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John Jacob Bausch & Henry Lomb

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Henry Lomb

Bausch & Lomb Incorporated, one of the oldest continuously operating companies in the U.S today. Bausch & Lomb traces its roots to 1853, when John Jacob Bausch, a German immigrant, set up a tiny optical goods shop in Rochester, New York.

That early shop sold eyeglasses, magnifiers, microscopes, and other products imported from Europe. Shortly thereafter, when he needed additional capital, he borrowed $60 from his good friend Henry Lomb and offered as security the promise that, if the business ever grew to such an extent that he needed a partner, Lomb would be brought in. The business did grow, and a partnership was formed.

Early in the companies history, Bausch made a discovery that led to eventual financial security for the business. Bausch found a piece of Vulcanite Rubber (a hard rubber used in combs) on the street. He discovered that it could be used to make eyeglass frames. Working on the stove in his tiny kitchen at home, Bausch perfected the molding of Vulcanite rubber into eyeglass frames, which he fit with lenses imported from Europe and ground by hand in his small shop. The business began to market the unique frames, which proved to be more durable and less costly than the gold-filled metal or horn-rimmed frames on the market at the time.

By the 1870s, the Bausch & Lomb Optical Company had grown enough to open a New York City sales office, and the operations moved into a new, greatly enlarged manufacturing facility in Rochester.

Building on the successful eyeglass business, Bausch & Lomb, diversified into variety of optical products, specializing in those that required a high degree of manufacturing precision.

In 1883, Bausch & Lomb produced its first photographic lens. Edward Bausch, son of founder John Jacob, used his knowledge of the workings of the human eye to invent a new type of shutter. His patented iris diaphragm shutter, based on the reaction of the eye's iris to the light, was a great help to photographers who experimented with rapid exposures and other developing photographic techniques.

In 1912, William Bausch, another son of John Jacob, began an experimental glass laboratory. (Until this time, almost all optical-quality glass was imported from Europe.) Bausch & Lomb soon became the first American producer of optical-quality glass. By the end of 1917, the company was producing upwards of 40,000 pounds of this glass per month, fulfilling more than two-thirds of the government's wartime requirements for glass for binoculars, rifle scopes, telescopes, and search lights. Optical glass was produced in the company's Glass Plant in Rochester until the summer of 1986.

Although the products and times have changed, Bausch & Lomb still adheres to the legacy of dedication to innovation, quality, and craftsmanship established by John Jacob Bausch and Henry Lomb.

140 years after its founding, the company is still headquartered in Rochester, New York where its focus is on a new mission of helping consumers to see, look, and feel better through innovative design and technology, leading the way for Bausch & Lomb to achieve the ultimate vision of "Number One in the Eyes of the World".

Except from Bausch and Lomb's Chronology: (follow link for full choronology)

1828 - Henry Lomb was born in Burgham, Hesse-Kassel, Germany on November 24.

1830 - John Jacob Bausch was born in Gross Suessin, Wurttemberg, Germany on July 25.

1848 - Bausch went to Berne, Switzerland to take his first job in an optical shop.

1849 - Bausch and Lomb -- unknown to each other -- immigrate to the U.S.

1850 - Bausch tries to find work in Upstate New York. No business in optical trade in either Buffalo or Rochester.

1853 - Bausch opened retail optical shop on November 3, 1853. Shop is located in the Reynolds Arcade in Rochester. Shop stocked with spectacles, thermometers, field glasses, telescopes, magnifiers, opera glasses, microscopes, and hours glasses. Most products are imported from Germany.

1854 - Bausch borrows $60 from his friend, Henry Lomb, a cabinet maker, with the promise that if the business grows to a point where he needs a partner, Lomb will be that partner.

1854 - Edward Bausch is born on September 26.

1855 - Lomb becomes an active partner in the business.

1856 - J. J. Bausch went to Europe to purchase optical goods and establish relations with producing houses.

Late 1850s - Bausch found a piece of Vulcanite Rubber (a hard rubber used in combs) on the street. Discovered he could form eyeglass frames from the material.

1860 - First machine for the production of spectacles was built.

1861 - Henry Lomb made sales manager of company. J. J. Bausch's brother taken into the business.

April 23: Henry Lomb enlisted in Company C, 13th Regiment of the New York State Volunteers. Promoted to sergeant, lieutenant, then captain. Mustered out May 13, 1863.

1861 - Because of the rising price of gold (the main material used for eyeglass frames at that time) due to the war, and because of blockades preventing importation of European horn (also used for frames because American horn was too brittle), sales of Bausch's Vulcanite rubber eyeglass frames soar. (Frames are much less expensive.)

1866 - J. J. Bausch took charge of manufacturing and Henry Lomb took charge of sales in New York City (182 Broadway, corner of John St.)

1866 - June 1, Firm of Bausch & Lomb is dissolved and now went under the name "Vulcanite Optical Instrument Company.". The India Rubber Comb Company granted the firm and exclusive contract to manufacture optical instruments using Vulcanite.

1866 - J. J. Bausch & Company was reorganized as The Vulcanite Optical Instrument Company. Manufactured Hard rubber eyeglass frames and mountings for magnifiers -- under India Rubber Comb Company and American Hard Rubber Company patents.

1867 - Began making nose frames, watchmakers' and engravers' loupes, linen provers, pocket microscopes and magnifiers.

1868 - Loupes and magnifiers made of Vulcanite went on the market. Attempts were made to make opera glasses.

1868 - Business improved to such an extent that a one-room factory building could be occupied and workmen employed. Here eyeglasses were developed. Bausch invented and applied the first nosepiece, springs and guard.

1870 - Power lens grinding was begun on a small scale. Bausch designed the machinery which was gradually improved. These improvements were reflected in better quality lenses.

1874 - Edward Bausch went to work in the manufacturing shop.

1876 - August 11, company named changed from the Vulcanite Optical Instrument Co. to Bausch & Lomb Optical Company.

1876 - Beginning of microscope manufacturing.

1876 - Bausch & Lomb microscopes won distinction at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition.

1878 - Edward Bausch took charge of microscope production.

1883 - Photographic lenses added to line of products.

1885 - Edward Bausch wrote the book "Manipulation of the Microscope."

1887 - Edward Bausch invented the Iris Diaphragm Shutter for cameras; granted patent #382858.

1889 - Started production of spectacle lenses on a large scale.

1890 - Company began production of anastigmatic photographic lenses; microtomes and photomicrographic equipment.

1892 - Newly patented series of lenses, anastigmatic photographic, designed by Doctors Abbe and Rudolph, were made by Bausch & Lomb for U.S. distribution under Zeiss license.

1893 - Company began production of binoculars and telescopes.

1899 - Edward Bausch named vice president of Bausch & Lomb.

1908 - Bausch & Lomb incorporated in New York State on March 20.

1908 - Henry Lomb died at his summer home in Pittsford, New York (now a suburb of Rochester) on June 13.

1915 - World War I created a need for Bausch & Lomb binocular telescopes, searchlight mirrors, periscopes, gunsights, torpedo tube sights.

1926 - J. J. Bausch died on February 24. Edward Bausch became president of the company.

1935 - Position of Chairman of the Board created.

1935 - Edward Bausch named first chairman.

1938 - "Bausch & Lomb operates the only glass plant in America devoted exclusively to the manufacture of optical glass." (Source: 1938 annual report)

1941 - Cornerstone of Bausch Hall, Rochester Museum and Science Center (then called the Rochester Museum of Arts and Sciences), is laid. The property was donated to the museum by Edward Bausch. It was the site of his home.

1944 - Edward Bausch died on July 30.

1944 - William Bausch died on October 19.

1944 - Army Navy 5th Star awarded on October 19.

1953 - Company's 100th Anniversary.

1956 - Carl Bausch elected chairman of the board.

1958 - March 24: Bausch & Lomb Common stock was first listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

1959 - Annie Julia Bausch Drescher, last surviving child of J. J. Bausch, died May 26.

1961 - Bausch & Lomb announced world's largest quartz lens, 36" in diameter, 6" thick, 350 pounds.

1964 - Spacecraft Ranger 7 takes picutres of moon. Three Bausch & Lomb Super Baltar Lenses were modified for use in the television cameras which sent back pictures until the Ranger crashed on the moon.

1966 - Sales top the $100 million mark for the first time.

1966 - Company occupies a newly expanded plant on Linden Avenue.

1966 - Gratings Lab on St. Paul St. is dedicated.

1969 - September: Application filed with FDA for New Drug Application (NDA) for soft contact lenses.


1985 - July 25: Glass Plant closes.

1989 - May: Company announced plans for a new 18-acre public park extending along the eastern banks of the Genesee River in Rochester. The park will be named Bausch & Lomb Riverside Park.

1989 - June 23: B&L signed an agreement with Levi Strauss & Co. under which Bausch & Lomb will design and introduce a line of sunglasses bearing the Levi's name.

Related Links:

Bausch and Lomb
Microscope Gallery
Scientific Medical and Mechanical Antiques (many early pictures)

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