Any new information on the typewriter, the factory or on Godfrey H. Lasar and his days as a typewriter inventor would be greatly appreciated. I think it goes without saying that I would be very interested in acquiring one of these Lasars for myself. Please email me at Antikey.Chop@gmail.com
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 inventors grasping at the opportunity to break into a new and lucrative industry. Unfortunately for them, thousands of their typewriter designs were simply swallowed up into obscurity.
G.H. Lasar probably embarked on the creation of his typewriter sometime in the mid-to-late 1880s. Though he held previous patents, the first ones that he recieved for anything typewriter related were all filed in March of 1885 and issued in 1886. They were for a "Locking Device for Key-Boards of Type-Writing Machines," (patent no.336,725), an "Escapement for Type Writers," (patent no.415,532) and the last for a "Telegraph-Trasmitter," (patent no.338,757). Then came the patents for the Lasar. A patent for the case was issued in 1888 (patent no.386,139), and, on November 19, 1889, G.F. Lasar received an astounding 17 patents for the typewrirter itself (patent nos.415,523 - 415,539).
The Lasar at the top of this page is the only known example. It was featured in 1997's Antique Typewriters & Office Collectibles: Identification & Value Guide, written by Darryl Rehr. It has since been shuffled between collectors. I believe that more Lasars were produced and the ads placed by The St. Louis Typewriter Exchange prove it. The Lasar, unfortunately, an Underwood it was not. It was never made in great numbers and only us typewriter geeks will wax poetic over it.
The Lasar Typewriter Company was officially registered with the city of St. Louis, MO on March 27, 1890 and a factory was opened at 2017 Lucas Place (Lucas Place was renamed to Locust Street sometime during the early 1900s). Unfortunately for G.H. Lasar, almost as soon as his company had started, it ended. On May 14, 1892 the Lasar Typewriter Company was dissolved, according to city records. Wagner Electric took over the place on Lucas Street that same year. The building that once housed the Lasar Typewriter Company was demolished some time in the 20th century. The image below is what it looked like in the 1890s.
We can only speculate why the typewriter failed since there is no evidence of any marketing from the manufacturer. There were, however, several ads placed by the St. Louis Typewriter Exchange specifically for the Lasar. Five of those ads ran in the Railroad Telegrapher with the first running on May 15, 1892 (yup, the very day after the Lasar Typewriter Company was dissolved) and the last ad in January, 1893. The Exchange also ran one ad in the Express Gazette in 1893.
Through 1893, the St. Louis Exchange was selling Lasar typewriters (sometimes carelessly spelled Larsar in their ads) for $75 a piece. They ran one last ad a couple years later in 1895. The Exchange referred to this as as the "Bargain Bulletin." In it, among all the other bargain buys, was for sale one "Nearly New" Lasar for a one-time cash sale of just $25. It has been speculated for decades that The Exchange purchased leftover stock from the Lasar Typewriter Company when it originally closed and now these ads prove it.
Again, we can only speculate why the Lasar failed. One reason may have been that it typed uppercase exclusively when every other new typewriter on the market typed lowercase, too. G.H. Lasar did patent a shift mechanism (patent no.415,525) but hadn't implemented it. Why? Did it have something to do with telegraphy? Was the Lasar always meant to be a "mill" typewriter? One of The Exchange's ads did market it as "The Best Machine for Telegraph Work," plus, the two testimonials they provided were both from telegraph operators. All those ads were published in railroad related periodicals, too.