Tuesday, July 01, 2014

1910: Hiram Maxim Pipe of Peace

Sir Hiram Maxum (1840-1916) (2)
Sir Hiram Maxim (1840-1916) became famous for inventing a killing machine, and then he was ridiculed for inventing a life saving machine.  The killing machine was the Maxim gun, the first machine gun, capable of firing 160 times in one minute.  The other was a breathing machine used by people suffering from respiratory diseases, including asthma, catahrr, hay fever, emphysema, etc.

In his 1915 book, "My Life," he tells his own story:
 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 under 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 about 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 mineral springs and there are many doctors who make a speciality of treating 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."
The Maxim inhaler and his "calming concoction" Dirogo (5)
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 completely by the beginning of April, when I returned to England. However, with the cold and foggy weather of the next autumn 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—generally in the French language. Mr. Vos became very much interested in my case, perhaps more so on account 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 found 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 distinguished-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 deploring 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 creditable thing to invent a killing machine, and nothing less than a disgrace to invent an apparatus to prevent human suffering.
It is a curious and interesting fact that one of the gentlemen who has ridiculed me the most recommends these inhalers to his friends and always takes one with him when travelling.
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 expedient to use it. I spent my boyhood in the State of Maine, where there is a little 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. (1)
Sir Hiram Maxim's Pipe of Peace and Maxim Inhaler (3)
He patented his inhaler in 1909 and "resembled a glass retort and delivered menthol and evergreen essence." (4, page 67

The medicine was prepared by John Morgan Richards and Sons Ltd., in London. (6)  The medicine was referred to as Drigo, and a few drops of it were dipped into warm water in the inhaler reservoir.  

Maxum also wrote a book about asthma, and how you can treat your disease in the comfort of your own home without any medicine.  In his book he also introduced the world to his new invention, the Pipe of Peace.  It was marketed for "relief of all affections of the nose, throat, bronchial tubes, and lungs," according to a 1910 advertisement in the Tribune Almanac and Political Register. (2)
The ad states that "nothing can be more economical or effectual than the Maxum System of Treatment -- Direct Inhalation -- which conveys the vapour direct to the spot where it is needed.  It is, in fact, natures cure carried by a clever device to the very part affected, thereby enabling all sufferers to obtain immediate relief."

The ad states the book should be in the hands of all who suffer from respiratory ailments. It recommends you send a letter to the address provided to enter for a chance to receive one of 10,000 free copies of the book.  To view the ad you can click here

According to The Science Museum a few hundred thousand were sold in the first decade after it was invented.  (5)  This inhaler is also considered the first combination inhaler.  

  1. Maxum, Sir Hiram, "My Life," 1915, New York, McBride, Nast and Company, pages 313-315.  
  2. This information is from an ad for the Hhiram Maxum Pipe of Peace from the Tribune Almanac and Political Register1910, page 774, edited by Horace Greely, Tribune Association.  The photo of Maxum is compliments of the ad, and even more so compliments of Google Books for providing access to this and other material to which the copy write has expired.  
  3. The picture was taken from a really nice website about the life of Sir Hiram Maxum, Browninmgcom, "http://browningmgs.com/Maxim/Maxim-Vickers.htm, accessded 10/10/12
  4. SmythHugh D.C. Smyth, Anthony J. Hickey, "Controlled Drug Delivery," 2011, London, Springer, page 67
  5. "Sir Hiram Maxim's 'Pipe of Peace' bronchial inhaler, 1909-1910,Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library, image number 10324710, http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/images/I057/10324710.aspx, accessed 10/10/12
  6. "Sir Hiram Maxim's 'Pipe of Peace' bronchial inhaler, 1909-1910," Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library, Inventory number1981-982 , http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/images/I057/10324710.aspx, accessed 10/10/12, the inhaler is currently on display in: Making the Modern World.  
For further reading on Sir Hiram Maxim refer to:

  1. Brown, Malcolme, "100 Years of Maxim's 'Killing Machines,'" The New York Times, November 26, 1985
  2. Science Museum and Society Picture Library,

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