Bausch and Lomb Company – 1853
The Bausch and Lomb Company began in 1853 when German immigrant John Jacob Bausch opened a small optical goods store in Rochester, New York. He soon partnered with Henry Lomb, a friend who had loaned him money while starting out. The company began selling hard rubber eyeglass frames made from vulcanized rubber, a new revolutionary material at the time. In 1883, it was John Jacob Bausch’s son Edward Bausch that produced the first photographic lens. In 1912 John Jacob’s other son, William Bausch, became the first producer of optical quality glass in the United States. The company manufactured 40,000 pounds of glass over the next decade to be used during World War I for binoculars, rifle scopes, telescopes and searchlights.
In 1911, the Bausch and Lomb Company produced their version of a magic lantern called the balopticon, the precursor to the overhead projector. These easy-to-operate lanterns used 400 watt gas mazda lamps with an internal chamber insulated with asbestos. They used transparent slides and reflective light to project still images on screens or walls. The projectors became popular among teachers, professors, scientists and artists.
The name balopticon comes from combining “ba” from Bausch, “lo” from Lomb, “opti” from optical, “co” for company and adding an “n”. The 1927 model used a 600 watt lamp providing enough illumination to shine an image up to 12 feet in width on a surface. A spherical glass reflector was attached directly to the lamp bulb for greatest efficiency. A 1911 catalog advertises the balopticon for $22, and by 1927 the machines cost between $50 and $75.
The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village has a 1911 Bausch and Lomb balopticon double lens dissolving projector. Dual lenses were used at angles allowing projected images to overlap, as well as providing the ability to have images fade in and out. In addition, The Gateway Museum at Nature’s Art Village has an extensive collection of antique photography and projection equipment on display in the “Snap Shot Photography” exhibit. Visit The PAST Antiques on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to see our full selection of antiques and vintage collectibles.
Check back next week for a new Throwback Thursday post.