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American Optical History Copyright 2008 - the Optical Heritage Museum Click mouse for each slide.

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Presentation on theme: "American Optical History Copyright 2008 - the Optical Heritage Museum Click mouse for each slide."— Presentation transcript:

1 American Optical History Copyright 2008 - the Optical Heritage Museum Click mouse for each slide

2 1826 William Beecher arrives in Southbridge and opens a Jewelry and Watch Shop on Main St.; below photo is of Beecher trunk (Optical Heritage Museum collection)

3 1833 AOs Birth – Beecher and 3 apprentices make silver eyeglass frames in rooms above Jewelry Shop


5 1839 Beecher moves to 2 Story building on corner of Chestnut and Main St. Referred to as Old Spec Shop Later became Hyde Tools building when AO moved to Mechanic St.

6 1843 First steel Spectacles made in America were produced by machinery invented by Beecher

7 1848 First gold frames made in America

8 1850 Gold frames (14K-18K) sell for $7.50/pair

9 1853 Frame sales nationwide total 14,919 pair

10 1853 Old Spec Shop switches from Cohasse Brook power to steam power

11 1864 17 year old George Wells hired by Beecher George & Brother, Hiram, hired by company now called R. H. Cole & Co., both are fired short time later George W. Wells (age 17) arrives in Southbridge with $100 in his pocket

12 1865 George Wells rehired by R. H. Cole Daniel Wells Schreck, Direct descendant of George W. Wells (Portrait) in Southhbridge (2004)

13 1869 – Feb 26th American Optical Company formed Gross business of $50,000 R. H. Cole offers 22 year old G. W. Wells partnership in business

14 1871 First 3 story Wooden Structure on AO Main Plant site; drawing below shows 1872 view Cost to build = $35,000 20,700 square feet

15 1872 G. W. Wells becomes General Supervisor of new plant

16 1874 AO introduces first Rimless Spectacles

17 1883 AO plans to make its own spectacle lenses in Southbridge

18 1884 First AO spherical lenses made Production started when Import tarriffs were imposed. Fireworks celebration in Southbridge on November 15, 1884.

19 1880s

20 1886 AO sells 1,304,280 pairs of Spectacles George Wells invention for drawing eyewire for spectacle frames


22 1888 AO Workers

23 1891 George W. Wells becomes President of AO

24 1892 Map of AO Southbridge MA complex

25 1893 AO adopts Dioptric system of lens power which is now in use throughout the world AO begins to manufacture Toric lenses Torics used to correct for Astigmatism

26 AO Main Plant ~1899 before clock tower

27 1898 U.S. Bureau of Standard accepts AOs system of lens power

28 1901 AO Main Plant Clock Tower

29 1905 AO London office opens Begins its International operations

30 1907 AO begins making Automobile goggles AO had 2000 employees with a payroll of $1,000,000

31 1909 J.Cheney Wells founds the AO Research laboratory

32 1910 New Lensdale Building built Made entirely of Cement Site of Lens Manufacturing until 2005 AO Kryptok Bifocals first Manufactured

33 1910 -AO Power Plant Built

34 1913 Crookes glass Later called Calobar (UV and IR Protection)

35 1916 Dr. Edgar Tillyer hired by AO, Dr. Estelle Glancy 1 year later

36 1916 - AO Truepower Standards Calibrated at Bureau of Standards

37 1917 Dr. Tillyer files first Patent Use of common curves for selected powers Allowed practical manufacturing of mass produced lenses Coles sell final 127 shares of company stock to Wells family for $1.25 Million

38 1917 AO Designs WWI mobile optical units Self contained eyeglass facilities for the War 2,500,000 lenses furnished to Government for War effort

39 Early AO Logo- AOC

40 1919

41 1919-1921 First AO LENSOMETER introduced in 1921, revolutionizing the industry Measures spectacles lens power


43 1923 AO Establishes 114 National Branches Industrial Eye Protection Department established Wise Owl Eye Safety Program established

44 1924 Dr. Estelle Glancy Progressive Lens Patent #1,518,405

45 1925 AO acquires De Zeng Instrument of America Expand to Ear, Nose and Throat products

46 1925 Safety Glasses Ad

47 1925 Tillyer Lens introduced, revolutionizes spectacle lens industry Americanization class at AO

48 1926 Tillyer patents ophthalmic lens series where off-axis power & astigmatism errors were controlled


50 ~1927 AO commissions artist Norman Rockwell to paint 6 paintings for Tillyer Lens Advertising

51 1930 High Temple Fulvue frame introduced

52 1931 Fulvue fused ¾ segment bifocals introduced

53 1933- AO celebrates 100 th Anniversary

54 1935 AO acquires Spencer Lens Expands into precision optics

55 1936 Joel Cheney Wells retires after 43 years at age 62 He began work as office boy George B. Wells elected President of AO Son of Albert Wells Grandson of George W. Wells

56 1936- 1939 In spite of the Depression Employees increased from 5,000 to 7,000! Sales increased from $16 million to $19 million!

57 1938 Dr. Tillyer credited with the Additive Power Phoroptor

58 1938 AO Bureau of Visual Science was founded

59 1939 AO Legal and Patent Department established

60 1940 AO first introduces plastic safety lenses made from methyl methacrylate

61 1941 AO Putnam Connecticut Safety Product Facility Opens Labor shortage in Southbridge causes expansion

62 1942 AO Opens Brattleboro, Vermont facility Began to produce 18.5 Million pairs of lenses for Armed Services

63 1943 By 1943, facility has 380 workers and produces 2 Million Safety and Aviator lenses AO provided 14 Million prescription eyeglassed to Armed Forces & still filled civilian orders WWII Prism compenstated glass goggles (Dr. Estelle Glancy)

64 1944 AO has 45% of sales in Government contracts for War effort Sales doubled since 1934

65 1945 AO Sight Screeners introduced to check vision Industrial vision protection plan begun – The American Plan

66 1945 AO Monoplex Eye opens in Southbridge Produces life-like hand painted artificial eyes

67 1946 AO begins research on Contact Lenses First Manufacture in 1947

68 1947 AO and Polaroid produce first successful curved polarized lens

69 1947 Metal spectacle goggles, new 10K & 14K gold alloys for frames Metal Frame Plant in Southbridge was completed

70 1948 AO forms Plastics division Lenticular E one-piece cataract lens introduced Microfilm reader, Calobar uniform density lens

71 1950 AO Products diversify Camera lenses, projectors, binoculars, molded items for automobiles

72 1952 AO begins to manufacture Glass Executive bifocals Process and location stays the same until 2005 closing!!!

73 1953 Quarter Century Club (25 years with company) has a record attendance of 755!

74 1953 Glass Microscopic Lenses for Low Vision introduced

75 1954 AO Student Microscopes introduced AO / CIA work together on Fiber Optics Will Hicks joins AO AO becomes publicly owned 9000 investors buy stock in AO Advantages of Minus Toric surfaces for finished lens series proposed

76 1954 Photo – AO Main Plant

77 August 19, 1955 Flood devastates area, AO considers closing

78 1955 Flood almost closes Southbridge facility 15 feet of water where Hotel lobby is today High water mark shown at second floor window (top mark)

79 1955 Todd – AO s first production Wide screen projection, improved Sound Oklahoma opens in October 1955 in NYC

80 1955 Diamond Studded Elsa Schiaparelli designer frame commissioned

81 1955 AO sales reach $75 million

82 1955 AO Electronic Lensometer patented and manufactured Displays in Chicago

83 1956 First cast finished single vision 56mm lens Originally called Plasticor Later to be renamed AOLITE

84 1957 AO expands research in Fiber Optics, Wide Screen television, military applications

85 1958 AOLITE CR-39 Aspheric Cataract Lens Introduced New products include Rx master phoroptor & high lift ophthalmic chair

86 1959 Ultra high speed camera patent & intravenous measurement device of oxygen in human blood Fiber Optics business developed R&D develops Sidewinder Missile for the Military

87 1960 Polarstar (polarizing) & Flouristar Microscopes introduced for cancer research Justice Dept. ruling results in AO divesting from Rx laboratories Ophthalmic Division maintains sales, growing acceptance of Tillyer Exec & AOLITE Aspheric cataract

88 1961 Optical lasers developed for the Air Force Laser Inc. formed to R&D optics, electronics, lasers AO Cardiometer & DC Defribrillator

89 1961 Davis, Fernald & Rayner design Masterpiece FSV glass series corrected for off-axis performance errors

90 1961 – Dec 7 Dr. Edgar Tillyer turns 80 (at Left) Dr. Estelle Glancy and John Davis (bowtie) at his side

91 1962 AOLITE plastic lens market rapidly expands Record number of new frame styles AOLITE 62mm Finished Single Vision lenses introduced

92 1963 Fiber Optics Solar powered laser transmitter completed for the Air Force

93 1964 Noel Roscrow (founder of SOLA) visits the AOLITE CR-39 manufacturing plant operation in Southbridge, Mass. AOLUX laser glass reached market, new endoscope introduced

94 1965 Medical Division develops implantable Pacemaker Tillyer Masterpiece lens, first new SV lens in 30 years AOLITE Executive Bifocal introduced

95 AO Southbridge ~1965

96 1967 Warner-Lambert buys American Optical (becomes publicly owned)

97 1975 AO Tumble Abrasion Test developed by John Young

98 1973 AOLITE 66mm FSV lens series introduced

99 1976 Aspheric lens design patent – John Davis

100 1978 AOs first Progressive lens introduced (Ultravue / AO7 in Europe) – Dr. John Winthrop

101 1979 Glass manufacturing plant closed at Southbridge facility (6 Million Dollars in Platinum sold off)

102 1980 Fulvue Cataract lens patent – Donald B. Whitney Fulvue Cataract lens introduced AOLITE 77mm FSV product line introduced

103 1981 Unique polycarbonate decentered plano safety lens introduced called the S1000. Prism correction for lens faceform angle

104 1980 First Abrasion resistant hard coating introduced - Permalite

105 1982 Photolite, the first plastic photochromic lens is introduced

106 1982 Closed the Frederick, Maryland Frame Plant (out of Frame making business) Warner-Lambert sells American Optical to M&R (Mo Cunniffe & Rudy Wood)

107 1983 AO Museum opens in Southbridge (John Young, Curator) AO Brattleboro plant closes, Safety Lens Manufacturing moves to relocate to Southbridge AO celebrates 150 th Anniversary; Optical Heritage Museum founded

108 1985 AO Truvision Progressive Lens patent – Dr. John Winthrop Fused Glass Bifocal operation closes in Southbridge

109 1984 AO produce Polycarbonate Plano and Rx lenses for the Apache Helicopter pilots Steep curve (22 Diopters!) RXs – individual plus torics individualized for pilots

110 1989 AO OMNI Progressive Lens Bi-Polar patent – Dr. John Winthrop

111 1990 Technica Progressive Lens introduced (designed for computer use) Polycarbonate OMNI product released Safety Division sold to Cabot Corporation

112 1992 AO Pro 15 Progressive Lens released ASPHERLITE (Aspheric SFSV) product released Manufacturing completed its move to Tijuana (except for Glass Executives)

113 1993 Tijuana (AO Lens Mex) plant flood Aspheric Single Vision Inside-Out patent issued – Dr. John Winthrop / R. B. Whitney

114 1994 AO Pro 16 Polycarbonate product introduced Fire in Glass Progressive Plant at the AO Lens Mex Tijuana facility

115 1995 AO Force 55 Progressive Lens introduced in 1.549 Nd Index material

116 1996 Introduce AO 55 SFSV 1.549 Index (Nd) Aspheric Single Vision design SOLA International Inc. purchases AO Ophthalmic Lens Division from AO Corporation (M&R) & renames it AO Lens Company AO Lens Co. Corporate Headquarters relocates from Southbridge, Mass. To San Diego, CA. Reunion of Todd-AO Researchers occurs / Visit Southbridge complex

117 1998 AO Compact Progressive Lens introduced (Project Name = Short Corridor)

118 1999 AO Compact Progressive Lens awarded Best in Lens Design at Optical Laboratory Association Convention

119 2000 DOD Lease signed on March 31, 2000; Demolition of Main Plant begins in April for Hotel and Conference Center AO & SOLA merge Sales & Marketing (East Coast Southbridge, West Coast Petaluma) SOLA buys Oracle Lens for $17.4 Million AO bActive General Purpose Lens released / For Active Lifestyles – Includes Polarized version

120 AO Main plant today – Now Southbridge Hotel and Conference Center

121 2001 AO Southbridge Warehouse closed in June 2001 / Consolidate of AO and SOLA Distribution Centers

122 2002 AO Reunion at Southbridge Hotel and Conference Center - ~500 attend

123 2005 AO/SOLA/Carl Zeiss Ophthalmic merge to become Carl Zeiss Vision AO Glass Executive Lens operation ceases after ~53 years

124 2006- AO Compact Ultra First Introduced (Completing Dr. John Winthrops long series of AO Progressive Lens Designs) Len Date Introduced Truvision® 1981 Truvision OMNI® 1988 Truvision Technica® 1990 AO Pro® 15 1992 AO Pro® 16 1994 AO Force® 55 1996 AO Compact® 1998 AO b' Active 2000 AO Pro Easy 2002 AO Compact® Ultra 2006 Lens Date Introduced Ultravue 1974 Truvision® 1981 Truvision OMNI 1988 Truvision Technica® 1990 AO Pro® 15 1992 AO Pro® 16 1994 AO Force® 55 1996 AO Compact® 1998 AO b' Active 2000 AO Pro Easy 2002 AO Compact® Ultr 2006

125 Chronology of AO history provided by the Optical Heritage Museum For more info, go to: (click on AO history)

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