INDUSTRIALIST AND AVIATION PIONEER
Albert Lambert’s name will forever be synonymous with Lambert Field in St. Louis, but before he became an aviation visionary, he was primarily known for his fight against bad breath! That’s right. Lambert built his fortune on a product called Listerine, which was being sold by his father’s pharmaceutical company. He used his business success to make Missouri a worldwide hub for aviation. His influence and vision changed the landscape of St. Louis and the future of flight forever.
THE EARLY YEARS
Albert Bond Lambert was born in St. Louis on December 6, 1874, into a wealthy family. His father was the owner of a Lambert Pharmaceutical Company, which provided the financial means for the young man to attend the prestigious Smith Academy near Washington University. Albert moved to Virginia to attend college where he was a standout athlete on the varsity football team, but his time “out east” was brief, as he returned home to run his father’s company before he attained his degree.
RISE TO FAME
Lambert assumed the role of president of the pharmaceutical company, which was already successful under his father’s leadership. Albert, however, had his sights set on overseas markets. He expanded the company with factories in France and Germany. His company sold the popular mouthwash Listerine, which used an effective marketing campaign to become one of the most successful American products of all time. The advertising campaign generated a renewed interest in fresh breath and displayed how halitosis could wreck your social standing. It struck a chord with the public, making him and his company extremely wealthy. He stepped down as president a few years later to devote his attention to his real passion: aviation.
Lambert had long been interested in aviation, first with hot air balloons, then later with airplanes. He and some acquaintances established the St. Louis Aero Club in 1907 and built the first airfield in the city of St. Louis. After the end of World War I, he continued his interest in aeronautics by erecting yet another airfield (this one northeast of the city that would later become Lambert Field) and organizing the first National Balloon Race. His success in constructing the airfield led to a business relationship with a young pilot who would put St. Louis on the international aviation map.
SHOW ME SUCCESS
At his airfield, Lambert met a pilot named Charles Lindbergh, who spent time flying out of St. Louis. The two talked about Lindbergh’s dream of flying across the Atlantic Ocean and the obstacles he faced. Lindbergh convinced Lambert that he could make the flight, but he needed financial backers to make the trip a reality. Lambert stepped up and put down the first pledge, which brought plenty of publicity for the attempted nonstop flight. The organization backing his flight became known as the Spirit of St. Louis Organization, which also was the basis for the name of Lindbergh’s airplane. The buzz surrounding the success of the trip helped pave the way for the expansion of Lambert Field into one of the premier airports in the world.
After the hoopla of international flight, Lambert spent his remaining years living in his mansion across from Forest Park, playing golf, and bankrolling civic projects. Shortly before he passed away in 1946 at the age of seventy-two, he designed more plans for the expansion of Lambert Field. His legacy continues to live on today through his many projects and his namesake airport, embodied in the true Spirit of St. Louis.
*He served on the City Council and the St. Louis Police Board.
*His interest in attaining a pilot’s license was stimulated after taking a flight with Orville Wright.
*Lambert was the first person in the city of St. Louis to have a pilot’s license.