JOHN WILLIAM LAMBERT, INVENTOR, 1860-1952
We all know who the Wright Brothers are. Is not the car as significant to our culture as the airplane? Contrary to popular misconception, Henry Ford did not invent the automobile; he mass produced it after the First World War and made it available to all. The person who designed, built and drove the first car in America to run by gas was my great-grandfather. He did it in Ohio City, Ohio in 1891. Why is his name not a household term?
John Lambert lived America’s Industrial Revolution and his story is the history of American transportation. I wanted to get to know him, so I traveled throughout Ohio and Indiana to county libraries and museums. I interviewed folks who knew him and went through the family treasure trove of automobile paraphernalia and personal photos. I wrote museums and collectors, talked to folks who love antique engines and cars from the Brass Era. My research included websites and old magazines and newspapers, any source that added to his story. The answer to the mystery of why John did not promote his primary accomplishment lies in his family background, his time in history and the engaging curiosity of his intellect. John Lambert left the arguments over who was first to his colleagues while his interest was in making what was before him better.
As John Lambert’s great-granddaughter I wanted to tell his story. As a social worker psychotherapist I wanted to know him as a person in order to understand this mystery about him. I wrote the book Who Invented America’s Gasoline Automobile? as an historical novel about his family and his invention, based on the facts as I knew them. Then I wrote a non-fiction version, focused on his career and the little three-wheeled horseless carriage, Something New Under The Sun, The History of America’s First Car.