brush and comb

Part of a B&L 20 inch telephoto lens

Toronto. Christmas, 1980 was rapidly approaching with its usual challenges as to suitable gifts. I said to my wife that I had a great suggestion: a 20 inch lens for my Leica. Sure enough that Christmas I was the proud owner of a Bausch and Lomb 20 inch telephoto lens complete with a Kilfitt mirror box! The lens ensemble was courtesy of Jack Addison. The lens had a dodgy aperture and suffered a poor paint job courtesy of an obvious amateur repair person. Sadly, speaking to B&L representatives here, they had no idea the company ever made anything besides eye-glass and contact lenses!

The company was formed in the 1850s in Rochester, NY. The founders, Jacob Bausch and Henry Lomb were Germans who emigrated to America and began manufacture of microscopes. Two decades later they briefly picked up another (rather testy) German immigrant by the name of Gundlach.  Do a google search for more details than shown here by Wikipedia.

The company took on American representation and manufacture of Zeiss products. They expanded into photographic lenses and shutters (like the famous UNICUM). I have both a UNICUM shutter and a beautiful old brass Zeiss-Anastigmat (later Protar) made by Bausch & Lomb under the Zeiss licence arrangement. The optical systems division  eventually moved to Cambridge Instruments, The factory was relocated to the old Spencer works (another microscope maker) in Buffalo, NY. And the business eventually became a part of Leica (the old Leitz company, whose new owners felt Leica was better known than Leitz)  … small world indeed!

Thanks to a call and email from PHSC founder John Linsky for reminding me of the wonderful history of Bausch & Lomb in Rochester. Oh, and the logo? B-L  Z  S around a prism symbol stood for the two founders and their association with Zeiss while the S was for Saegmuller, another German immigrant associate who settled in Washington, DC.  Also thanks to two books: Zeiss and Photography (2015) by my friend Lawrence J Gubas, and Notes on Modern Microscope Manufacturers (1996) by Brian Bracegirdle.




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