Introduction
This past November 14th-15th, the Opticians Association of Massachusetts (OAM) held their Annual Meeting at the Southbridge Hotel and Conference Center, which was formerly the American Optical main plant. This was the sixth consecutive year the OAM has hosted their Fall meeting at the Southbridge Hotel, which in addition to being optically fitting is also a beautiful facility for the large continuing education meetings hosted by OAM. Diane Matuck, an OAM board member, discovered the hotel and the museum when she visited Southbridge in 2009 and got involved with the Optical Heritage Museum. At this time, the Museum was in storage in an attic above my office in Southbridge, so in the early years, Diane and I set up optical history displays at the OAM meetings. The dream of creating the Optical Heritage Museum became a reality three years ago when Zeiss began sponsorship, and it has grown exponentially.

A highlight of this year (and the topic of this article) was the OAM dinner and wine tasting event held at the Optical Heritage Museum on Saturday, Nov 14th. I was excited with the turnout of 110 attendees for this event. The OAM has supported the Museum for the past six years, both by encouraging our growth and by yearly financial contributions. Also, many individual OAM members have donated treasured items, such as a letter that Chuck Walsh had as an AO employee in 1963 about eyeglasses order by JF Kennedy near the time of his assassination.


Dick Whitney receives a generous $1100 donation from the OAM and presented by
OAM President Michael Tanzi while OAM past president Thomas Merrill looks on.

This year the OAM again presented the Museum with another generous financial donation, and with the help of continued support from them, the Opticians Association of America’s Vision of Hope Foundation, along with others including Bill Marfuggi of Victory Optical over the years, the Museum has progressed to the degree it has. Last year I wrote an article on how American Optical had ties to Opticianry dating back to 1902 when they hosted a Dinner at the AO Main Plant in Southbridge. It is especially exciting to me that so many Opticians returned and studied the history of the Optical Industry.


OAM / OHM placemats with images of 1930’s AO China and silverware (L) and
2015 Wine Glasses
designed by Diane & JoAnne Matuck (R ) were used at the Event

An excellent buffet dinner and wine tasting occurred in a dining area adjacent to the museum, and was enjoyed by the large crowd that attended. Guests were encouraged to tour the Museum and explore the early heritage of our industry.


The registration table at the Nov 14th OAM Dinner and Wine tasting at the OHM
with Diane Lord of ClearVision and Pauline and Gary Kamen

One of many memorable events for me that occurred that night was when I handed Blair Wong one of the lenses from the 1895 Trial lens set that AO presented to Charles Prentice. The Museum has many such unique items, but being able to see Blair’s excitement when holding this historic trial lens was special for me to experience.


A personal tour for Blair Wong (Executive Director of OAM) and OAM’s vice president George Bourque
including the Prentice trial set and one of the trial lenses used by Charles Prentice in a 1895 AO set on display.

A visit to the Museum gives one an understanding of how the eyeglass industry has evolved and provides an opportunity to compare earlier product introductions with current day technology. Several such instances were evident to the Opticians that night. One favorite example, which drew a lot of attention and comments, was the contrast between two devices:

  1. AO’s Grolman Fitting device introduced in 1979, a first to help provide accuracy of measurement of AO’s Ultravue progressive lens in a frame.
  2. Zeiss supplied their new ITerminal mobile device which provides much greater accuracy and ease of capturing all position of wear attribute to fit accurately and dispense today’s progressive lenses. The use of the IPad / camera / Zeiss software makes the contrast to the earliest of progressive lens fitting devices quite impressive.


Phernell Walker views the Grolman fitting device (center) next to the Zeiss ITerminal Mobile (on right)


Zeiss ITerminal mobile device demonstrated by Rich White of Zeiss

Another area of contrast was a display which featured early 20th century AO driving goggles and video demonstrations of the brand new Zeiss Drive Safe product, designed for driving.


Left to right: Diane Matuck , Phernell Walker, Pam Fritz and me (Dick Whitney) next to
1893 Glass lens display made by AO’s optical pioneer George Wells


Opticians viewing the first AO Lensometer (1914) and subsequent models on display


A stop on the museum tour, the original front entrance of American Optical


Opticians Association of Massachusetts members visiting Optical Heritage Museum

The Opticians Association of MA weekend event at the Museum was an exciting highlight for me personally, and all of us involved in the OHM appreciate the support received. The partnership that has developed between Opticians and the Optical Heritage Museum is truly a special one and most appreciated.

Visit us!

We encourage those who can visit Southbridge to visit us, as I believe you will find it worthwhile. For those who cannot, please take time to visit us online and see what we have now begun to share on- line at www.opticalheritagemusum.com and be sure to like us on Facebook.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, at dickwhitney@charter.net or phone 774-230-8016. I look forward to hearing from you.