John W. Lambert invented the first gasoline-powered automobile in 1891. His home on Hendricks Street, as well as the myriad of homes on historic West 8th Street, stand as the fruits of the labors of the owners of the numerous businesses (e.g., automobile, tools, metal) that flourished in Anderson and Madison County.
Lambert was born in Ansonia, Ohio on January 29th, 1860. At 16 years of age, he invented a three-grain corn planter—the first of over 600 U.S. patents he would file. In his early adulthood he worked as a farm implement dealer and grain elevator operator in Enterprise (now Ohio City), Ohio. Gas engines had fascinated Lambert since seeing a slide valve coal gas engine at a tannery in his teens. In 1891, he successfully tested a three-wheeled surrey-top automobile powered by a gasoline engine. It was the very first of its kind, but was not successfully marketed to potential buyers. Potential buyers could fill their automobile with the natural gas, discovered in Anderson in 1887, which dubbed the city “Queen City of the Indiana Gas Belt.”
Failing to sell his three-wheeled automobile, he turned his manufacturing energies solely to gasoline-powered engine. He founded the Buckeye Manufacturing Company in 1894. The move had perfect timing. His company prospered enabling him to build his home on 705 Hendricks Street in Anderson—a thriving neighborhood during Anderson’s gas boom. Lambert successfully perfected gearless transmission and after further experimentation sold the one-cylinder Lambert car in 1906.
In the eleven years that followed, the Buckeye Manufacturing Company would produce Lambert automobiles ranging from two to four cylinders, as well as commercial vehicles including trucks, fire engines, and tractors. With the entry of the United States into World War I in 1917, the Buckeye Manufacturing Company suspended automobile production and converted to a national defense facility where they manufactured shells, caisson wheels, and military fire engines. At the war’s end, Lambert noted that the company’s inability to meet the demands of mass production for automobiles would stall its growth. As a result, the company concentrated on automobile parts only. It was renamed Lambert Incorporated located in both Dayton, Ohio and Mr. Lambert’s birthplace Ansonia.
Mr. Lambert would reside at his home on 705 Hendricks Street for his whole retirement, dying there on May 20, 1952, at the age of 92. He was laid to rest in Maplewood Cemetery in Anderson. The Lambert House was designated a historical landmark in 1977. This Free Classic Queen Anne style house was built in 1899 using funds earned from his manufacturing company. It was his residence for 53 years; currently it is a private home.
Mr. Lambert’s Buckeye Manufacturing Company would provide employment to hundreds of Anderson citizens as the overall growth of the automobile industry created jobs for the average American wherever it was thriving. Howbeit the majority of these citizens were not residents of this neighborhood as was their boss Mr. Lambert, as their mostly blue-collar jobs would not have paid enough to afford living there.