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Hiram Percy Maxim Film Collection

Identifier: HPL-HHC-HPM

Scope and Content

The collection comprises reels of 16 millimeter, black and white, silent film. They vary in length, from 100 feet to 400 feet. Each one has a number, and some have descriptions. The origins of these numbers and descriptions are unknown. Dates are provided when available.

Film footage of and by Hiram Percy Maxim. Reel 9 begins with Maxim standing with his back to a road, talking and smoking his pipe. Continues with Jim and Julie Andrews and Mrs. Canda in front of 1055 Prospect Avenue in 1924. The final scene is of Mrs. Lucius Robinson at her garden party in 1927. (4:00)

Reel 14 begins with a burning building. The title is Paul Butterworth's House Warming. Next is Sunday Morning Bathing Hour at Fenwick, which features Dr. Thomas and Mrs. Katharine Hepburn and guests using a diving board into Long Island Sound. The other scenes include E.K. Root's Fishing Trip, with EK, Jim Pratt, and Mr. Soren. They go ashore at Plum Island. The following scenes are winter walking at the West Hartford Reservoirs and a drive to Devil's Hopyard State Park. There is a brief scene with Maxim holding skis, which does not appear related to either the Devil's Hopyard trip or the following beach scenes. The initial beach scenes are not labeled. The next title places the scene at Bethamy (possibly Bethany Beach), Delaware. The reel concludes with the camera fading out on Maxim's boat, the Moby Dick. (8:57)

The Maxim Silencer Company is the subject of Reel 19. It begins with a view of the company's original office building, which they occupied from 1915 to 1926, and continues with scenes in the foundry. At 4:16 a title informs the viewer they are about to see AT&T inspectors testing silencers. After the testing scenes, the reel continues with the Maxim Silencer company picnic, More office scenes follow, including some featuring Maxim displaying his with with regard to how he should wear his glasses. (16:38)

Crossing the Delaware at Wilmington is the first scene of Reel 23, as the Maxims travel through Delaware and New Jersey on their way back to Hartford. Reaching Connecticut, Maxim uses a title to express his displeasure with the roads and road signs, at least one of which is no longer upright. "Are we a backward state when it comes to roads, and their equipment?" The following footage is of Mrs. Maxim in her garden. It is from two different seasons, as the plants go from being fairly dormant to in full bloom with a barely perceptible break in the footage. The reel continues with a December 1924 meeting of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). Members A.A. Hebert, K.B. Warner, F.H. Schnell, and one other join Maxim in front of the camera, horsing around and doing gymnastics maneuvers. The next 20 seconds are of travel on the New London Road. Maxim also recorded a view of a river. The following scene is the view of Bushnell Park from Maxim's office at 410 Asylum Street. Two buildings with palm trees are next on the reel. The first is preceded by the title, "This must have been the original home of the boosters." Ending the reel is traffic in Hartford. We then see a car drive around a monument (possibly at Capitol Avenue and Park Terrace). (11:11)

Santa Barbara, California and the Grand Canyon highlight Reel 35. The Maxims visit Paseo de la Guerra, George Owen Knapp's estate, a zoo, and the Samarkind Hotel while in Southern California. They reach the Grand Canyon in time for a snow storm. They travel home by train. While filming, Maxim highlights the adobe architecture of the area. They stop in Belen and Albuquerque, New Mexico along the way. Their return to Hartford ends the reel. (10:01)

The first of two reels featuring the Garden Club of Hartford, Reel 38 begins at Mrs. Robert Huntington's garden, 145 Bloomfield Avenue. Participants include Mrs. Andrews, Mrs. Maxim, Mrs. Enders, Mrs. Sumner, Mrs. Sage, Miss Chapman, Mrs. Williams, Mrs. Clifford Cheney, Mrs. Will Cheney, Mrs. H.T. Smith, Mrs. Thayer, Miss Foster, Mrs. Huntington, Miss Lorenz, Mrs. E.W. Smith, Miss Taylor, Mrs. Robert Gray, and Mrs. Wilson. The meeting begins at the house (where we also see the kittens Mrs. Huntington is raising) and then the participants walk to the garden. The next garden they visit is Mrs. Sage's, where Mrs. Robert Gray pretends to dive into the pool. Mrs. Andrew's garden and Miss Foster's garden follow. The reel ends at Mrs. Maxim's garden, 276 Whitney Street. (11:58)

The second of two reels featuring the Garden Club of Hartford, Reel 40 begins with Mrs. Lucius Robinson's Garden Party in June 1927. The Robinsons resided at 45 Forest Street. The footage highlights their conservatory and a small pool. The club eats lunch. There is also footage of a garden wall. The next portion of film is a September Garden Club picnic at the Maxim's house on Bill Hill in Lyme, Connecticut. (12:10)

Reel 48 is the second of two reels featuring the Maxim Silencer Company. The reel begins with a staff meeting or lecture, then moves to men flying model airplanes, before returning to the foundry where we see men at work. The final minute is in an office building (probably Maxim's office on Asylum Street). There are strips taped to something next to the window, which are being blown around. (8:41)

The worst flood Hartford had seen in 60 years (most likely November 1927) begins Reel 49. Footage includes the Bulkeley Bridge, locals navigating flooded streets, and men pumping water. The reel continues with images of buildings restored by Henry Ford in Sudbury, MA; the first regular air mail in Hartford, with views of the city from 2500 feet in the air; and young children at the orphan asylum. A Friday the 13th clip shows traffic at the intersection of Trumbull and Asylum Streets, with cars and people moving in reverse. Concluding the reel is Charles Lindbergh's visit to Hartford as he began his countrywide tour.

In Reel 57, men and women, most in pairs, walk or dance toward the camera, many raising their punch glasses. The scene ends with Maxim giving his wife a kiss on the cheek. We next see two women carrying babies, and several children walking with them. The camera then cuts to a woman walking out of a house, possibly a dentist's office, as the following scene is a boy getting a dental exam. We once again see the woman in the entryway of the building before the camera focuses in on the Visiting Nurses Association of Hartford's vehicle. Three women drive off in the vehicle. After a street scene focusing on a fire hydrant, the next scene is a woman walking on a sidewalk with two boys to the Children's Village. The two boys are left there. The remaining three minutes are of children at the Village. Some are playing outside, others are in the building. The children range in ages. One Black child is filmed. A doctor checks on some of the infants. (9:19)

Titles at the beginning of Reel 60 indicate that Maxim is a member of the Amateur Cinema League. The first portion of footage is titled, "Seeing it through by Hiram Percy Maxim." Maxim details a flight up to 12,000 feet above Hartford. Without a pause, the next scene is in a field, setting up to view the 1932 eclipse. There are cars, a large telescope inside a tent, and people walking around. Footage is shown of the surrounding hills, and then what looks like might be the eclipse. There are shots of a building offering vehicle service up Mount Washington, and a final look at the telescope in the tent. (8:14)


  • 1920s-1930s


Access Restrictions

The material is stored in a restricted area and therefore may not be available on a same-day basis.

Use Restrictions

See Hartford History Center's Collection Use policy. Permission to publish from the collection must be obtained in writing from curator of the Hartford History Center, and a copy of the published work may be requested by the Hartford History Center. The Hartford History Center reserves the right to refuse permission to publish, etc. to those who have not complied with its policies. Use of the collections will normally not be permitted for the purpose of promotion of commercial products and services or political campaigns. Hartford History Center at Hartford Public Library reserves the right to limit the number of photographic prints/captures and to restrict the use or reproduction of rare, fragile, or valuable objects.

Biographical Note

Hiram Percy Maxim (HPM) was an explorer. Whether inventing new technology such as the Maxim Silencer, pioneering the American Radio Relay League, creating airplane parts, yachting, or studying astronomy, Maxim was constantly seeking out new frontiers. His work has had lasting benefits, in Hartford and around the world.

HPM was born in Brooklyn, New York. His father, Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim was an inventor, as was his uncle, Hudson Maxim. Hiram Percy Maxim married Josephine Hamilton, the daughter of a former Maryland governor. They had two children, Hiram Hamilton and Percy.

HPM first came to Hartford in 1895 to work for the Pope Manufacturing Company. His initial task, accomplished two years later, was the creation of the Columbia electric motor carriage. He continued working as an automobile designer and engineer until the formation of Maxim Silent Firearms Co. in 1908. The Maxim silencer, used to suppress the sound of firearm discharge, was eventually discontinued. HPM found ways to use the technology to eliminate noise in other ways, such as through ventilating spaces.

Today, HPM is studied as a result of his hobbies. A Hartford Courant article at the time of Maxim’s death states that in the years preceding passage of the first US radio law in 1912, “his amateur station was in communication over the limit of ranges possible in those early days of radio.” In 1914 Maxim founded the American Radio Relay League, which remains in operation today. Internet searches indicate that Maxim is revered by amateur radio enthusiasts.

Maxim also enjoyed motion picture photography. In 1926 he was instrumental in the formation of the Amateur Cinema League, which also exists to this day. An award was named for him following his death.

Hiram Percy Maxim passed away in Colorado, while on a trip to California. The trip was to include astronomical research in Arizona, another of his many hobbies.

HPM’s wife, Josephine, has a place in Hartford and Connecticut’s history, too. Her accomplishments included being the first Connecticut woman appointed to the Democratic National Convention, a member of the Hartford Board of Education, an executive committee member of the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association, and founder of the Connecticut League of Women Voters. She is featured in some of the films, including one about the meeting of her garden club. In addition to depicting engineering history, HPM’s films also provide a glimpse into the lives of Hartford’s society women.


53 Reels (Includes the originals and new preservation masters.)

Language of Materials



Collection of amateur films created by Hartford inventor and businessman, Hiram Percy Maxim.


The collection is closed. Additional accruals are not expected.

Hiram Percy Maxim Film Collection
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Hartford History Center Repository

Hartford History Center
Hartford Public Library
500 Main St
Hartford CT 06103 USA