The oldest and greatest optical company in American history has pioneered optical and eyewear innovation for centuries. AO’s founders believed everyone should have access to eyewear, not just the elite, and changed history by bringing spectacle manufacturing to the US. Since then, AO has originated sunwear styles worn by pilots, Presidents, and NASA space crews.
For almost two centuries now, AO has stood as a symbol of American ingenuity, and we’re just getting started. Our pride in AO’s heritage is matched only by our pride in our team’s commitment to craftsmanship and customer service. In our state-of-the-art American factory, AO produces the quality, classic eyewear that defines True Original style.
Founder William Beecher begins crafting silver spectacles after apprenticing as a jeweler.
Beecher is the first in the US to produce a pair of steel eyeglasses.
Patented technological advancements by AO make eyeglasses affordable to the masses.
American Optical produces the first rimless spectacles.
AO becomes the largest optical company in the world with 800 employees producing 2 million pairs of glasses and 3 million pairs of lenses.
AO is the first company to supply goggles to US military pilots.
American Optical runs Mobile Field Units that help supply members of the military with eyewear.
American Optical commissions Norman Rockwell to create six paintings depicting opticians and AO Eyewear.
Aviation pioneer Jimmy Doolittle wears AO flight goggles on a record-breaking transcontinental flight.
AO debuts the Ful-Vue frame, moving the temple from the center of the lens to the top, giving better peripheral vision and revolutionizing the look of eyewear.
The U.S. Army Air Corps contracts American Optical to produce a pair of specially designed sunglasses for aviators. The classic aviator shape is born, featuring USAC branding.
AO supplies over 5 million sunglasses and 10 million goggles to the military during WWII.
AO launches Cool-Ray sunglasses. Designed in cooperation with Polaroid, the sunglasses introduce polarization to the market.
Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower and General Mark Clark are pictured wearing AO frames.
King Paul and Queen Frederica of Greece order glasses from AO and Pope Pius XII receives a pair of gold spectacles in a gold case.
AO partners with Claire McCardell, considered the creator of American sportswear, to create the first line of sunglasses designed by a fashion designer.
American Optical gifts Major League Baseball player Ted Williams, Olympic gold medalist and former MLB and NFL player Jim Thorpe, and world heavyweight boxing champion Jack Sharkey with sunglasses at the 1952 Boston Sportsmen’s Show. Williams bought 12 more pairs to share with his fishing buddies.
AO partners with Elsa Schiaparelli, rival of Coco Chanel, to design a luxury line of sun and eyeglass frames. These frames were famously distinctive and detailed, featuring precious gems.
JFK, whose favorite sunglasses were made by AO, gives a speech in Southbridge, MA, the original home of American Optical.
American Optical creates the iconic FG (flight goggle)-58 for American military pilots. The name of the style is eventually changed to The Original Pilot.
The Original Pilot (then known as FG-58) are the first sunglasses on the moon, worn by the entire Apollo 11 crew. A pair from the moon mission is now on display at the Smithsonian.
AO partners with designer Oscar de la Renta who designs enormously successful eyewear for the company.
A favorite amongst celebrities, the Original Pilot is worn by Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver.
The Optical Heritage Museum opens honoring AO’s 150th anniversary.
AO manufacturing moves to Chicago, IL.
The Original Pilot, General, and Saratoga are re-released and production begins on a range of new styles.
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