Hudson Maxim the Person

Hudson Maxim is not just the name of a school in town. He was an actual person who lived in Hopatcong and whose house still stands.  Hudson Maxim, was noted scientist and inventor, who came here at the turn of the century and built a large estate in the borough of Hopatcong.

Hudson Maxim (February 3, 1853 – May 6, 1927), was a U.S. inventor and chemist who invented a variety of explosives, including smokeless gunpowder. Thomas Edison referred to him as “the most versatile man in America”.

He was the brother of Hiram Stevens Maxim, inventor of the Maxim gun and uncle of Hiram Percy Maxim, inventor of the Maxim Silencer.

Maxim was a man of many talents. He started his career in 1881 as the publisher of Real Pen Work – Self Instructor in Penmanship. Later he joined his brother, Hiram Stevens Maxim’s workshop in the United Kingdom, where they both worked on the improvement of smokeless gunpowder. After some disputes, Hudson Maxim returned to the United States and developed a number of stable high explosives, the rights of which were sold to the DuPont Company.

During the Civil War Maxim lived in Maine. He remembered what his neighbors thought of the south and how his brother Henry, who fought in the war, depicted battle as an atrocity.  Later, however, when his country made no preparations for the calamities of the World War I, which he saw coming, he was eager to get the United States prepared; when the war came, he was possessed with a dominating desire to get the States into it.

Maxim was stirred by a spirit of what one may call world patriotism, not thinking of just his own country by a spirit that a man feels when he sees any diabolical thing done to defenseless people. He felt great sympathy for Germany. The Germans, as a people, were very little to blame for the World War. No, the military cliques of “Cutthroats” were to blame.

However, Maxim was also a peace advocate; he was in hearty accord with all the lovers of peace in holding that war is a horrible institution—that is, as Napoleon said, “the trade of barbarians.”

During World War I, Maxim wrote a book, Defenseless America, in which he pointed out the inferiority of the American defense system and the defenselessness of the country against attacks of foreign aggressors. He also served as chairman of the committee on ordnance and explosives of the naval consulting board and donated several inventions to the government. His good friend, Elbert Hubbard, died on the RMS Lusitania when it was torpedoed by a German submarine. This event fueled Maxim’s  belief that the USA should improve its defenses and join the war against Germany.

Maxim also wrote the book The Science of Poetry and the Philosophy of Language about the nature and writing of poetry. In this work, he opposed that words, like chemical particles, had natural laws that governed the manner in which they could be combined into verse, and that poetry perceived as excellent was in fact one that conformed to those laws. He also argued that certain famous poets (William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth) had discovered those laws and put them to use in their poetry.

Throughout Maxim’s life he was always playing with explosives. He even had a laboratory to create his experiments. He even lost some of his assistants with his experimentation. One day when he was returning from a court case where he was called in to for an expert’s opinion, he discovered that there had been an explosion. His laboratory was destroyed and his assistant blown to pieces. At the end of the World War I, he gave up his days of experimenting with high explosives. During his experimental career, he lost his left hand in a mercury fulminate explosion in 1894.

During the last 25 years of his life, Maxim spent most of his time at his home on the shores of Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey. He was a great promoter and supporter of the development of Lake Hopatcong and the Borough of Hopatcong and is honored by memorials in Hopatcong State Park and the Borough of Hopatcong’s Maxim Glen Park. He spoke and wrote prolifically on many topics – from his opposition to maintaining the Morris Canal, to his disdain of Prohibition, to his love of poetry and boxing.

Maxim appeared as King Neptune during the first two years of the Miss America Pageant in 1921 and 1922, arriving on a great float and presenting the trophy to the winner.

As it must to all men, Death came to Hudson Maxim, 74, inventor of deadly explosives. It came slowly, quietly—that followed after his 24 hour coma. It found him at his home at Maxim Park, Lake Hopatcong, N. J. It had tried unsuccessfully, many times before, to find him in his laboratory. Although several of his assistants had been blown to bits, he emerged from all his dangerous experiments with only his left hand missing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *