Dr. J. H. Mclean’s Peace Makers


Turning his agile mind to nautical matters, the doctor proposed a swift fighting ship constructed entirely of thin iron, invulnerable to shot, carrying only four guns of the largest and most perfect accuracy (Dr. J. H. McLean’s ioo-ton gun Hercules), and capable of speeding through the water at thirty miles per hour. He had “mentally constructed” such a vessel, he stated, and had “caused a new style of engines and boilers to be invented.” But for “obvious reasons,” they could not be described fully in the book. By way of warning, however, he asked if Americans realized that the Spanish navy was superior to their own, that the United States was at the mercy of Spain’s big guns. “We present a pitiable spectacle to the world,” the anguished doctor cried. “Let the United States spend three hundred millions in the next five years!”

Concluding his naval section on a positive, upbeat note, he described a “fitting coronal to his other magnificent achievements”—Dr. J. H. McLean’s Wonderful Hydrophone. Fastened to the bows of ships, so sensitive that it would pick up the roar of breakers, the splash of oars, the grunt of porpoises, or the noise of an iceberg, this marvelous invention would make the world “bless the day that DR. JAMES HENRY MC LEAN first saw the light.”

Seventy-six pages—over one third of the book- McLean devoted to the subject of cannon. In tones dripping with sarcasm, he attacked worn-out theories of gunnery and scoffed at those who derided his “new fangled ordnance.”


he announced; he would organize “a colossal company,” capitalized at $20,000,000, for the purpose of building his great Peace-Makers. Soon, if all went well, it would be turning out his “surf-fighting ships, his impregnable fortresses, his iron forms, his magnetic torpedoes, his terrible shells and the entire range of his magazine arms, battery guns and monster breech-loading cannon.” Capitalists of all nations were advised to write the doctor in St. Louis, for there were


Vividly described were his Annihilator, General Grant, Pulverizer, and other revolutionary weapons, but these were only prelude to the pièce de rèsistance —the perfection of modern ordnance—the Lady McLean, named for his wife. This horrendous gun, it was said, could fire up to 2,000 shots a minute, cutting down long ranks of men at one sweep. And just to prove the point, the doctor included a drawing that showed a handful of artillerists coolly manning a line of Lady McLean guns, shattering a charge by the Light Brigade (which made it once too often for the six hundred).

Equally diabolical was a weapon he had contrived for naval warfare—the Octopus or Devil Fish Torpedo. Observing saselv that “a torpedo must be made to go to the ship, instead of expecting the ship to come to the torpedo,” the doctor explained how his device would fasten itself to an enemy vessel by means of powerful horseshoe magnets and explode when the timing mechanism went off. Offensive weapons were not the only tricks in Dr. McLean’s bulging bag. Having seen how inferior fortifications failed to keep the Germans out of Paris in 1871 (he carefully calculated France’s financial losses in that war at fifteen billion dollars, including five billion for “national humiliation”), he set himself the task of inventing a proper fort. The result was predictable:


Touching only briefly on the dimensions of these bastions, noting that they would be plated with armor backed by broken granite, and filled with watertight compartments, the doctor considered it unnecessary to give full details regarding construction. “It is sufficient to state in a general way that Dr. McLean is fully posted as to the best means of building them, their cost, the best means for ventilating, lighting and storing them for a siege … the main thing is to prevail upon the various governments of the world to adopt them.” To that end, copies of the book were mailed to all the crowned heads of Europe. From Turkey, at least, came a heartening reply:

“His Majesty the Sultan congratulates you on the success of your inventions. Send, exclusively for the Sultan, one gun for cavalry, one for infantry, and two pistols, with one thousand cartridges each …”


For all his concentration on huge, powerful weapons, Dr. McLean had not neglected the foot soldier’s needs. Repeating rifles—of which the 128-shot “James Gordon Bennett” was his prize example—had been invented, as had a MagazinePistol. The picture below “shows what a hunted and desperate dragoon armed with a brace of Dr. J. H. McLean’s repeating pistols can be expected to do. These pistols carry 48 shots each, hence this resolute man has possibly the lives of 96 of his would-be captors at will … he might prove a very usrly customer.”