Developed by French immigrant Frank (born François) Lambert over a period of 17 years, the Lambert has a one-of-a-kind design.
Although it looks like an index machine, the Lambert is a keyboard typewriter.
The circular keyboard is connected directly to a type disk that contains all characters.
Upon depression of a key, the disk swivels to the right position, descends, and prints through an opening in the ink pad onto a printing surface the size of a lentil.
The paper curls up around the wooden roller as typing continues.
The end of a line is signaled when a little upright spring attached to the carriage flicks against a ball bearing, which then rolls through a tube to hit a bell.
This odd little device was advertised as suitable "for almost everybody."
You'd think it would be extremely rare, but in fact, the Lambert was moderately
successful, and it turns up with some regularity for under $1000.
Facts and figures
Model 1 (embossed base): 1900-1902
Model 3 (decal on base, longer carriage): 1902-1904 in U.S. Also produced in England, Germany, and France, where it was sold by Sidney Hébert of Dieppe as late as the 1920s.
Frank Lambert (1851-1937) was also the inventor of
a talking clock.
His test recording for this clock dates from 1878 and is probably the oldest existing sound recording in the world.
Lambert made no money from either his clock or his typewriter, but finally struck it rich thanks to a water-metering device.
Here he is at his home in Brooklyn in 1926.
Photograph from "Lambert's Voice!" by Aaron Cramer, ETCetera #21 (December 1992).