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AMERICAN OPTICAL CORPORATION

William Beecher (1805-1892)

In the United States, the large-scale production of spectacles and other optical instruments didn’t begin until the early 19th century. Before that, most spectacles in frames were imported from Europe.

In 1826, William Beecher, a farmer’s son, arrived in Southbridge (Massachusetts). He was a jeweller. In 1833, he founded the American Optical Corporation and began producing spectacles. The company grew rapidly. In 1876, they began producing sunglasses. During the First and Second World Wars, military equipment was also produced. After World War II, the popularity of their products grew, and their sunglasses were considered to be a gold standard for pilots. The display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum includes the American Optical glasses that Neil Armstrong wore during his moon landing in 1969.

Microscopes only appeared on their product list after 1935 when they bought Spencer Lens Company. AOC became part of the Warner-Lambert Group in 1967. After other mergers and name changes, the company is now part of Leica.

AMERICAN OPTICAL CORPORATION microscopes

Compound achromatic folding microscope

AMERICAN OPTICAL CORPORATION

ca. 1973

AMERICAN OPTICAL CORPORATION accessories microscopy

Microscope lamp

AMERICAN OPTICAL CORPORATION

ca. 1970