Thomas Lamb – Industrial Designer – “The Handle Man”

Kitchen Tools with Lamb Wedge-Lock Handles by Thomas Lamb
Kitchen Tools with Lamb Wedge-Lock Handles by Thomas Lamb

Thomas Babbit Lamb (1896โ€“1988) was an industrial designer in the United States. His revolutionary handle designs, which are based on the mechanics of the human hand, are his most well-known works.

Biography

Lamb was born on September 18, 1896, in New York City. He apprenticed himself to a plastic surgeon at the age of 14, making medical drawings in exchange for anatomy lessons, and worked in a textile design company from the age of 14. He studied figure drawing and painting at the Art Students League of New York in the evenings. Lamb also went to Columbia University to study commerce. Thomas Lamb’s success as a designer was based on combining anatomy, art, and business.

Textile Design

Thomas Lamb founded his textile design studio at seventeen, specialising in advertising, fashion, and magazine illustration. In the 1920s, his bedspreads, napkins, and draperies were immensely popular. Many New York department stores carried them, including Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Children’s Books

He started illustrating children’s books in 1924, with titles such as Runaway Rhymes, The Tale of Bing-O, Jolly Kid Alphabet, and Kiddyland Story Balloons. Lamb signed a contract with Good Housekeeping magazine to illustrate a series of Kiddyland cartoons shortly after his success with Runaway Rhymes. Kiddyland fabrics, soaps, and talcum powder were among the tie-ins developed by Lamb. There was even a Kiddiegram for Western Union, which Shirley Temple praised.

WWII Effects

During WWII, Lamb, like many other American designers, re-examined his design philosophy. A line of Victory Napkins and the “Adolph the Pig” piggy bank, which was used to stimulate the purchase of war bonds, were among his early responses to the economic and social realities of the time.

Thomas Lamb's "Adolph the Pig." The message scribbled on top reads "Save for Victory and Make Him Squeal." Courtesy of the Museum of World War II, Boston. On display at the WWII & NYC exhibit, New-York Historical Society.
Thomas Lamb’s “Adolph the Pig.” The message scribbled on top reads “Save for Victory and Make Him Squeal.” Courtesy of the Museum of World War II, Boston. On display at the WWII & NYC exhibit, New-York Historical Society.

Like Charles and Ray Eames, Lamb saw the crutches used by injured and disabled servicemen as inadequate. Lamb began by concentrating on the armrest but soon realised that the hand was bearing most of the weight. He began to experiment with techniques to shift the weight and make the crutches easier to handle. He created his Lamb Lim Rest crutch after studying anatomy and medical textbooks for a long time.

Becoming the “Handle Man”

Thomas Lamb became renowned as the “Handle Man” in the late 1940s. Cookware, cutlery, medical tools, baggage, sporting equipment, and industrial equipment all benefitted from Lamb’s patents developed while inventing the Lim Rest. His designs were a key impact on the Universal Design movement, culminating in his unusual “Wedge-Lock” and “Universal” handles. When the design establishment was focused on Bauhaus-inspired utility, his work was displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in 1948. As a result of the attention, Cutco and Wear-Ever awarded them contracts to create cutlery and cookware.

Thomas Lamb died on February 2, 1988, at the age of ninety-one.

Sources

Wikipedia contributors. (2021, September 16). Thomas Lamb (industrial designer). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:46, November 7, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Thomas_Lamb_(industrial_designer)&oldid=1044621321

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