From the Archive: Maxim’s Pipe of Peace

Are those winter coughs and colds still lingering? Maybe the Archive can help. This “Pipe of Peace” medical device (delivered to Cotesbach in 1916) was one of many thousands produced in the early twentieth century to treat throat and chest problems such as bronchitis. Soothing vapours could be delivered right to the back of the throat via a long glass tube.

Maxim himself began suffering with bronchitis in 1900 and spent many fruitless months consulting doctors and trying various therapies. He finally attended a clinic in France that used inhalation to aid breathing disorders. In his autobiography, he wrote: “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.” It took Maxim some time to develop an alternative medication and his inhalant recipe (called ‘Dirigo’) was eventually patented in 1909. The mixture was sold by John Morgan Richards and Sons Ltd, a patent medicines promoter who also, ironically, encouraged the sale of American cigarettes through chemists.

Hiram Maxim (1840–1916) was more famous as the inventor of the automatic machine gun. When his “Pipe of Peace” inhaler was condemned as quackery, he commented: “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”.

Correspondence relating to the purchase of a pipe from our archive.