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Collection of the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

Thomas Lamb

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Thomas Lamb was an industrial designer who gained the most notoriety for his design of physiologically efficient handles. From an early age he was interested in anatomy and physiology, and wanted to become a doctor. However, financial difficulties forced him to drop out of high school and he began work in a textile design shop. During this time he studied at the Art Students League, and finally at seventeen, Lamb opened his own textile design studio. His designs for home goods became very popular during the 1920s and were sold in major New York City department stores. He also created illustrations for books and magazines such as “Good Housekeeping" magazine, which spurred even more designs. After World War II, Lamb turned his attention to the war effort. While at first he was designing items like “Victory napkins,” he soon turned his attention to the needs of veterans. This shift eventually led to the more ergonomic and functional work with handles. This is the work that gained him the most notoriety, and a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1948. During his long career Lamb worked with a great deal of retailers, manufactures and stores, and created a large breadth of designs for a wide range of media and products. "The Thomas Lamb Papers: 1916 - 1988." The Lemelson Center: Hagley Museum & Library Manuscripts & Archives Department.