Lamb Brothers & Greene
It's a very familiar story during a period when great opportunities existed to capitalize on the growing adoption and increased demand for electric lighting. Electric lighting came a little later in the mid-west as supplies of gas were plentiful and cheap, but things really got moving for the company around 1910 a couple of years after electric leaded lamp production had already started to peak in the east and business prospered until about 1925, a good run.
Company History - Jan Lamb
Jan Lamb, most likely a descendant of the family, provides this brief history of the Lamb family companies in Nappanee and transcripts of newspaper clippings from The Nappanee News comes the following history and it is compiled from these sources.
In March 1900, George L. Lamb moved his brush, easel, and novelty factory from Goshen to a former furniture factory in Nappanee, Indiana. In September 1903, Lamb added a two-story addition and dry kiln to the former furniture factory. Lamb constructed a new building for his novelty furniture business in late 1906.
In July 1908, Lamb displayed a selection of mission lamps at a Chicago merchandising show. Lamb’s mission lamps sold well. Wishing to capture a portion of the growing leaded shade lamp market, George L. Lamb, David Lamb, and H. B. Greene created a new business entity to manufacture art glass shades in April 1909. A newly built, three-story factory building, located on Jackson Street, housed the factory.
George L. Lamb continued as sole owner of his novelty furniture business as well as serving as a partner in the new enterprise. George’s brother David moved from Los Angeles to manage the new factory. Harry B. Greene, George Lamb’s son-in-law, was the assistant cashier of the Farmers & Traders Bank. J.C. Newsom of Louisville, KY, was hired to head marketing.
Forty workers were employed. The October 5, 1910 issue of The Nappanee News reported: “The elegant styles and finish of their goods is finding a market for them in Texas and Canada, as well as in nearly all the states of the Union…They operate two dynamos, one used in the plating process room and the other for lighting the factory. They also have their own gas plant which furnishes fire for the bench men in the soldering room….”
Lamb Bros. & Greene initially imported art glass shade designers and craftsmen from Chicago. Charles McFall, a graduate of the Chicago Art Institute, remained in Nappanee, eventually marrying Charles Lamb’s youngest daughter Mabel Irene. Madeline Campbell also designed Tiffany-style lamps for the company. One of Campbell’s designs was inspired by a robin’s nest containing four eggs in a tree outside her window. Campbell’s red and white stripe and blue shield with stars design was removed from inventory when the United States government complained about Lamb Bros. & Greene’s commercialization of the flag.
George Lamb withdrew from Lamb Brothers & Green in 1925. As tastes shifted from art glass to silk lamp shades, business declined. To help make ends meet, the company did plating for outside contractors. In June 1931, a receiver sold the real estate and personal property of Lamb Brothers & Greene, a victim of changing tastes and the Great Depression.
The following is an extract from a document authored by Dorothy Greene. While it includes most of the information above, a few additional details are worth noting. Thanks to Paul Crist for sharing the Dorothy Greene history.
Charles McFall ... was hired and became an outstanding head designer for the leaded lamps. There was a lady named Madeline Campbell who designed lamps also. She was the designer of the "Tiffany" glass lamp shades. It was one of her first jobs and being very talented, though not formally trained, many of her designs were chosen for production. The lamp stands were cast right at the plant out of lead zinc, which was called spelter. This was made from lead, zinc and antimony. They had iron hoses that they would put a pipe through and then plate it with brass in the plating room. The lamp factory did its best business in the late teens.