Godfrey Lasar probably embarked on the creation of his typewriter sometime in the mid-to-late 1880's. Though he held previous patents, the first typewriter related ones, though none for the Lasar, were all filed in March of 1885 then issued in 1886. They were patents no.336,725 for a "Locking Device for Key-Boards of Type-Writing Machines," no.415,532 for an "Escapement for Type Writers" and no.338,757 for a "Telegraph-Transmitter." Then came the patents for the Lasar. First was patent no.386,139 for the Lasar's case, issued in 1888. Then, on November 19, 1889, Godrey was awarded an astounding 17 patents on just one day for the typewriter itself (patent nos.415,523 - 415,539).
The Lasar Typewriter Company was officially registered with the city of St. Louis, MO on March 27, 1890. A factory was opened at 2017 Lucas Place (Lucas Place was renamed to Locust Street sometime during the early 1900's). Unfortunately for Godfrey, almost as soon as his company was started, it ended. On May 14, 1892 the Lasar company was dissolved, according to city records. Wagner Electric took over the place on Lucas Place that same year. The building that once housed the Lasar company was demolished some time in the 20th century. The image below is of the building as it stood in the 1890's.
Unfortunately there was almost no marketing campaign from the Lasar company itself, but, to be fair, there were several ads published by the St. Louis Typewriter Exchange specifically for the Lasar. Five of those ads were in the Railroad Telegrapher, the first of which was dated to May 15, 1892, the very day after the Lasar Typewriter Company was dissolved. I also found an ad in the Express Gazette in 1893.
1890 - 1892
Lasar Typewriter Company
St. Louis, Missouri, US
Typewriter history is littered with machines like this Lasar and the men that made them, in this case, Godfrey Henry Lasar (1851 - 1940). such typewriters were definitely innovative, sometimes odd and, more often than not, commercial flops. The men that designed them were determined innovators grasping at the opportunity to break into a new and lucrative industry. Unfortunately for many, their typewriter designs were swallowed whole by obscurity.
The St. Louis Typewriter Exchange was selling Lasar typewriters (sometimes carelessly spelled Larsar in the ads) for $75. The final ad I was able to locate from the Exchange for the Lasar was in an 1895 titled the "Bargain Bulletin." In the ad, among all the other "bargain" buys, was for sale one "Nearly New" Lasar for a one-time cash sale of just $25. Typewriter historians have speculated for decades that the Exchange purchased leftover stock from the Lasar Typewriter Company when it closed and now these ads seem to corroborate it.
We can only speculate why the Lasar failed. One reason may have been because it typed uppercase exclusively whereas every other new typewriter on the market also typed lowercase. Under patent no.415,525 Godfrey did develop a shift mechanism but hadn't implemented it. Why? Did it have something to do with telegraphy? Was the Lasar always meant to be a "mill" typewriter? All of the Exchange's ads were, in fact, published in telegraph related periodicals and one did market the Lasar as "The Best Machine for Telegraph Work." Lastly, the two testimonials the ads provided were both from telegraph operators.
The Lasar at the top of this page is the only known example. It was featured in Antique Typewriters & Office Collectibles: Identification & Value Guide, written by Darryl Rehr. I believe that more Lasars were produced and the ads placed by the St. Louis Typewriter Exchange prove it. However, there is no evidence suggesting it was produced in great numbers.
On a final note, a Lasar was displayed in a 6-day typewriter exhibition in the 1950's. Was it the same Lasar as the one at the top of this page or another? I hope it's another just waiting to be plucked from an attic.
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