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The Optical Heritage Museum Dick Whitney – Curator & President

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Presentation on theme: "The Optical Heritage Museum Dick Whitney – Curator & President"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Optical Heritage Museum Dick Whitney – Curator & President


3 The Museum 1983-2000

4 Ruth Wells and John Young before the 1983 Museum Opens

5 Ruth Wells and the Wells family (AO) founded OSV. Albert and JC Wells instrumental. The Wells Antique Collection was at the Wells building at 171 Main Street – Southbridge. A Living Museum was decided and Quinebaug Village formed in 1938.

6 The Museum was located there from 1983- 2000 (the last ~10 years by Appt Only)








14 MISSION STATEMENT FOR THE OPTICAL HERITAGE MUSEUM – Sept 2004 "The Optical Heritage Museum is dedicated to the education and enrichment of the general public in the history, growth and contributions of The Eye of the Commonwealth -Southbridge, MA. This will be accomplished through continuing efforts to collect, maintain, preserve and display cultural, social and industrial artifacts, along with written documentation and oral accounts."

15 The OHM Board Optical Heritage Museum, Inc. Board Members: President and Curator- Dick Whitney Vice President - Margaret Morrissey Treasurer - Dave Butler Secretary - Gary Bridgman Board of Directors Chair – Dave Cunniffe Southbridge Downtown Partnership subcommittee on the Museum: Bruce Hynes, Johnathan and Lisa Krach, Margaret Morrissey, Maureen Prokos, Harvey Shanbaum & Dick Whitney

16 George W. Wells and Daniel S. Wells (1890s and today)

17 Recent Displays – Jacob Edwards Library

18 Restoration of AO Negatives underway. Shown here – AO Americanization class


20 Norman Rockwell / AO Art

21 The Birthplace of AO -1833

22 The Birth of AO William Beecher starts a jewelry and watch shop on the corner of main and central streets in 1826. AOs birth in 1833, when Beecher makes silver spectacle frames on the second floor above the jewelry shop.

23 AO Birthplace – Corner of Main & Central St.

24 AO – The Early Years

25 This building was located at Save More Gas Station near Rotary (Corner of Main And Chestnut)

26 FIRST Building (Model in Museum)

27 The Arts Center and Chestnut st in old AO Location in 1892

28 Factory – 1872

29 AO Main Plant by1892 – All Wood

30 American Optical Main Plant 1888

31 Workers In front of building 1888

32 AO Complex - 1892

33 Why AO first Made Lenses Originally Imported lenses from Europe 1888 Import Tarriffs were adopted Huge Celebration in Southbridge on Nov 15, 1888. Fireworks

34 George Wells

35 1864- Arrives in Southbridge at the age of 17 with $100 in his pocket. 1864- George and brother Hiram hired by R.H.Cole and then fired. 1865 – George Wells rehired by RH Cole. 1869 – George Wells offered partnership. 1891- Cole retires, George Wells Pres. George Wells

36 Wells Family Georges Sons: Channing, Albert, Joel Alberts Son: George B. Wells (last Wells President of AO) marries Ruth Adams Dyer; Ruth was instrumental in founding Old Sturbridge Village

37 AO & Ophthalmic Optics

38 AO Ophthalmic Lens Firsts Tillyer Corrected Curve Series Minus Toric Series Implementation of Franklin Style Executive Bifocal First Plastic Photochromic Lens Permalite Abrasion Resistant coating AO Compact Small Frame PAL

39 AO Safety Products Firsts First Safety Goggle First Heat Tempered Glass Lens (added impact resistance lens strength) Invented Calobar and Cruxite Fulvue Frame (first with temples attached at the top) Executive Safety lens

40 AO Instrument Firsts Include: The LENSOMETER Additive Phoroptor Additive Trial Sets Non Contact Tonometer (1972) Cardiac difibrillator Demand pacemaker Solid State Laser

41 The AO Lensometer

42 Todd – AO

43 Wide Screen Projection

44 AO and Fiber Optics Early 1953 Dr. Brian OBrien joins AO (Todd-AO his top priority) Sept 1954- AO / CIA hires Will Hicks Mid –1957 Image Scrambler Project ends after Hicks tells CIA code easy to break 1958 – Hicks leaves AO and Forms Mosaic Fabrications in Sturbridge 1960 – Hicks / Eli Snitzer (AO): single mode wavelength patent

45 American Optical Main Plant – Late 1890s (prior to clock tower)

46 AO in 1908 Postcard

47 Main Plant- Unusual View

48 In the Main Plant (1920s?)

49 AO Offices in 1925

50 The AO Complex – MP Side of River prior to demolition

51 AO Main Plant Demolition (2000)


53 The Demolition and Construction of AO Main Plant



56 The Southbridge Hotel and Conf. Center







63 AO From the Air - ~1965

64 Recent AO History (Ownership) 1949 Wells family sells interests in AO 1967 Warner Lambert Buys AO 1982 M& R Purchase AO from WL, divests Soft Contact Lens (1984), Safety (1990), AO Lens (1996) AO Businesses still on Southbridge 1996 SOLA buys AO Lens Co.

65 The People of AO

66 Women played a key role

67 AO Women Workers in 1919

68 AO - 1972

69 AO Gathering in Mexico From Around the World – 1999

70 AO Postcard (1960s)

71 Companies formerly a part of AO still in Southbridge AO Lens Company Now Carl Zeiss Vision Aearo (formerly AO Safety) AO Sunwear (moved to Dudley line) Schott Fiber Optics Franklin Realty (Grounds / Powerhouse)

72 Glass Executive Lens manufactured in Building 50

73 Other Companies on the Complex in Southbridge Aramark SAIC Stonebridge Press Semicon Bay Path College


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