
chickens into it, and they were duly installed in a bam on 
the premises, about two hundred yards from the houses 
Next morning, when we went to see how our little pets were 
getting on, we foimd them all dead and covered with meal. 
We also found that a meal bag had been emptied on to the 
floor, and that the chickens had probably been put into the 
meal bag. We next discovered that about twenty of our 
large fowls were missing. Evidently the thieves first foimd 
the bantams, after killing and " bagging " which they 
discovered that there were also large fowls on the premises, 
so they emptied the bantams on to the floor, and filled up 
the bags with the large fowls. 

We then learned that there were more chicken thieves 
to the square inch in and about Crayford than in any other 
part of the known world. One day, as I was passing through 
the station, I saw a little pamphlet entitled How to Keep 
Chickens, which I bought and read, but the ss^stem recom- 
mended didn't work ; the only way to keep fowls in that 
part of Kent was to put them in the safe ! 

My gatekeeper had a hen that was a celebrated setter. 

^ In this case his lordship was a bantam rooster. 

272 MY LIFE 

She was always successful — a phenomenally large and fine 
hen, and a good mother. I hired this fowl when she wanted 
to set, and we put fourteen eggs from our largest and best 
hens imder her. Curiously enough, every one of them 
hatched, and what is still more remarkable and almost 
incredible, every one of them was a rooster.^ It was not 
long before they were very much larger than their mother, 
but still she did not give them up. One night they all dis- 
appeared — ^the professional chicken thief had annexed them. 

I think as a general rule we are proudest of the powers 
that we possess in the highest degree. Very early in life 
I discovered that I was very much stronger than other boys 
of my age, and that in wrestling I could throw everyone 
except the big boys. 

At the grist mill the farmers generally brought their 
grain to be ground in two-bushel bags. Almost anyone 
could shoulder two bushels of oats ; about half mankind 
could shoulder two bushels of barley ; and only about one 
in twenty two bushels of wheat. My father would toss any 
of them on to his shoulder as though they were bags filled 
with feathers instead of grain. I commenced young and 
kept at it, and before I was a very big boy I could seize a 
bag of wheat, throw it on to my shoulder, and walk into 
the mill with it. Sometimes when an old farmer came, and 
very laboriously got his bags of wheat off his sled or wagon, 
I would walk out very imconcemedly, and, just as he was 
looking, would take hold of a bag of wheat, throw it on to 
my shoulder, and walk off. I was gratified because the old 
fellow was astonished. 

When I was about eighteen there was a contest of lifting 
weights at Abbott Lower Village. Everybody within miles 

^ The mathematical chance of their all being roosters was i in i6«384. 


had a try, and I beat the whole crowd except one, who was 
two years older than myself, and a wonderfully big and 
strong boy ; but he only lifted twenty-five pounds more 
than I did. My father was very proud of what I had done, 
and that night he rubbed me down with strong New England 
nmi to keep my muscles from being inflamed. 

I kept up this trial of strength for many years. On a 
certain occasion a rather light German, weighing not more 
than one hundred and twenty potmds, was bragging about 
his strength in a most extravagant fashion. I asked him if 
he considered himself stronger than a man of my size, and 
he said, " Certainly." I said nothing, but at noon that day, 
when we left the works, I went up behind him, picked him 
up in my hands, and balanced him on the top of my head. 
I asked him if he would do the same to me, but in vain. 

At Crayford there was a part of a gas machine which 
I think weighed some fifty odd pounds. I took it up in my 
right hand, held it at arm's length, then let it down a few 
inches and raised it up again, five or six times, very much 
to the astonishment of the coppersmith. About a fortnight 
later, while passing the shop, he asked me if I would step in. 
He said : "I have had a lively dispute — the men won't 
believe a word I say. I told them that you had Ufted that 
thing at arm's end, brought it up about level, down again, 
and up again several times. They have all had a try, and 
there's no one that can get it up even once, and they don't 
believe that anyone else can do it." 

He asked me if I would mind doing it again. I said, 

" Certainly." But he wanted some witnesses, so he ran out 

and brought in four, and I performed the feat, very much 

to their astonishment, and they all wrote their names down 

as witnesses. 

At that time we had in our employ a blacksmith's hammer- 

274 MY LIFE 

man. He was about six feet three inches and very large and 
strong. He was the man whom I selected to go with the 
paymaster to the bank for the money to pay the men. One 
day, being a little boozed, he came into the office and per- 
sisted in talkinj; with the book-keeper. When I ordered him 
to go about his business he refused to go. I said to him : 
" I am the managing director, my orders must be obeyed ; 
when I tell you to do a thing, you must certainly do it." 
Still he hesitated. Anyone else would have sent for a 
poUceman to put him out, but I did nothing of the kind ; 
I grabbed the fellow up, threw him out of the door, and 
down about five or six steps on to the bottom. He fell face 
downward, and as he struck, everything he had in his 
pockets fell out. The gateman, who happened to be passing, 
said the fellow came out exactly as though he had jumped 
off an express train going at full speed. After that my orders 
were never disobeyed. 


WE in England are in the habit of saying that 
nothing less than a surgical operation will get 
a joke into a Scotchman's head, but the story 
that I am about to relate puts the boot on the other foot, 
because the stupidity shown by certain Englishmen throws 
completely into the shade anjrthing that ever happened in 
Scotland or to the Scotch. 

There was a very clever barman at Hoboken, New Jersey, 
just across the river from New York. He was a German, 
and the fluid that he dealt in was lager beer. There was a 
large garden in the rear of the premises, with a shooting 
gallery, and he soon became a very expert shot with the 
rifle at short range. Having been in the States a great 
number of years he spoke English as well as the best of us. 
He read in the newspapers that a certain Herr Doewe, a 
German tailor, had invented a bullet-proof cuirass — that is, 
a species of jacket one could put on which would resist the 
projectiles of all military rifles. 

He went to Germany, where he foimd that a simple tailor, 
who knew considerably less than nothing about gunnery 
and dynamics, had really been experimentmg and spending 
his money m attempting to make some arrangement of 
cloth, canvas, buckram, and so forth, that would stop the 
infantry projectile ; but no matter how thick his material 
was, the bullet passed through as easily as it would have 
done through a piece of thin lace. But the very idea of 


276 MY LIFE 

stopping a projectile by some sort of a garment was popular ; 
it was taken up and discussed all over Europe and America ; 
and the majority of military men thought " there might be 
something in it." 

As this idea had been so broadly advertised, our German- 
American thought it certainly ought to be worth something, 
so he entered into an arrangement with Heir Doewe, and 
very soon had the exact apparatus that was required, which 
was not a cuirass, however, but a shield. He brought it to 
England, and it was advertised in the papers that Herr 
Doewe, the scientific tailor, had brought his cuirass to 
England, where it could be tried ; it was annormced that 
the first trials would take place at the Alhambra Theatre. 

In the meantime the German-American had become 
metamorphosed into a United States Army officer, by the 
name of Captain Leon Martin. This bar-keeper captain and 
Herr Doewe appeared on the stage, when a military rifle 
with standard ammimition was produced, and while Herr 
Doewe stood with the shield, which was about sixteen inches 
wide and twenty inches high, on his breast, Captain Leon 
Martin, using a rifle which had been loaded by a military 
officer, fired, making a target on the breast of Herr Doewe ; 
both became the talk of the town. 

Here we had a German tailor, with a thin flexible shield 
on his breast, that would resist the powerful blow delivered 
by a small-bore military rifle. It was a nine days* wonder. 
On some occasions several shots were fired, and as Herr 
Doewe marched off the stage, deformed miUtary projectiles 
would apparently drop out of the shield on to the floor. 

Oh one occasion Captain Dutton Hunt, of Her Majesty's 
service, loaded and fired the rifle himself, with the same 
result. Captain Leon Martin and the little tailor gave an 
exhibition before His Royal Highness the Duke of Cam* 


bridge, and also showed their apparatus to Royalty at 
St. James* Palace. 

The celebrated rifle shot, Mr. Frederick Lowe, was very 
greatly interested, and on one of the many occasions when 
he took his position as an expert on the stage he picked up 
one of these deformed projectiles and found it was quite hot. 
He was convinced. He put it in his pocket and came to see 
me. I saw at once that the projectile had been " mush- 
roomed," as they call it ; that is, it had been fired into soft 
earth, at short range, and had been heated for the purpose 
of deceiving. 

A few da3rs later my friend, Mr. Lowe, came to see me 
again, bringing a piece of paper of the same width as the 
shield, but a little longer. This had a bull's-eye upon it ; 
the extra length having been doubled over at the top of 
the shield to prevent it from falling off. After the firing 
this piece of paper had been passed roimd for interested 
parties to examine. The bullets had passed through near 
the centre, and the fold, which had been made at the top 
to hold the paper on to the shield, was rather sharp. This 
bend was about three inches from the edge. On examining 
this paper closely I fotmd several Uttle slits, two and a half 
inches from the bend. I saw at once that these slits had 
been cut by the splash of the bullet striking on hardened 
steel, two and a half inches from the face of the shield. I 
knew at the time that the splash of a bullet would always 
indicate the kind of material that it struck, and that nothing 
but a piece of very hard steel would send the splash off 
perpendicularly to the path of the bullet. Every other 
substance yields under the blow, and the indentation made 
sends off the splash at different angles. For instance, with 
a piece of copper the splash would be about forty-five 
degrees off the perpendicular, and a piece of heavy rolled 

278 MY LIFE 

zinc practically throws the splash into the face of the 

Having thus ascertained that the shield, which had caused 
so much excitement in London and had brought a crowded 
house every night to the Alhambra, was a fraud of the first 
water — that is, nothing more nor less than a piece of very 
hard steel armour-plate in a cushion — I at once sent a series 
of letters to the London Press, stating that I, an old gun- 
maker, was intensely jealous of Herr Doewe, and that it 
was very humiliating for us to be beaten in anything relating 
to gunnery by a German tailor. I therefore had taken up 
the subject myself, and after experimenting continuously 
for fifteen minutes, I had discovered a shield which was very 
much lighter than Herr Doewe's, but equally effective ; 
and I asked the newspaper men to come down to Erith on 
a certain date to see the experiments. The letter was all 
right, but the newspaper men in various editorials and 
notices made it conform to what was originally said of the 
shield while it was in Germany — that is, they described it 
as a bullet-proof jacket. 

On the day of my exhibition an immense crowd appeared 
at the London stations ; extra trains had to be put on, but 
as all of these were filled many took the train to Crayford 
or Bexley and walked across cotmtry. At any rate, we had 
an immense mob on the premises. I had made a kind of 
scarecrow, which was labelled " Herr Schneider," with my 
shield on its breast. I showed that I could fire at it with 
impunity, without one of the bullets passing through the 
light shield. But Captain Dutton Himt was not so fair to 
me as he had been with Herr Doewe, as in my case he insisted 
on investigating the shield, and being a large and strong man 
he had his way. He foimd that it contained the piece of 
steel, which was really an extremely fine piece of nickel 


steel, one-eighth of an inch thinner than the steel used by 
Hen* Doewe, and therefore much lighter. 

Captain Button Hunt did not see the joke. He said that 
they had been imposed upon, and that the whole thing was 
a fraud, in which charge the newspaper men all joined him. 
I attempted to tell them that the only difference was that 
I was using a thinner piece of steel than Herr Doewe, that 
Herr Doewe depended upon steel, and I depended upon the 
same thing ; in fact, that steel was the only thing that 
would stop the bullet without being extremely heavy. 
However, all the newspaper men went off to London in a 
huff, and that evening and the next day it may be imagined 
that no man in England ever received such a severe slating 
as I did. It was something dreadful. I wrote to nearly all 
the papers the following day, pointing out that my shield 
was certainly better than the tailor's, because it weighed 
less, and was quite as effective. 

Two days later a large number of journalists in London 
got together and collectively sent me an invitation to 
dinner, and when I arrived they said : " Maxim, you are 
the only sensible man we have among us." They could 
hardly imderstand why it was that they had not seen the 

Needless to say, after that Herr Doewe's bullet-proof 
cuirass did not meet with any success ; but in the meantime 
he and his confederate had made a lot of money out of it. 

I have never been able to understand why it was that 
Captain Dutton Hunt did not put in an appearance at the 
dinner which was given to me by the Pressmen of London. 

The steel that I used was an extraordinarily fine specimen 
of nickel steel that had been sent to me to test, and was just 
strong enough to stop the military projectile safely. Herr 
Doewe's shield was of chrome steel. 


I PLEAD guilty to being a chronic inventor. I com- 
menced while I was very young and have kept it up 
ever since ; but all of my experiments have not suc- 
ceeded, as will be seen from the following, which I think 
will interest some of my scientific friends, as they may find 
some phenomena which were completely imknown to them 

While hving in New York I was walking down Dey Street 
from Broadway one morning, when the wind was blowing 
up the street at a velocity of about fifteen miles per hour. 
As soon as I turned into the street I noticed a very strong 
smell of coffee. The street was about sixty feet wide, the 
smell was equally strong on both sides, and I imagined that 
if I had ascended sixty feet I should have foimd that the 
smell was the same. I then computed roughly in my mind 
how many cubic feet of air were passing per minute, and 
how much coiiee it would take to produce it — ^apparently 
nothing less than a shipload. 

When I got to the bottom of Dey Street I found a coffee- 
roasting establishment, where they had about one hundred 
and fifty pounds of coffee in a rotating cylinder over a 
charcoal fire. 

That night I read everything I had in my httle Ubrary 
connected with coffee, and the next day I bought several 
books. I found that the Dutch used more coffee per head 
than any other people in the world, but that the Americans, 



although using less per head, used as .nuch coffee as all the 
world besides. 

By a still further study of the subject, I learned that fully 
half of the valuable properties of the coffee went off in the 
roasting, and it appeared to me that these waste aromas, 
if they could be captured, might be of more value than those 
that remained in the coffee after the roasting. But I was 
so busy in America that it was not imtil after I had been a 
long time in France and Belgium, and had come to England 
and was getting on well with my experiments with an 
automatic gim, that I again took up the subject of 

I found still more literature on the subject, and learned 
definitely that more than half, and that the best half, of the 
properties of coffee passed off into the air in the roasting 
process. At a neighbouring engineering works I obtained 
a piece of thick lap-welded wrought-iron pipe, with an 
internal diameter of three inches. Each end was threaded, 
and a very strong wrought-iron cap groimd on, with just 
a trace of red lead in the joint. One cap was drilled and 
tapped to fit a one-inch steam plug, and the other for a 
three-eighth-inch pipe. I had this moimted on a little stand 
over a perforated gas tube, which produced a flame very 
nearly the entire length of the cylinder. 

As my time was fully taken up with gunmaking, I took 
my apparatus home to experiment on it in the evening, 
with my wife as an assistant. I obtained a pressure gauge, 
of moderate size, that registered up to 800 lbs. per square 
inch. It was my idea first to ascertain haw much heating 
and roasting was required in order to drive the water out of 
coffee and peas, and then to find how much heat it required 
to roast the coffee after it had been deprived of the greater 
part of its water. When these experiments were finished 

282 MY LIFE 

and I knew definitely how much gas to turn on and how 
long to allow it to bum, I placed about a pint of coffee and 
a pint of common dried peas in the cylinder ; this I rotated 
over the fire, the gauge revolving with the cylinder, and the 
steam escaping imtil I was satisfied that the greater part of 
the water had been driven out. I then closed up the outlet 
and continued to rotate the cylinder over the gas fire for 
some minutes, when I noticed that the pressure was going 
up. I had previously ascertained that the temperature 
which produced the best results in coffee was equal to the 
temperature of steam at 250 lbs. to the square inch, so I 
continued to rotate the cylinder over the fire, and when I 
had done this for about the same length of time that it took 
to roast coffee according to my previous experiment, the 
pressure had moimted to just 250 lbs. to the square inch. 
I was satisfied that both the peas and the coffee were 
properly roasted, that none of the valuable aroma had 
escaped, and that if I allowed the cylinder to cool down 
the aroma that would otherwise have escaped would be 
taken up by the peas. Sure enough, no sooner did I shut 
off the fire than the pressure conunenced to go down. I 
watched it with great care, my wife, who is always very 
much interested in my work, standing by my side ; but 
when the pressure got down to 180 lbs. to the square inch 
it stopped. The pointer on the gauge remained stationary 
for some minutes, and then it commenced to go up again. 
The fire had been off some time. The pressure mounted 
slowly at first, imtil it reached about 200 lbs. to the sqiiare 
inch, when it commenced to go up very fast indeed, actually 
running past the 800 lbs. mark, the pointer resting against 
the pin. 

I told my wife to leave the room at once, but she wished 
to argue the question a bit, so I picked her up and put her 


out of the room, shutting the door. I then went back and 
commenced to pour cold water on to the cyUnder. If any- 
body was to be killed, certainly it ought to be myself, not 
my wife ; if we both remained, both of us might have oiu: 
heads blown off. 

After I had applied water for some time the pressure 
actually went down to about 500 lbs. to the square inch, 
and I left it until the next evening, when I found that the 
pressure had gone down to exactly 250 lbs. to the square 
inch, and, of course, the thing was dead cold. I expected, 
when I opened it, to find some perfectly roasted peas and 
cpfiee, and that the aroma would be equally distributed 
through both the peas and the coffee. Imagine my surprise, 
however, when I took out the inch plug and found that the 
greater part of the contents was a dark, nearly black, 
treacle-Uke liquid with a strong smell of assafoetida. On 
removing the entire contents I foimd that it resembled 
very dark-coloured toffee, with a thin dark-coloured treacle. 
The question is, where did the water come from ? This is 
the puzzle that I should like to have some of my scientific 
friends explain. 

It was only too evident that this system of saving the 
aroma would not do, so I put my apparatus aside for about 
two or three years, working very hard on the gim in the 
meantime ; but after a long trip on the Continent, during 
which I had time to study the subject, I resolved to make 
a few more experiments. So I obtained two Ught steel 
cylinders of about the same size and length as the wrought- 
iron cylinder I had previously used, and connected the two 
together with a pipe, with every sort of apparatus for 
measuring the quantity of gas consumed, the time that the 
heat was apphed, etc. ; in fact, everything was arranged 
in a thoroughly scientific manner, so that I could have 

284 MY LIFE 

complete control of the heat and know what was taking 

I commenced by roasting a pound of wheat. That is, I 
heated it in the revolving cylinder over a gas fire until the 
steam had ceased to escape. I then allowed it to cool down, 
and weighed the wheat, which of course was not roasted 
after the manner of the coffee, but only heated enough to 
get rid of the water. I foimd exactly how much water had 
been driven out, and this was the datimi that I had to go by. 
I made some experiments with coffee, finding out how much 
water was discharged before the roasting commenced. I 
then took a new batch of wheat, put it into the steel cylinder, 
and rotated it for the same time, passing the vapour through 
a condenser and weighing the water. I then subjected it 
to a roasting process, just what I had found necessary to 
make wheat suitable for mixing with coffee. I then con- 
nected it with a vacuum, withdrawing all of the gases, and 
put the cylinder aside, hermetically closed at both ends. 
I knew then, of course, that the wheat was in a highly 
receptive condition. 

I next placed a pint of raw coffee in the other cylinder, 
deprived it of its water, as I had done before, and then 
connected the two cylinders so that they both revolved 
together, the one holding the wheat being, of course, cold. 
I applied heat to the cylinder holding the coffee, just long 
enough to roast the coffee, and allowed the two to cool down 
together ; the next day I imscrewed the cylinder containing 
the wheat, and found, siu:e enough, that a large amount of 
the valuable aroma of the coffee that is always lost in the 
roasting had been seized on and imprisoned in the wheat. 

I made some of this into coffee, and experts told me that 
it was altogether the best coffee that they had ever tasted. 
This was exactly what I had every reason to expect. 



I increased the quantity operated upon until I had quite 
a lot of it. I ground some of it and put it in a tin can that 
was supposed to close up airtight, and took it to my house, 
placing it in my own bedroom. The can was singing all 
night long and giving off a very strong smeU of 

I was then living in London, and the next morning I went 
to my experimental laboratory, which was at Norwood, and 
prepared a lot more. I took in some very fine thick and 
heavy glass bottles, made in Germany, with very large 
hollow stoppers ground in : each one would hold about three 
pints. Putting a little vaseline on the ground surfaces, I 
filled these with ground wheat and coffee and set them aside. 
But the next morning, when I went in, all the glass stoppers 
had been blown out, some being on the floor, while others 
had only been lifted and had fallen back again. 

I prepared a new lot, and this time I fastened the stoppers 
in so that they could not be blown out. The next morning 
I found that all the bottles had exploded during the night. 
However, when the wheat \<^as freshly ground after roasting, 
everyone said it was the finest coffee that had ever been 
made. I know nothing of the taste of coffee myself, but 
I had experts to test it. 

While conducting these experiments it occurred to me 
that very few people knew much about coffee. One Sunday 
I brought out from the Maxim Lamp Works about thirty 
young men and women. My shorthand writer and tjrpist 
was also present ; she was one of those yoimg ladies that 
know aU — beyond whom there is no appeal ! I had cleared 
off a long bench, and arranged a large number of cups, much 
coffee, plenty of apparatus for making coffee, milk; sugar, 
cream, and in fact everything. I obtained from the Army 
and Navy Stores various kinds of coffee which were supposed 

286 MY LIFE 

to be the very best in the world, such as Mocha, Java, and 
so forth, and I also obtained from a dealer in cofiee some of 
the sittings and sweepings of his shop, small, imperfect and 
broken kernels. These I freed from dust and dirt, roasted 
and groimd, and, mixing them with three times their weight 
of chicory, I was ready for the test. My shorthand writer 
came in, tasted the Mocha, the Java, the Costa Rica, and 
pronoimced them all very bad. She then tried some of my 
wheat coffee, and some of that which was half wheat and 
half coffee, which was also bad, but not quite so bad as the 
others. But when she reached the mixture of sittings and 
chicory she was delighted. She said : " That is coffee — 
that's it — that's the right stuff ! " In all probability this 
yoimg lady had never tasted a cup of genuine coffee in her 
life until that Sunday morning. 

The others had various opinions, but there was one 
gentleman in the company who was really an expert, and 
he pronounced the mixture of wheat and coffee to be the 
very best that he had ever tasted. 

About this time I was cycling with my wife one Sunday 
up the Thames when I ran across a celebrated engfineer, 
who, like my typist, knew everj^hing. He said he had 
heard that I was foolishly experimenting on coffee, which 
was absolutely of no use. I inferred from his talk that he 
had no idea what I was doing, but imagined that I was 
attempting to find a substitute for coffee, something that 
had no coffee in it at all ! He expressed a wish to try some 
of it, so on my return I ordered from the Army and Navy 
Stores a one-pound tin of freshly roasted coffee, the very 
best they had, this being half Mocha and half Java. The 
coffee was freshly groimd the day it was sent to me. I re- 
labelled the tin and sent it to my friend the engineer. He 
tried it, and so did his three daughters — in fact, the whole 


family tried it ; and they pronounced it the worst drink 
that they had ever tasted in their lives, asserting that it had 
not the least resemblance to coffee either by smell or taste ! 
So I took another trip up the Thames, had lunch with my 
old friend, and was ridiculed on account of my foolishness 
in attempting to find a substitute for coffee. Now, if I 
really wanted to know what good coffee was, what it ought 
to be, they had some which they would like me to try. My 
wife was with me, and she pronounced the coffee to be 
excellent. We then asked them where they got it, and they 
gave us the card of the local dealer. 

As soon as I arrived home I sent to the dealer referred to 
for a one-pound tin of groimd coffee, such as he had been 
selling to my friend the engineer, but I did not wish him to 
mention to anyone that I was buying coffee at his place. 
This arrived in due time, was relabelled and sent to my 
friend with the request that he would try my very latest 
attempt, which I hoped would be better than the first 
specimen submitted. He tried it : his wife tried it : his 
three daughters tried it : the family doctor tried it : and 
then they each wrote down on a piece of paper what they 
thought of my coffee substitute. One of the girls said it 
tasted of mice ! They all agreed that it had no resemblance 
at all to real coffee, and advised me to drop the whole 

In the meantime an old lady, a neighbour of ours, having 
heard that I was working on coffee substitute, expressed 
her disgust, and said she would like to see some of it. Again 
I applied to the Army and Navy Stores, and obtained a 
pound of the very best in the world. Having tried it, she 
reported that it did not have the least resemblance to coffee, 
being the worst substitute for coffee that she had ever 

288 MY LIFE 

Although I had succeeded in saving the aroma, and 
making a few cups of the best coffee ever made on this 
planet, I could not at the time think of any way to use it 
commercially. It would have to be handled Uke soda- 
water, under pressure, which was out of the question. But 
later on I found a way to imprison the aroma which other- 
wise escapes, so that it could be used as coffee extract, and 
I will allow my clever scientific friends to guess how this 
trick was performed. 

When it became apparent that the Boer War could not 
last much longer, I was approached by a City man, who 
wished me to go to The Hague and see the Boer officials. 
He said that I might offer them £100,000 if they would 
cease fighting and allow the gold mines to start up. It was 
known that the war could not last more than two or three 
months longer, but interested parties were able to pay 
handsomely if the gold mines could be started up at once. 
I first went to see Lord Salisbury on the subject. He was 
perfectly willing that I should go and make the offer, but 
did not believe that I would succeed. However, I went over, 
taking my wife with me, and together we called on the 
Boer officials. They listened to what I had to say, and 
finally Lady Maxim attempted to impress upon them the 
enormous extent and great wealth of the British Empire, 
saying that it would never do for such a powerful nation to 
acknowledge themselves beaten by such a small nation as 
the Boers, and that the war would inevitably have to go 
on until the British had subdued all opposition. They 
admitted that she had made out a very good case, but said 
that they " depended upon God to come to their assistance," 
whereupon Lady Maxim expressed it as her opinion that 
God would not interfere, and I ventured to remark that 


Napoleon, who certainly ought to have known something 
about such matters, had said that God was always on the 
side of the strong battalions and the heavy artillery. 

Our little scheme did not succeed. However, a few weeks 
later the Boers surrendered and the war was finished. 



THE fact that I had been made a Chevalier de la 
Legion d'Honneur for the work that I had done on 
electricity, and that I had made a gun with a 
single barrel that would load and fire itself over 600 times 
in a minute, seemed to make people believe that I might 
be able to do anything in the mechanical or scientific line, 
and I was asked if I could not train a large fortification or 
naval gun by electricity. I replied that I could, and when 
I had appUed electricity to training a large gun at Sheer- 
ness, one of the officers in charge said that he believed he 
could shoot a sea-gull on the wing with a gun trained by my 
apparatus. The gun was provided with a shoulder-piece so 
arranged that no matter which way the shoulder-piece was 
pressed the gun would follow it. 

Having accomphshed this, I was asked by my fellow 
directors if it would be possible to make a flying-machine 
that would fly by dynamic energy without a gas-bag, how 
long would it take, and how much would it cost. 

I replied that I could make the machine, which would 
require five years to complete and would cost £50,000. The 
first three years would be devoted to the development 
of a light and quick-running internal combustion engine,^ 
and two years to making experiments and building the 

^ Since that time the light internal combustion engine has been 
developed to a remarkable degree of perfection by the makers of motor- 
cars, especially racing cars. Many years ago scientific engineers said, 
" Give us an engine that will develop the power of a man and will not 



Later on, two of my fellow directors and some other 
friends put up some money and asked me to go on with my 
experimental work, but unfortunately I had to devote 
practically all of my time to the gun company. I hired 
Baldwyn's Park, where there was a fine mansion, and 
erected a large building for holding the machine. I en- 
gaged two men who were supposed to be very clever me- 
chanics from Bridgeport, Conn., and put them in charge 
of the work while I was away, but as I was out of the 
country eighteen months during the next two years, very 
little was done except to spend the money. 

As there was no internal combustion engine at the time 
suitable for the work, and as I had no time to develop one, 
I decided to use a very hght steam engine, and for this 
purpose I designed a boiler and engine that developed a 
great deal more power for their weight than had ever been 
done before. 

But I was altogether too ambitious. Instead of starting 
out to build a machine about forty feet wide, the width 
that most of them have to-day, my machine was no less 
than 105 feet wide, and my engines had been literally 
carved out of hard steel. They were compound, non- 
condensing, and developed collectively 362 horse-powerj 
Each engine had its own propeller, which was 17 feet 11 
inches in diameter, and with a steam pressure of 320 lbs. to 
the square inch the two screws gave a thrust of over 2000 lbs. 

When I hired the place, I had a verbal understanding 
with the landlords that I could cut down whatever trees 
happened to be in my way at a moderate price ; but when 
I came to ask permission to do so, £200 per tree was de- 
weigh more than a barn-yard fowl, and we will very soon give you a 
flying-machine." At tlie present time, however, engines are made that 
develop a full horse-power and weigh considerably less than a barn-yard 

2d2 MY LIFE 

manded.^ This, of course, was altogether out of the ques- 
tion, so I decided to try my machine on a railway track. 
I laid down a steel track of nine-feet gauge and provided 
my machine with very light steel wheels to run on this 
track. In the first experiments, before we had provided 
any safety apparatus, the machine Ufted off the track and 
the wheels sank into the soft earth. I then provided it 
with some very heavy cast-iron wheels, the forward wheels 
weighing 450 lbs. each, and at less than forty miles an 
hour, without all the aeroplanes on, these also lifted off 
and sank into the earth. I next provided an upper track 
of 3 by 9 Georgia Pine. This track was 35 feet gauge, and 
of sufficient height to allow the machine to lift off the 
steel track before the wheels engaged the upper track. 

In making the experiments with all the aeroplanes in 
position, I painted the small wheels that were to engage the 
imdemeath side of the upper track red. I could then 
always tell at what point the weight was Ufted from the 
lower track, and when I stopped, these wheels were alwa5rs 
spinning in the reverse direction to that which they would 
have taken had they been running on the ground. I also 
had a very well made dynagraph which made a diagram of 
the Uft during the whole length of the 1800 feet track. 

With full pressure of steam, the machine would lift oil 
the track after running about 300 feet, and in order to stop 
I had a very elaborate apparatus at the end of the track, 
consisting of three ropes and windlasses provided with 
rotating fans. 

A great many people came to see the machine, but free 
flight was impossible without a very much larger field for 
practice purposes. There could, however, be no doubt as 

^ After I left the premises these trees were given away to anyone who 
would cut them down and remove them. 

• • > 

■ • 


to the lifting power ; it certainly lifted a great deal more 
than its own weight and the weight of three men on board. 

Among the visitors was Mr. Kung, the Chinese Minister. 
The machine was tied up to a dynamometer, and when the 
screw thrust was about 1500 lbs., I signalled to let go, 
whereupon the machine boimded forward with such 
rapidity as to throw the little Chinaman off his feet. 

Shortly after this H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, now 
King George V, came down in company with Sir Edmimd 
ConMnerell, Admiral of the Fleet ; and this time we did 
not let go until there was a screw thrust of 2000 lbs. ; of 
course, the machine bounded forward with very great 
rapidity. Admiral Commerell became frightened, and said, 
" Slow up," but the Prince retorted, " Let her go for all 
she's worth," and I did. The Admiral was greatly frightened 
when he found that we were going at railway speed with 
the woods only 200 feet away, but the three strong ropes 
and the rotating windlsisses very soon brought us to a state 
of rest. 

During a good many of the experiments for visitors we 
did not have all the aeroplanes in position, but one of our 
directors wished to see them all on, and what would happen 
if the engines were run at full speed. On this occasion we 
did not let go imtil the dynamometer indicated over 2000 
lbs. screw thrust, and I kept the boiler pressure up to 
320 lbs. to the square inch. We had not run more than 
250 feet when all the weight was lifted off the lower steel 
track and all four of the small wheels were running on the 
underneath side of the upper track. After running about 
1000 feet the lifting effect became so great that the axle- 
tree of one of the wheels for keeping the machine down was 
doubled up. On the breaking of the axle-tree the lifting 
effect on the other side of the machine became so great that 

294 MY LIFE 

the Georgia Pine plank was broken in two and raised in 
the air, and I found myself floating in the air with the feel- 
ing of being in a boat ; but unfortunately, a piece of the 
broken plank struck one of the screws and smashed it. I 
instantly shut off steam and the machine came to a state 
of rest on the earth, the wheels cutting deeply into the 
ground and leaving no track, thus showing that they had 
settled down vertically and had not run along on the 
ground before settling. 

This was the first time in the history of the world that 
a flying-machine actually lifted itself and a man into the 

The machine was practically the same as the Farman 
machine except that it was larger and instead of having 
a light internal combustion engine had a steam engine, 
but the quantity of water consmned by my machine was so 
great that even if I had had a large field for experimental 
purposes I could only have remained in the air a short 
time. It takes a lot of water to run a non-condensing 
engine of 320 horse-power. 

Shortly after this accident, I received notice from the 
landlords that the property had been sold to the London 
County Council for the purpose of erecting a very large 
imbecile asylum. It appears that I had prepared the 
ground, so that all that was necessary was to erect the 

At Baldwyn's Park I had hired about forty acres, of 
which twelve acres was good grass land. The first year I was 
there my gardener asked me what I proposed to do with 
the grass. As he was an old gardener and had had charge 
of the place before I took it, I ordered him to cut and 
stack it as he had done before, and told him to hire his men. 
He did so, and when I came to pay the bills, I foimd that 


the sum required to settle the beer bill alone would have 
been quite sufficient to pay Americans in the State of Maine 
for doing the job. I asked him why he had stacked the 
hay, instead of storing it inside of the numerous beer kegs. 
During the night some evil-minded persons set the stack 
on fire. Fortunately I had not gone to bed, so I rushed 
out, and with the hose very soon put out all the fire except 
that which was underneath the stack, and this I finally 
extinguished. The next day the stack was spread out over 
the ground and dried. It was the colour of chocolate all 
the way through, but people said it would do very well for 
bedding for my horses. Shortly after this, my coachman 
came to me and said, " Petuchoc has eaten up his bedding." 
He was a very beautiful httle trotting stallion that I had 
purchased in St. Petersburg. After this, he never would 
eat any ordinary hay so long as he could get kippered hay, 
and eventually he ate up all that was left of the stack. 

The next season, when the hay was ready for cutting, a 
young gentleman driving a tall horse attached to a high 
dogcart put inaii appearance. He owned one of the adjoin- 
ing farms. He said : " Mr. Maxim, I understand you had 
a lot of trouble with your hay last season ; would you like 
to sell it this time ? " 

I repUed that I would and asked him to make an offer. 
I think the sum he offered was £20, which I accepted at 
once. He took out his cheque book, wrote a cheque and 
handed it to me. 

As we had had a wet season there was a very heavy 
crop of grass. It was worth a great deal more than he had 
paid for it, and I learned that the neighbours were talking 
about it, declaring that the American had been '* done." 

I said nothing, but in the spring of the next year the 
same splendid monument of humanity, the same tall horse, 

296 MY LIFE 

and the same high dogcart appeared. Again he asked me 
what I would take for the hay, and again I replied, " Make 
me an offer." 

" The same as last year," he said. 

I accepted and he gave me a cheque. Had I demanded 
more it would have been acknowledging that I had been 
taken in the year before. This year the season was very 
dry and the rabbits very numerous. When they had eaten 
up everything they could find in the woods they came out 
into the fields and ate every green thing they could reach ; 
they even gnawed my railway sleepers. When the season 
for cutting arrived, the same gentleman appeared again 
with three men carrying scythes. I asked him what he 
was going to do with the scj^es. He said he was going 
to cut the hay. 

" But," I replied, " you do not want a scythe : you want 
sandpaper." As a matter of fact there was not a blade of 
grass on the premises. 

It makes me think of the very wise sajdng of a celebrated 
Dutch poet : " You can't sometimes pretty much most 
always teU how things are going to turn out sometimes, 
ain't it ? " 


AT the present moment, it is very easy for me to see 
that I rather overdid it at Baldwyn's Park. I was 
too ambitious ; I should not have attempted to do 
so much at first. Instead of making such a large machine, 
I should have experimented with a much smaller one, and 
been sure of my practice ground before commencing ex- 

However, large as my machine was, it would have 
worked perfectly with no change except the substitution 
of a petrol motor for the heavy steam engine — ^not that 
the engine was too heavy to prevent the machine Ufting, 
but the quantity of water consumed was very great indeed. 
The late Mr. Cody, who was one of the most skilful men 
on kites and flying-machines that we have ever had in 
England, just before his unfortunate accident, said : 
" Sir Hiram, your machine was all right — the proportions 
were all right ; it was not too large, and I am going to make 
another one just like it, with no change except in the 
motor-power." He told me that my machine had all the 
features that have been found necessary since. 

I had spent a large sum of money, not only my own, 
but also the money put up by some of my fellow directors in 
the gun company, and I was naturally looking about to 
see if I could not find a way of raising some more money 

^ It is interesting to note that the largest machines now being built 
are practically the same size that mine was, and the arrangement of the 
aeroplanes and the steering apparatus are the same. 


298 MY LIFE 

without disposing of any of my securities. While wintering 
in the South of France, I thought out a plan. I would 
make a show apparatus to be called " Captive Flying 
Machines," and I believed that one or two of these machines 
would earn all the money that was necessary to enable me 
to complete my experiments and make a new machine with 
a petrol engine. 

So when I returned to England, I told certain parties 
who were supposed to know something of the show business 
what my plans were, and they all seemed to believe that 
the apparatus which I had sketched out would take very 
well if erected at Earl's Court, the Crystal Palace, and 
Blackpool. We formed a little company, of which I was 
the Managing Director. I made the working drawings 
of the apparatus as quickly as possible, working about 
twelve or fourteen hours a day. 

The name Captive Fl3dng Machines was at first given to 
this apparatus, and in fact all of the boats were provided 
with aeroplanes so arranged that the passengers could 
manipulate them, and so cause the boats to ascend and 
descend as they flew around the circle. However, it was 
necessary to have the L.C.C. pass the apparatus before they 
would allow it to carry passengers, and imfortunately on 
the day of the private test there was a very strong wind 
blowing which caused one of the empty boats to soar so 
high that it looked dangerous, and they refused to pass it 
unless the aeroplanes were removed. When this was done 
it became simply a glorified merry-go-round. Of course 
the boat would not have mounted too high had it been 
loaded or had the aeroplane been set at a slight angle above 
the horizontal. Had the aeroplanes been allowed to remain, 
it would have been very interesting to passengers, and the 
machine would have been immensely popular. 


The first machine was erected at Earl's Court, and on 
the opening day, after carrying passengers free for about 
two hours in the morning, the large sum of £325 los. was 
taken. This was certainly very encouraging. The machine 
was very well patronized during the season, at the end of 
which we found that it had taken in nearly £8000. Had 
not a breakage occurred it would easily have taken in fully 
;f85oo. Its success was so phenomenal that my fellow 
directors and associates became extremely anxious to put 
up still larger machines at Blackpool, Southport, and the 
Crystal Palace, but there were many delays, especially on 
the Blackpool and Southport machines ; in fact, they were 
so late in commencing that work had to be carried on day 
and night, or at least was supposed to be. A friend of 
mine Uving at Southport, knowing that our men were 
working at night, visited the site of the machine at two 
o'clock one morning, at which time a large number of men 
were supposed to be at work. The highly paid man in 
charge was nowhere to be found, and all his men were 
sleeping peacefully on the sands. The cost of erecting these 
two machines was beyond all reason ; they should have 
cost about £3000 each, instead of which they cost about 
£7000 each. 

The very large and fine machine at the Crystal Palace 
was erected at the expense of the parent company in 
London. This was a very expensive machine, and its 
erection made it necessary for the company to issue £4000 
in debentures, all of which were taken by myself. 

Although all of these machines were very successful 
at first, I was not completely satisfied. I found that the 
Water Chute was very popular, and that the patronage 
was constant year after year. I therefore determined to 
bring out a new machine which would combine the excite- 

800 MY LIFE 

ment of both the Captive Fljdng Machine and the Water 
Chute. The machine on starting would have a vertical 
shaft, but when the boats were well in flight the shaft 
was to be inclined so that on one side of the circle they 
would strike the surface of the water and then ascend very 
high on the other side. This would make an ideal apparatus. 
It appeared to me that this new machine would be vastly 
more attractive than the tj^e that we were making, and, 
with the approval of my fellow directors, I hired two 
able draughtsmen to prepare the working drawings ; we 
already had a highly paid engineer in charge. 

In the late autumn, after the Earl's Court machine had 
ceased running, I commenced to get out the plans for the 
new machines. The weather being very cold and damp 
I had a sharp attack of bronchitis.^ The doctor put me to 
bed, and told me that I certainly must not go out for some 
weeks. Shortly after this, our highly paid engineer came to 
see me. He said it was impossible for the draughtsmen to 
keep warm J the large room where they were working was 
very cold and damp, and the men were actually attempting 
to work with their overcoats on, some even with thick gloves 
on. He said he had done all he could with the heating 
apparatus which I had designed, but it did not warm the 
place at all. I told him to go and see if the pipes were not 
stopped up. Shortly after he returned and said that the 
pipes were not stopped up, and that they had a red-hot 
fire, but there was not the least manifestation of heat in 
the draughtsmen's room. He asked permission to buy 
some kerosene oil stoves, one for each man, and I consented. 
About two weeks later, when the doctor allowed me to go 
out, having a great curiosity to see why it was that the 

* At that time I had not invented my apparatus for the treatment of 
bronchitis, a description of which mil be found in the next chapter. 


apparatus which I had designed and put up for heating 
this room had failed, I visited the building; and, very 
much to my surprise, I found that, notwithstanding that 
I had these three highly paid men in the room, they had 
never started a fire in the furnace for heating the room 
at all ; they had trusted everjrthing to a labouring man, 
who had made a rousing fire in the big stove in the engine- 
room. I at once ordered a fire to be built in the proper 
furnace, and as soon as it was under way the draughtsmen's 
room became so hot that it was necessary to open the win- 
dows. I mention these facts to show the unaccoimtable 
stupidity of the kind of men that we have to deal with — 
men who have their minds on anything except their work. 

Although the sum of money taken at Earl's Court was 
very large, it would have been still larger if it had not been 
for an accident ; and this again shows the unimaginable 
stupidity of the men upon whom we have to rely. 

At Earl's Court the machine was driven by a large gas 
engine, having a very heavy fly-wheel. Of course when 
this fly-wheel was in rapid rotation it had stored in it an 
immense amount of energy. When the machine was at 
rest, with lOO passengers or so in the boats, it was im- 
possible to set this mass in motion in a few seconds, so there 
was interposed between the motive power and the captive 
fljdng-machines the best friction clutch that I could pur- 
chase. But friction clutches often go wrong — sometimes 
the metal seizes so that all the parts rotate together. To 
guard against this, I had what is known as a jockey pulley 
placed on the big belt that drove the machine ; if the 
strain was too great, the jockey pulley was raised into a 
position where the belt would become very loose and slip. 
In this way it was impossible to put an undue strain on the 
machinery ; even if the friction clutch should go wrong — 

802 MY LIFE 

and it did occasionally fail to operate properly — ^the belt 
would slip and prevent any damage being done. 

But the man in charge was a Scotchman. He often 
told me that he had been a millwright for many years, 
and that the jockey pulley was on the wrong side of the 
belt ; instead of being on 'the tight side of the belt it 
ought to have been on the loose side, so as to keep the 
belt from slipping. I attempted to explain to him that 
it was necessary that the belt should slip, otherwise the 
machinery would be broken, and that it would be im- 
possible to set such a large rotating mass in motion at once ; 
but these were nice points that he did not understand. He 
was a " practical " man, while I was a visionary scientist ; 
so one night, finding that his friction clutch did not work 
well, and that the belt slipped, as I intended it should do, 
he purchased a quantity of very sticky material, that was 
advertised to prevent belts slipping. He applied some 
of this, and while he had about a hundred passengers in 
the machine, his friction clutch failed to work, whereupon, 
as the belt could not slip, the bevel gears of the machine 
were broken, which of course not only cost a lot in repairs, 
but prevented the machine from earning money at the 
very height of the season. 

At the end of the first season, when the machine at 
Earl's Court ceased to bring in the golden sovereigns, one 
of our shareholders, who had been a showman himself, 
thought out a new plan of bringing money into the com- 
pany's coffers. He claimed to have discovered that there 
was an error in the agreement by which I had assigned 
the patents to the company. In the first instance I had 
written out a very simple agreement in plain English, 
which was really quite suflBicient, but the company wanted 
one that was drawn up by a solicitor, and this I agreed to. 


It seems that the solicitor had used certain phrases which 
were not very easily understood, and these were said to be 
" ultra vires," whatever that means. The man who had 
made the discovery got some of the other shareholders and 
directors to join him, and they beUeved that they had a 
good chance of getting ;£i5,ooo out of me as damages.^ 
They submitted the agreement to learned counsel, and 
he assured them that the case was very clear, and that 
they had every chance of getting my money. I then 
submitted all of the papers to learned counsel of a still 
higher type, and was assured that the agreement was quite 
in order, and that my position was perfectly safe. In the 
meantime the opposition obtained very high class coimsel 
to conduct their case, and I retained Sir Rufus Isaacs, 
who at that time was the most eminent lawyer in England, 
and is now Lord Chief Justice. 

However, I saw that the lawsuit was bound to be very 
expensive, and that there was not the least chance of my 
recovering anything, even if I won my case ; it would be 
like " suing a beggar and catching a louse." Moreover, 
I had the best of reasons for not wishing to have anything 
to do with law or lawyers, so I approached one of the men 
whom I thought might be the best disposed of the lot, 
and had never been a showman. I laid the whole matter 
before him, and said : "If there is any fault in the agree- 
ment there is no reason under heaven why it cannot be 
changed. Why not have a new agreement drawn up 
that we can all understand and that everyone will approve 

^ As far as I can understand the question the company had given me 
;£ 1 5,000 in shares for the patents, and as there was something in the agree- 
ment that was supposed to be faulty relating to the transfer of the patents, 
they did not ask for the return of the shares but that I should pay cash 
for them. I admit, however, that I never did quite understand what all 
the row was about. 

804 MY LIFE 

of? I certainly have not made any money out of the 
company, and I am perfectly willing that the company 
shall have the patents." 

I went still further, and said that I would pay all the 
legal expenses that they had been put to, in order to settle 
the matter up and keep it out of court ; and this was 
agreed to by everybody. I thought these legal expenses 
would be somewhere about £ioo or £150, but they discovered 
a way of making them much greater. I think there were 
about five lawyers representing five different individuals, 
and each one would make a slight change in the new agree- 
ment, and send it on to the next one. He would read it, 
alter it, and send it on to the next, and so on, imtil it finally 
arrived to the solicitor of the company. As a rule he would 
disagree with all the alterations that had been made, make 
some change himself, and again send it roxmd the circle. 
I think it took the paper about two weeks to complete the 
circle and get back. Then, finding it all wrong, he would 
doctor it up again and send it on another excursion. They 
kept this up for several months until the legal expenses 
all round amounted to considerably more than ;fiooo.* 
I paid up and washed my hands of the whole concern, 
resolving never again to have anything to do with anyone 
connected with the show business. 

When the money had been paid it was getting about 
time to start up the machines again, and then the very 
man who had caused all the trouble came to me and un- 
plored me to resume the Managing Directorship, because 
they were satisfied that if the business were properly 
managed it would bring in a lot of money. He told me 

^ This account appeared to me to be phenomenally large, so I took it 
to the tax master and argued my own case, with the result that it was 
cut down by about one-hall. 


that they were of the opinion that I could do much better 
with the machines than anyone else. 

In reply I said : "I am the largest shareholder in the 
company. In the first instance I furnished more money than 
all of the others put together. I hold all of the debentures, 
for which I paid £4000 in cash, and I will agree to take 
charge under the following conditions. You will refund 
to me all the money that I have paid out in legal expenses 
and all the money that I have paid to the various lawyers 
in the battledore and shuttlecock game that they have 
played with the new agreement, and will give me some 
security for the £4000 that I have lent the company." Of 
course he said this was altogether too much, so I abandoned 
the whole thing, lost my patents and all the money that I 
had put into the enterprise, and never received a single brass 
farthing for the work that I had done. ^ 

But this is not at all exceptional in the show business. 
Showmen the world over are said to be very much like 
brigands, as will be seen by the following. A few days 
after the first machine was started at Earl's Court the 
newspapers referred to it as " the clou " of the exhibition, 
" the greatest attraction at Earl's Court," adding that it 
was " well patronized " and the " receipts were very large." 
This, of course, excited the envy of certain showmen who 
were not any too prosperous, and one day a professional 
showman of the brigand class came to me and sought an 
interview. He said he had observed the very great success 
of our machine at Earl's Court, and had a very important 
proposition to make to the company. I told him it would 
be necessary for him to see the other directors. Accordingly 

* My losses on this enterprise amounted to a little over ;fi 0,400, and 
nobody made any money out of it except the lawyers and one of the 


806 MY LIFE 

at the next meeting the showman was called into the board- 
room, and as he took a seat at the table I said : " You have 
written to us of the phenomenal success of our machine ; 
you say that you are an old showman, and that you have 
some very valuable information and suggestions to give 
us. Now will you kindly tell us in what way you can serve 
us — ^what good can you do for us, and how do you propose 
to increase our receipts ? " • 

The reply was rather astonishing. " I do not claim 
that I can increase your receipts. You are practically 
canying all the passengers that your boats will hold. I 
do not know that I can do you any good in the business, 
but I am quite able to do you a lot of harm." 

He then demanded that he should have three thousand 
fully paid up shares delivered to him, and that he should 
have a seat on the board ! 

This was certainly a very remarkable demand, and we 
declined to have anything whatsoever to do with him. He 
then commenced his campaign of doing us all the harm in 
his power. His tactics were peculiar. The arrangement 
that we had made with the Southport Company was that 
a certain amount of shares and cash should be paid over 
to us as soon as the patents which I had applied for were 
completed, that is, granted. This fellow, having learned 
of the agreement, decided to profit by it. If we would 
not give him the shares and a seat on the board he would 
prevent us getting our patent, which he set about to do. 
He claimed that he had already patented a similar apparatus, 
and prayed the Controller of Patents not to grant ours. 
On examining his so-called patent we foimd that it was a 
totally different apparatus, and when the day for the hearing 
arrived he petitioned the Controller to have another date 
fixed, as " he was not quite ready." This trick he repeated 


three times. In the end I wrote to the Controller, telling 
him exactly what had happened^ and prayed that he should 
call an early hearing and allow no further delaj^. It then 
became necessary for this unscrupulous showman to put in 
an appearance. When he had shown his patent and told 
his story, the Controller asked him if that was all he had 
to depend upon. He admitted that it was, whereupon the 
Controller decided that my application had nothing what- 
soever to do with the old patent referred to. 

But this individual was not the only hungry one that we 
had to deal with. 

According to the agreement that we had with the 
Lancashire Company, as I have already explained, we 
were to receive a certain number of shares and cash, but 
somehow or other both the shares and cash managed to 
go astray. 

The readiness with which I parted with my money in 
order to disentangle myself with the very objectionable 
characters connected with the Captive Flying Machine 
seemed to excite the greed of certain other parties who 
imagined that all they had to do was to threaten a lawsuit, 
when I would part with any amount of money demanded. 
A certain individual who was something of a showman 
had made an arrangement with the company that if he 
sold machines he was to receive a commission of 5 per cent, 
but he did not sell any machines. However, he came to 
me one day after the winding up of the company, and 
said that he had spent £300 in attempting to sell the 
machines, and demanded that the money should be re- 
funded. I knew very well that he had not spent three 
hundred shillings, and that his pay depended altogether 
upon results. However, he became very much excited, 
and demanded his jmoney, and a few days later a solicitor's 

808 MY LIFE 

clerk called on me to serve some papers connected with 
the threatened suit, and asked me for the name and address 
of my solicitor. On looking over the papers I told the man 
that it appeared to me that it was more of a case for Scot- 
land Yard than for my solicitor. In the meantime I wrote 
to the showman, putting to him the following questions : 
" Will you be good enough to tell me who hired you ? 
When were you hired ? Where did you work ? What 
did you do ? What pay were you to receive ? How long 
did you work ? '* A few days later I received another 
paper from the lawyers. They were bringing a further 
suit against me for defamation of character, claiming hea\'y 
damages. The gravamen of my offence was that I had 
said to the solicitor's clerk that it was evidently " a case 
for Scotland Yard." On this occasion I decided to fight, 
and I am very glad that I did, because it gave me an insight 
into the proceedings in the Law Courts. 

The case came up before the High Court of the King's 
Bench and before a very eminent judge. The plaintiff 
having been placed in the box, his coimsel commenced 
proceedings by reading my letter. 

" Here is a poor man," he said, " who had been working 
for Sir Hiram Maxim for many months without receiving 
a single penny of his salary, and when he asks for his pay 
he receives a letter like this." 

The plaintiff had not gone on very far with his testimony 
when His Lordship scrutinized him very sharply ; he was 
a miserable-looking fellow. His Lordship cautioned him 
to be careful of what he said, and shortly after asked if 
there was not a written agreement ; this was produced, 
and after examining it, the judge said : " This case should 
have been brought against the company, not against Sir 
Hiram Maxim." Then, turning upon the counsel for the 


plaintiff, he said : " You had no business to bring a case 
of this kind into court — I will not have it." The two cases 
were then withdrawn, the judge remarking that he was 
very pleased that this step had been taken, as it might have 
developed into something very disagreeable for the plaintiff. 

No better example of the dishonesty of lawyers can be 
given than the following, which I encountered after leaving 
the States. Dishonesty among lawyers has no geographical 

The laws, having been made by the people for the people, 
are, as a rule, wise and just ; it is only the lawyers that 
are all wrong. There are vastly more lawyers than we 
have any use for — ^too many striving to make a Uving out 
of other people's troubles — and it is therefore to their 
advantage when they get a case to make as much out of it 
as possible, which means that instead of getting their cUent 
out of trouble and saving his money, they greatly prolong 
the agony and relieve him of as much money as possible. 

When I came to Europe I owned seven new houses in 
Philadelphia, and a certain well-known business man 
owed me 15,000 dollars. Being a non-resident property 
owner, and living in a foreign country, I was, of course, 
a fair target to be shot at by the enterprising blackmailing 
fraternity. The man that had charge of my houses was a 
builder, and he always managed somehow or other to absorb 
aU of the rents in paying taxes and executing imaginary 
repairs. I learned that he was practically Uving off my 
property, and as I received absolutely nothing, I put the 
property in the hands of a reliable estate agent, after which 
I received my rents all right. I proceeded against the 
man who owed me the 15,000 dollars and forced him 
to pay up, and it appears that the builder whom I had 
discharged imagined that he might annex this money. 

810 MY LIFE 

At any rate, he threatened that unless I gave him fifteen 
thousand dollars he would cause legal proceedings to be 
commenced against me that would cause a very great 
scandal. I repUed that I would not give fifteen cents. He 
was as good as his word, however, and did cause some 
very serious charges to be brought against me, some account 
of which appeared in the newspapers. It seems that the 
party he was exploiting was being exploited by another 
man on another case at the same time. However, the case 
was very soon decided in my favour, and my lawyer was 
careful to see that the records were properly filed away 
in the court-house, assuring me that the same party could 
not be exploited against me again. My money was sent to 
England, and, to prevent any further trouble, I sold my 
property in Philadelphia. 

Eighteen years later a gentleman off the same piece, 
wishing to annex some of my property, and knowing that 
the Philadelphia authorities were very lax in the care of 
their court records, went to Philadelphia, abstracted the 
papers, and attempted to work the same case over again 
in New York. He even went to the extent of bragging 
that he had " attended to the Philadelphia papers," and 
that they would not be " available " for my defence. Again 
I refused to be bled, and again proceedings were com- 
menced against me. I found, however, that the Philadelphia 
lawyers had certified copies of the court records, and when 
I had obtained these, I knew to a dead certainty that the 
case would be thrown out of court. At the preliminary 
hearing the New York lawyer whom I had hastily picked 
up refused absolutely to produce the papers, and although 
I insisted strongly, nothing that I could say or do would 
induce him to do so. A few days later I received a letter 
from the company's patent lawyer, an honest and straight- 


forward man. When I went to his office he told me that 
the evening before at the Lawyers' Club he had heard two 
lawyers talking, and as my name was mentioned he had 
listened. One of them was very jubilant, and said to the 
other : " I have a very fat case on now ; it will last at least 
three years, and my fees alone will amount to fully one 
hundred thousand dollars." As this was my lawyer, I saw 
at once the reason why he had refused to produce the papers, 
so I produced them myself, and the case was finished. 

When the company's lawyer informed my lawyer that 
the jig was up and paid his bill, which was a very stiff 
one for the little he had done, or rather failed to do, he was 
perfectly flabbergasted ; the quarry had escaped from his 

Now a most extraordinary thing happened. The 
individual who had been exploited in the two cases made 
a very full and complete confession and swore to it. The 
exploiter then became frightened lest criminal charges 
might be brought against him, and he had to pay his hired 
accomplice to go into hiding and remain in hiding imtil 
I had left the country. 

Before leaving New York for England a very old friend 
advised me to place a considerable siun of money with his 
son, who he said was a very clever and perfectly honest 
young lawyer, the object being that if there were any new 
developments in the blackmailing business, he would be in 
a position to proceed against the parties. If nothing 
occurred he was to return the money to me. After about 
two years, when I asked for the return of the money, he 
sent in his bill, which amoimted to the whole sum and three 
himdred dollars besides. I then employed Lady Maxim's 
Boston lawyer to proceed against this lawyer. The result 
was that he paid up in various small instalments, after 

Sli MY LIP^ 

the manner m which poor people purchase furniture. No, I 
did not have to sue Lady Maxim's lawyer in order to get 
my money I 

I have often been asked by Americans and others why 
I became naturalized ; why I became a British subject. 
All of my ancestors were English, and while I had charge 
of manufacturing estabUshments in the States I preferred 
English and Scotch workmen to all other foreigners, and 
I always advised them to become naturalized, so as to be 
able to vote and neutralize the influence of the disreputable 
party. I told them it was their duty to do so, and as a 
rule they followed my instructions. At that time the city 
government of New York was unspeakably corrupt. 

The reception that I received in England and the straight- 
forward honesty of the gentlemen with whom I had to 
deal, gave me a very favourable opinion of the EngUsh 
character, and it occurred to me, especially after I had 
met the then Prince of Wales and other members of the 
Royal Family many times, that I ought to become a British 
subject so as to be able to vote, especially so as I was perma- 
nently settled in England. I had already been knighted 
and decorated in other coimtries, and shortly after becoming 
naturalized I was knighted by Her Majesty Queen Victoria, 
but received the accolade from King Edward, and shortly 
after this a strong attempt was made to induce me to con- 
test a seat in Parliament, but I declined on account of my 

• • » . . 


THIS is indeed a very curious world. I was the first 
man in the world to make an automatic gim. The 
first gun that I made in London had but one barrel, 
and loaded and fired itself six htmdred and sixty-six times 
in one minute by energy derived from the recoil. The gun 
was very light, small, and effective, and the automatic 
S3rstem, which was thoroughly worked out by m3rself , went 
into imiversal use throughout the whole civilized world. It 
is astonishing to note how quickly this invention put me on 
the very pinnacle of fame. Had it been anything else but 
a killing machine very little would have been said of it. The 
following will show how I sacrificed all this fame by invent- 
ing a life-saving apparatus. 

I think it was about the year 1900 that I had a very severe 
attack of bronchitis. First, we had the family physician ; 
then he called in two experts on throat troubles ; but they 
did me no good. They recommended, however, that I should 
go to Bournemouth and put myself imder the treatment of 
a noted specialist. It was a failure. I returned to London 
and consulted the greatest specialist on throat troubles in 
England, and a few days later he sent me abgut half a ton 
of stoneware bottles containing mineral water. I took some 
of the water and followed the treatment for a time without 
the least effect. I was then recommended to go to Mont 
Dore, where they have strong and hot nuneral springs and 
there are many doctors who make a speciality of treating 
2o» 313 

814 MY LIFE 

bronchitis. I submitted to a very long system of steaming 
and boiling and taking the waters with no effect. I next 
learned that at Royat, not far distant, there was an English 
physician who was supposed to be the greatest expert on 
throat troubles in France. After he had been working on 
me about three weeks he said : " There remains only one 
thing for you to do, and that is to go to Nice and go through 
a system of treatment at Vos' Inhalatorium." 

I spent the next winter at Nice and was much gratified 
to find that I was greatly benefited by the treatment. It 
was very long and very severe. Every day I had to inhale 
an hour at a time ; but the bronchitis had disappeared com- 
pletely by the beginning of April, when I returned to Eng- 
land. However, with the cold and foggy weather of the next 
autimin the trouble returned as bad as ever ; so again I went 
to Nice and went under the treatment. While there I heard 
a great deal of discussion regarding throat troubles — ^gener- 
ally in the French language. Mr. Vos became very much 
interested in my case, perhaps more so on accotmt of the 
comic sketches that I made for him, some of which greatly 
amused the Russian Grand Dukes who were his patients. 
At any rate I made a point of learning all that could be 
learned about the treatment of bronchitis before I left Nice, 
and the next season, when the trouble commenced again, I 
bought some glass tubing and made a few glass inhalers 
myself. By making a mouthpiece of such a shape that the 
vapours were introduced directly into the throat instead of 
medicating the inside of the mouth I f oimd that my simple 
device was much more effective than the very elaborate 
machinery of Mr. Vos. 

When I became fully satisfied that my apparatus would 
ward off bronchitis, I gave a few away, and they all did very 
well indeed. The next move was to get two hundred of 


them made by a glass-blower, and these I also gave away, 
with splendid results. This created a demand, and I placed 
the sale of the instruments with the eminent firm of John 
Morgan Richards and Sons, of London, since which time 
hundreds of thousands have been sold and have given 
entire satisfaction. 

A short time ago, while returning from the seaside, I 
found myself in a first-class compartment with a distin- 
guished-looking gentleman. He asked me if I were not 
Sir Hiram Maxim, and upon telling him that I was he gave 
me his own name, which I recognized as being one of the 
most eminent of the Harley Street physicians. 

He said : *' I have tried your inhaling apparatus with very 
good results ; it is a splendid thing ; I recommend it to all 
my patients who have throat troubles. You have prevented 
an immense amount of suffering in the world and you ought 
to be very proud of it.*' 

This is the way that one of the greatest physicians in the 
world looked at the subject, but some of my friends not 
altogether unconnected with the gun business have told me 
that I have ruined my reputation absolutely by making a 
medical inhaler, and a scientific friend has written me deplor- 
ing the fact that one so eminent in science as myself should 
descend to " prostituting my talents on quack nostrums." 
However, this little inhaler enables me to live all winter in 
England and large numbers are now being sold all over the 
world. So I think I shall be able to withstand the disgrace 
of having brought out such an invention. 

From the foregoing it will be seen that it is a very credit- 
able thing to invent a killing machine, and nothing less than 
a disgrace to invent an apparatus to prevent human suffer- 

It is a curious and interesting fact that one of the gentle- 

816 MY LIFE 

men who has ridiculed me the most recommends these 
inhalers to his friends and alwa3rs takes one with him when 

While at Nice I learned that the inhalants could be taken 
very much stronger if a small quantity of cocaine were used, 
but as cocaine was regarded as a poison, it was not ex- 
pedient to use it. I spent my boyhood in the State of Maine, 
where there is a Uttle plant which, although it is used for 
flavouring confectionery, really benumbs the mouth and 
throat just as cocaine does, only in a less degree. By mixing 
a small quantity of the oil of this plant with pine essence, 
the vapours may be inhaled very strong without producing 
coughing, and this little discovery is one of the things that 
has made the inhalers such a remarkable success. 

I suppose I shall have to stand the disgrace which is said 
to be sufficiently great to wipe out all the credit that I might 
have had for inventing killing machines. 


Advents, second, 3 
Aerial torpedoes, gun for throw- 
ing, 260 
Air-gun, 262 

Alcohol, a dhnk of pure, 72 
Apple Jack, 151 ; potency of, 

Arabs and the Maxim gun, 258 
Arc lights, 129, 130, 132 ; with 

reflector for Broadway, 134 ; 

at Saratoga, 135 
Archduke William, H.R.H., 200 
Arnold, Sir Edward, 258 
Atlanta, interesting events in, 99 
Automatic system in America, 

Ayrton, Mrs., 134 

Badger, drawing the, 114 
Baldwyn's Park, 294, 297 
Bar-tender, 47 
Bears, 2, 3, 26, 27 ; hunt for, 4, 

6 ; for pets, 5 
Blackboard, inventing a, 69 
Blackmail, 40, 309 
Blacksmith, a giant, 36 
Boat, a fast and a slow, 120 
Boers, a mission to the, 288 
Boilers, extraordinary change of, 

152 ; testing some old, 253 
" Bon Dieu," 215 
Book, a misleading, 180 

Boston, arrive in, 88 

Boxing, 22 ; with a Frenchman, 

59 ; in a bar-room, 74 ; for 

the village championship, 77 
Brackett's Hotel, 46 
Brasher's Falls, 71, 78 
Brass castings, a blunder in 

making, 164 
Brass finisher, working as a, 82 
British subject, why I became a, 

Bronchitis, a cure for, 313 
Bruiser, an ancient, 116 
BuU, capturing a, 64 
Bully, taming a big, 56 

Cadiz and prawns, 236 

Cambridge, H.R.H. the Duke of, 
fires the gun, 171 ; intro- 
ductions by, 179 

Canada, commence work in, 41; 
Irish invasion of, 112 

Captive Fl)dng Machines, 298; 
at Earl's Court, remarkable 
takings, 299 ; cost of Black- 
pool and Southport machines, 
299 ; troubles at EarFs Court, 
301 ; a breakdown, 302 ; a 
new scheme to get money, 303 

Carbon deposited by electricity, 

Carburetting coal gas, 257 




Card-playing in the Indian camp, 
II ; with Mr. Sweat, 19; a 
transaction in, 20 ; on Sunday, 

Carpet- weaving, a problem solved 
in, 147 

Carriages, painting, 25, 56 

Chain-gang, girl in, 102 

Chandelier, Captain's boots in 
the, 161 

Chickens, how to keep, 271 

Cholera, 227 

Chrisostome, St. Jean, 53, 70 

Churchill, Winston, 93 

Clark, Elder, 23 

Clark, Sir Andrew, 173 

Cody, the late Mr., 297 

Cofiee, experiments in, 281 ; un- 
reliable tests, 283 ; and wheat, 
284 ; some opinions on, 286 

Constantinople, a journey to, 
222 ; my experiences in, 224 

Coppersmith, working as a, 84 

Crayiord factory, the, 252 ; 
troubles at, 253 ; weight- 
lifting at, 273 ; firing out a 
big blacksmith at, 274 

Cuirass, the bullet-proof, 275 

Decorated by the French, 129 ; 
by the Sultan, 229 ; by the 
King of Portugal, 236 

Delayed action fuse, 261 

Demagnetizing watches, 150 

Density regulator, 90 

Dexter, leave for, 34 ; — ^village, 36 

Disgrace, a terrible, 315 

Doewe, Herr, 275 

Dogs, 227 

Double, a troublesome, 259, 264, 

Dragoman, my seven-foot, 229 

Drake, Oliver P., working for, 89 

Draper, Prof. John, 126 

Draughtsman, working as a, 84, 
89* 257 ; a strong, 94 ; select- 
ing a, 160 

Earthquake, the great, 113 
Edison, Thos. A., 128, 130, 140 ; 

uses my invention, 128 
Eight-hour system, 19 
Electric light, 120, 129 
Electrical regulator, 131 
Electrical research, decorated for, 

Electricity, depositing carbon by, 

125 ; first building lighted by, 

126, 129 ; and watches, 149 ; 

training large guns by, 290 
Emery cloth, the best the worst, 

Envelope game, the, 115 
Europe, sail for, 154 
Explosion, a disastrous, 98 

Fire-engine, transforming a, 107 
Fire extinguisher, automatic, 92 
Fitchburg, 81 ; the painters of, 

Fiume, a journey to, 206 
Flag, painting a, 52 
Flap- jacks and treacle, 19 
Flume, nearly drowned in a, 7 ; 

strengthening a, 80 
Flying - machine, experiments 
with a, 291 ; and King Geoige, 
293 ; an accident, 293 
Flynt's carriage factory, 24 



Ford, Sir Gair, 230 
Fortune, a big, 118 
" French Canuck," 54 
French patents, examine the, 154 
French's Mills, 4, 6, 9 

Gardner gun, 194, 258 

Gas machines, automatic, 83, 87, 

90, 91, 96-106 
Georgia, life in, 100 ; cracker, 102 
German Brown Powder, solving 

secret of, 174 ; make many 

grades of, 177 
German cartridges, 208 
Germans, and the Maxim gun, 

210 ; with the Pom-pom, 234 
Glass-blowing, 170 
Gun, a big, 262 ; fifty thousand 

times as effective as any other, 

Gun, agent of the other, 202, 

203; the Nordenfeldt, 197, 

i99i 203 
Gun barrels, cost of, 245 
Gun, Maxim. See Maxim Gun 
Gun trials, 186 ; and drunken- 
ness, 189 

Hair-oil, luminous, 61 
Harem, the Sultan's, 228 
Hay, a transaction in, 295 
Hotel engineer, work as, 103 
Housekeeping, troubles in, 254 
Huntingdon, threshing machine 

factory at, 42 ; life in, 44 ; 

and horses, 51 ; people of, 52 

Icons, 216 

Identity, uncertainty about my, 

Incandescent electric lamp, re- 
port on, 122 ; the first, 140 

Indians, red, 2 ; Penobscots, 10 ; 
camp of the, 10 ; knives made 
by the, 12 

Indigo, a dose of, 58 

Infidel, a miserable, unbelieving, 

Inhalers, 314 

Insurance man, persecuted by 
an, 116 

Invention, my first, 29 

Irish V, Americans, 1 1 1 ; — wake, 

Jerome, Leonard, 93 
Jersey lightning, 152 

Kabath, Nicholas de, 198, 217 
Killing machines, 313 
Knighted by Queen Victoria, 312 
Kung, Mr., 293 

Lake Boyd, stealing a boat on, 12 

Lamp-black, 137, 168 

Landscapes, painting, 26 

Lanoline, 149 

Latitude and longitude, instru- 
ment for finding, 16 

Lawyers, beset by, 303 ; and 
lawsuits, 308 ; dishonesty 
among, 309, 311 

Legion d'Honneur, 129 

Li Hung Chang, His Excellency, 

Liberty, purchasing my, 33 

Livingstone, 180 

Locomotives, a thousand per 
year, 180 ; — head-lights, 97 

London, come to, 156 



Lord, Elder, 17 
Lowe, Frederick, 277 
Luminous hair-oil, 61 ; to make, 

Machinery, disappearance of, 43 

Marion, Lieut., 193 

Mathematics and hydraulics, 79, 

Maxim family, ancestors of, i 

Maxim Gas Machine Co., 96 

Maxim Gun, commenced draw- 
ings of a, 159 ; finish drawings 
of the first, 162 ; the first trial, 
170 ; H.R.H. the Duke of 
Cambridge fires the, 171 ; 
H.R.H. Albert Edward Prince 
of Wales and the Duke of 
Edinburgh fire the, 172 ; cost 
of firing the, 178, 220 ; rate of 
fire of, 179 ; six-pounders, 181; 
twelve-pounders, 182 ; the 
Pom-pom, 183 ; with speed 
regulator, 190 ; 3000 cart- 
ridges with one pull of the 
trigger, 192 ; mounting, 193 ; 
Archduke William and the, 
200 ; long range non-recoiling 
field gun for Austria, 204 ; 
ridiculed, 205 ; German cart- 
ridges and the, 208 ; in 
Germany, 210, 234 ; the King 
of Denmark and the, 220 ; 
Arabs and the, 238 ; for 
throwing aerial torpedoes, 260 

Maxim Gun Company of New 
York, 268 

Maxim gun factory in Spain, 

Maxim gun trials, in France, 186 ; 

at Pirbright, curious phe- 
nomenon, 191 ; at Enfield, a, 
too zealous assistant, 191 ; in 
Switzerland, 193 ; in Italy, 
197 ; in Austria, 199 ; at 
Vienna with Austrian service 
cartridges, 201, 203 ; with 
naval gun at Fiimie, 205 ; in 
Germany, 209 ; at Spandau, 
near Berlin, before the Prince 
of Wales and the Kaiser, 210 ; 
in Russia, 211 ;. at Eynsford 
for Li Hung Chang, 219 ; for 
the Shah of Persia, 220 ; in 
Turkey, 225 ; in Spain 
(Madrid), 232 ; in Cadiz for 
the Spanish Navy, 235 ; in 
Portugal, 236 

Maxim, Lady, 217, 255, 270, 

Maxim- Weston Company, 155 

McGiU's Hotel, 53, 65 

Melinite, 247 

Metallic mercury, a tale of, 164 

Mill, tending a grist, 28, 33 

Millerites, 3 

Milo, 10 

Mink and musquash, traps for, 1 1 

Money, scarcity of, 15 

Mont Dore, treatment at, 313 

Moscow, a trip to, 215 

Mousetrap, automatic, 29 

Mucilage, 166 

Naturalized, why I became, 312 
Ned Lynch, a fight with, 59 
Nice, the treatment at, 314 
Noble, Sir Andrew, 249 
Nordenf eldt, amalgamation with, 
209» 254 



^ordenfeldt gun, the, 197, 199, 

Novelty Iron Works, 93, 94, 95 

Oil, 205 

Omeville, 12, 15 

Paxis, arrive at, 154 
Patent, loss of a valuable, 159 
Pliilosophical instrument-maker, 

Phosphoric anhydride, 141 
Pinchback, Governor, 99 
Platinum lamp, 129 
Pom-pom, the, 183 ; in Turkey, 

225 ; in France, 243 
Portrait-sketching, 25 
Pratt and Whitney, 178, 187 
Pra)ring machines, 217 
Protestant, how I became a, 213 

Rapids, shooting the, 14 
Regulator, density, 90; electrical, 

128 ; steam, 148 ; Maxim 

gun speed-, 190 
Russia, Emperor of, presented to 

the, 213 
Russia, my experiences in, 212 

Sabbath-broacher, 22 
Sangersville, 22, 24 ; boxing at, 

Sap-ill-su-sip, 11 
Saratoga, gas machine for Grand 

Union Hotel at, 105 ; arc 

lights at, 135 ; mosquitoes and 

beetles at, 135, 136 
Sausage-stuffer, 132 
Schuyler, S. D., 120, 122, 124,140 
Scutari, a visit to, 224 

Sea-captain, I decide to become 

a, 16 
Searchlight, a powerful, 137, 139; 

thrown seven miles, 138 
Secret worth ;f35,ooo, solving a, 

" Seven up," 19 

Seville, 235 

Sketching, portrait-, 25 ; land- 
scape, 26 

Smokeless powder, 239 ; in the 
States, 241 ; Mr. Hartley's 
advice re, 241 ; Professors 
Abel and Dewar and, 242 ; 
Engineering on, 242 ; for the 
French Government, 243 ; 
Melinite, 246 ; America and — , 
243, 248 ; guns destroyed by, 

Soap, a story of, 117 

Spain, experiences in, 234 

Spiritualism, 86 

St. Petersburg, my experiences 
in, 212, 216 

Stanley, Sir Henry, 179 

Steam engine, 291 

Steam traps, 96, 97 

Stevens, Levi, 81 

Stevens, Old Brimstone, 31 ; — *s 
religion, 32 

Stewart, A. T., 96, 105 

Strength, trials of, 272 

Sultan, a mandate from the, 229 

Sultan and Falling Stars, The, 

Sultan's harem a present from 
the, 228 

Sweat, Daniel, 17 ; working for, 
18 ; playing cards with, 19 

Switzerland, Maxim gun in, 197 



Thieves, chicken, 271 
Thurlow Park, 271 
Tips, one thousand francs in, 219 
Torpedoes, Whitehead, 260 
Training, my athletic, 29 
Treacle, a new use for, 106 
Tree, felling a, 8 
Trees, some expensive, 291 
Tricycle, I make a, 32 
Turkish secretary, my, 230 
Turkish soldiers, dignity of, 225 
Tzar, presented to the, 214 

Van der Weyde, Professor, 126 

Vinegar, Old, 66 

Vos Inhalatorium, 314 

War Office, solving an important 

problem for the, 173 
Wheelbarrows, making, 18 
Wheels, American, 168 
Wolseley, Lord, 182, 190, 239 
Wood-turner, working as a, 35 
Woolwich infants, 180 
Workmen, trouble with, 162 ; in 

France, 186 ; in Italy, 198 ; 

English and American, 205 
World-Burners, 3 
Wrestling, 73 

Yankee, a State of Maine, 95, 230 

Zedzed, my friend M., 222, 224, 














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TeL No. 642-3405 
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Eaaewcd books ata tablaa fo immwHafa lacaU. 

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