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What’s in a name?

August, 2023

We often get asked ‘where did the name Maxim come from?’ It took a while for the founders to settle on a name but there is an explanation.

A maxim is a short, pithy statement expressing a general truth, a piece of wisdom, a fundamental principle or rule of conduct, such as ‘actions speak louder than words’. And given that Maxim is a PR and communications agency, it seemed totally appropriate to be pithy, truthful, and we hope offer wisdom and wise counsel when it comes to advising our clients.

But there’s more to it than that. In legal circles, a maxim is an established principle or proposition of law that is universally admitted as being just and consonant. Once again that seemed to fit perfectly with our approach to our clients and when working with the media. One thing we’ve always hated is the use of the word ‘spin’ to describe us, that’s not what we do.

However, there’s arguably a more interesting reason, especially if you are into trivia and the weird and wonderful. There was also a former Kent resident, Sir Hiram Maxim, an American-British inventor best known as the creator of the first automatic machine gun, the Maxim gun. While we didn’t like the idea of being associated with a killing machine, its effectiveness when it came to targeting and its accuracy over distance was an interesting metaphor for successful media relations.
He also held patents on numerous mechanical devices such as hair-curling irons, eyelet and riveting machines, a mousetrap, coffee substitutes, steam pumps, and the first automatic fire sprinkler. He was obviously someone who could turn his hand to anything, which sounds like a normal day at Maxim.

He even invented a pocket menthol inhaler and then a steam-powered inhaler to help sufferers of bronchitis like himself. After being criticised for applying his talents to quackery, he protested that “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”. He obviously knew how to respond to criticism, and that’s also a skill required of people in PR and reputation management.

Maxim also laid claim to inventing the lightbulb in the late 1870s, and in 1880 installed the first electric lights in New York City – the Equitable Life Building at 120 Broadway – and he was not a fan of Thomas Edison, with the pair having a number of patent disputes. When it came to protecting his reputation he would stand his ground and present a strong case. That’s something we’ve done for many of our clients over the almost 30 years we’ve been established.

From his base near Dartford, Hiram Maxim invented a heavier than air flying machine, powered by steam, that travelled 281 metres at 1.4m above the ground. While it might not have soared it did prove the principles of aviation and recognised that at the very least petrol combustion engines would be needed.
In 1911, he established a company to develop military aircraft with Louis Blériot, the first man to fly across the English Channel, and engineer Claude Grahame White, one of Britain's first qualified pilots. 

Over the years we’ve worked with many innovative companies and entrepreneurs, and while none of them can obviously lay claim to inventing the lightbulb, many do possess the can-do attitude of Hiram Maxim, which is the basis for many a PR campaign. 
So, there you have it, a journey of how Maxim came to be called Maxim – and an insight into why we chose the name.

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