When Walter G. King was a young man, in Cleveland, in 1881, he joined his father's optical company, as a salesman. Not too extraordinary, until you learn that the company manufactured glass eyes. Business was good, perhaps too good. The turn of the 19th to the 20th century brought an era we refer to as the industrial revolution. More people were working at the higher paying, but more hazardous jobs in heavy industries. Walter was bothered by the fact that literally thousands of their company’s glass eyes were being shipped to industrial areas.
He did a bit of investigation, and as he feared, most of the purchases were for workers who had lost their eyes in industrial accidents. Even though it would mean a drop in his father’s business, Walter determined to prevent these disastrous injuries caused by flying pieces of metal and particles of emery dust.
Walter had heard about slit-type goggles that polar explorers found Eskimos wearing to avoid snow blindness, and in 1905 he adapted that device to industrial use; great idea, too bad it didn't work very well.
Lenses of thick glass might dork, so the next year working with engineers of the American Optical Company, Walter developed a safety goggle using tempered glass. A Cleveland foundry that made steel castings for railroad cars ordered six dozen pairs for trial testing.
Crude as these were, the customer reported a month later that the goggles had saved the eyes of 20 of the workers by withstanding the impact of flying metal chips. Some of the lenses were shattered, yet all the glass remained in the frame, and most importantly, except for a few bruises the workers were not injured.
|Trainer Al Filmore models his safety goggles. |
Pretty cool, huh?