Wednesday, August 25, 2010

American Optical

Several companies have claimed to produce the original aviator sunglasses. This is not strange because there are multiple companies who supply the US Military, or at least have supplied them in the past. American Optical is one of the companies who used to supply the army.

Aerial view of Southbridge and the American Optical Company, via Digital Treasures
The company was founded back in the 1830's by William Beacher. During WWI, AO supplied the US Military with two frames: the "Liberty" and the "Victory". A stunning 2,5 million of these were produced during that period. In 1917 AO built 8 mobile units to support the army. In WWII they supplied the US Government with bomb sights, gun sights, aviation goggles and sunglasses. If you look at the number of sunglasses alone, a total of 5 million pairs were produced.

In 1958 the Original Pilot model was manufactured specifically for the US Military and offered maximum protection and comfort. In fact, it was the first pair of sunglasses on the moon, worn by Neil Armstrong and the crew of Apollo 11 mission.

I recommend you check out Dick Whitney's American Optical History website if you're interested in the history of American Optical. His website might need a design update, but it contains tons of information. In our store the Original Pilot is currently available in 3 colors: Silver, Black and Matte Chrome. Gold will be available on short notice.

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