AO Eyewear Sunglasses is the last remaining part of the original American Optical Company which was originally founded back in 1826. William Beecher, a Connecticut farm boy, came to Southbridge, MA to learn the jeweler’s trade. He encountered a pair of crudely made imported spectacles and thought to himself I can make these better.
Beecher thought to himself “I can do better than this” and went to work to improve the frames. As he experienced success he founded the American Optical Company. The company grew rapidly by the turn of the century, and soon the company had an office in London. Back home the plant employed over 2,000 people and had a payroll of over $ 1,000,000.!
Along came World War I and American Optical was pressed into service to provide optical support for U.S. troops and Allied Forces in Europe. American Optical created self-contained eyeglass facilities which were shipped to Europe to support the war. Each unit was well stocked with frames, lenses, refractive equipment and machines for fulfilling prescriptions and sunglasses.
Later came World War II when, once again, AO was called upon to provide new optical products developed in their research laboratories. AO American Optical developed gun sights for aircraft, bomb sights for bombers, aviation goggles, sunglasses and precision optical devices for the military.
Over the war years AO provided 10 million google frames, 5 million pairs of sunglasses and more than 6.5 millions prescription lenses were ground, polished and delivered to member of the Allied Forces.
In 1958 AO American Optical introduced their famous Flight Goggle 58, now known as Original Pilot Sunglasses, and supplied them to the U.S. military pilots. The pilots liked the sunglasses which had maximum uv protection and optical performance. Soon they were added to the PX Stores where they became popular with non-pilots as well.
Over the years American Optical made and sold all kinds of optical frames and lenses in all shapes, sizes, materials and designs for all sorts of specialized uses.
Soon American Optical became the target of a buyer who felt the company would yield more profit if broken up and sold. As a result of this process the formation of AO Eyewear sunglasses occured. AO Eyewear is now the present manufacturer of AO Original Pilot and General Flight Gear sunglasses.
After moving production to China AO Eyewear discovered many of the problems with off-shore manufacturing. Recently AO Eyewear has moved production back to Southbridge, MA resulting in improved quality and more Customer loyalty.