The brand name of motor cars was started as the Maxwell-Briscoe Company of Tarrytown, New York. The company was named after founders Jonathon Dixon Maxwell, who earlier had worked for Oldsmobile, and the Briscoe Brothers Metalworks.
In 1913 the company moved to Detroit, Michigan and became the Maxwell Motor Co. Some of the Maxwells were also manufactured at a plant in Dayton, Ohio. The company was a profitable company in the 1910s, but overextended and wound up deeply in debt with over half of their production unsold in the post World War I resession in 1920. The following year, Walter P. Chrysler of arranged to take a controlling interest in Maxwell. Maxwell Motors is re-incorprorated in West Virginia with Walter Chrysler as the chairman.
In 1925 Walter Chrysler formed the Chrysler Motors Corporation. That same year the Maxwell line was phased out and the Maxwell company assetts absorbed by Chrysler. Several early models of Chrysler cars were built largely on the design of earlier Maxwells.
The Maxwell is perhaps most famous as the vehicle driven by comedian Jack Benny on his radio and television programs, decades after the Maxwell ceased production. It was a running joke on the programs that Benny was a miser driving an outdated, noisy, barely-functioning jalopy. On Benny's radio program voice artist Mel Blanc portrayed Benny's Maxwell sputtering, chugging, and gasping with various comic vocal sound effects. (Contrary to the portrayal on Benny's show, the Maxwells were rated as fairly good automobiles in their time.)
See also: List of automobiles