Tower's Optical Binocular Viewer Detail | Monatuk Point, New York

© Sophie W. Smith

Joined October 2012

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Company: Tower Optical

The company was founded by Towers S. Hamilton in 1933 in his Norwalk machine shop. He bought the shop from its owner-founders, Arthur Casey, Earl Bunnell, and John Hanrahan, soon after Hamilton started machining the parts for the viewers. His son, Towers W. Hamilton, later became the owner. His wife, Gladys (Kip) Hamilton, worked with him in the business for many years and on his death in 1989, she took over the company. She died in 2006, and at some point she passed the business on to her daughter, Bonnie Rising, who still owned the company as of 2010, when she had six employees, including her son, Gregory, and her husband, Douglas, who help run the business. Bonnie Rising said in 2010 that she expected her son to take over the business someday.

Local institutions and organizations have given the company recognition for its “iconic” devices. By 2002, the company had donated one of its viewers to the nearby Norwalk Museum in South Norwalk. In 2008, the business was the subject of a lecture, “An American Icon: Norwalk’s Tower Optical Company,” given to the Norwalk Historical Society.

In 2004 and 2005, the company worked with an artist as part of a project in which 10 companies teamed up with “in residence” artists “to see how technology, be it vintage or cutting-edge, can inform art in the 21st century”, as a New York Times article described it. Artist Michael Oatman accompanied workers making 5 a.m. repair runs to tourist locations and “videotaped people as they fantasized about what they would most like to see with the binoculars”, according to the newspaper. An exhibition, titled, Factory Direct: New Haven, about the project took place at Artspace in New Haven. Tower Optical also made a lightweight viewer for Oatman to install temporarily at tourist sites.

By 2010, business had declined because of an ongoing recession, but, in July, Rising said a turnaround seemed to be taking place. Read more

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desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait

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