February 9, 2007

Bausch and Lomb

And the men behind the brand are...
John Bausch and Henry Lomb

1849 was a big year for John Jacob Bausch. He made a wrenching decision to leave his homeland in Germany and come to America. He met his future wife and got married. He lost two fingers to a buzz saw, met his partner - and discovered his life's work.

Bausch was born in 1830, one of seven children who lost their mother when he was six. Germany was a poverty-stricken land suffering from a series of crop failures. Bausch's older brother turned wood to eke out a meager living and decided to try his hand at spectacle manufacture. John Jacob helped his brother with the grinding and polishing and became interested in the activity.

Somehow in 1848 young Bausch heard of a job in an optical shop in Berne, Switzerland. He went to Berne on foot, occasionally catching a ride in a passing stage, carrying his life's belongings in a knapsack. He got the job and started out at 36¢ a day. It was a good start but Bausch was overwhelmed by the poor times and oppressive poverty. It was a lawless age of political upheaval. Reluctantly in 1849 he decided to come to America.

He found the same conditions in his new country. Upon landing in New York he was immediately advised to leave and seek better opportunities. Bausch went to Buffalo where he worked as a cook's helper before borrowing $5 to go to Rochester. He was married before the year was out and shortly afterwards his hand became twisted through a buzzsaw where he was working as a wood-turner.

Henry Lomb, a Rochester friend brought him food while he recuperated. Unable to continue woodworking Bausch sent home to his brother for optical materials which he peddled around Rochester. He met minor success and borrowed $60 from Lomb to open an optical shop in 1853. Bausch began grinding lenses by hand.

By 1861, after eight years of hard work, Bausch's business debts about equaled his resources, not counting the $1000 he owed Lomb. Lomb, aged 32, volunteered for the Union army and rose to the rank of Captain.

During the war Bausch found a piece of vulcanized rubber lying in the street. He took it home and adapted it into frames and also the first known nosepiece. He acquired exclusive rights to make optical products from the hard rubber.

When the Civil War ended Bausch & Lomb formed the Vulcanite Optical Instrument Company which became Bausch & Lomb Optical in 1868. With Bausch's vision and drive the company grew and diversified. Lomb was not a practical mechanic and had nothing to do with the factory but he worked well with the employees.

Bausch's son returned from Cornell in 1875 and perfected the microscope.
In 1893 they purchased the patents for field glasses. Bausch & Lomb supplied the lens for the first Kodak camera. At the time of his death Bausch & Lomb was one of the largest manufacturers of optical equipment in the world. He had lived long enough to see the culmination of a complete optical business for both personal and scientific needs.

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