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Evolution of Kollmorgen - Part 1

27 Aug 2012
Bob White

Over the next few months, we will be publishing a blog series about how Kollmorgen evolved from its humble beginnings to today. Follow us on this journey and learn about the visionaries that built the foundation of our company.

Turn back time – to the 1900’s, the turn of the century, the industrial revolution in full force. A young man who was skilled in optics left his homeland of Germany to work under the auspices of optics pioneer, Karl Reichert in Vienna. Frederick Kollmorgen decided to bring his skills to America, passing through London with a brief stint with Ross, Ltd. Kollmorgen settled in New York, providing optic skills for Keuffel & Esser, who manufactured drafting and surveying instrumentation.

When Keuffel & Esser decided to no-bid an opportunity with the US Navy, Frederick saw a clear opportunity to attack an emerging market by providing periscopes. Utilizing imported French optical glass, Kollmorgen used his knowledge to develop the best periscope optical sets in the United States. Joining forces with several principles from Eastern Optical Company, Frederick started his own company building periscopes destined for the K Class submarines.

In 1911, Kollmorgen was awarded his first patent for periscope optics. In referencing material from Building American Submarines, 1914 – 1940, by Weir and Allard, we came across this quote: “The magnitude of wartime demand and scarcity of qualified contractors presented a perpetual problem.” In essence, only Kollmorgen, Keuffel & Esser, and Bausch & Lomb had the technical competence to build periscope optics. The US Navy placed a request for bid for periscopes for the S-18 through S-41 build. Bausch & Lomb decided to no-bid due to limited capacity and other obligations. That left only Kollmorgen and Keuffel & Esser, who finally decided to get into the periscope market. “Although the Keuffel & Esser price fell $92,400 below that of Kollmorgen, the latter could produce instruments of much higher quality,” indicates Weir and Allard.

Thus begins the Kollmorgen “legacy”. Innovative designs and high quality are at the root of the Kollmorgen philosophy. Join us every month as we touch on more interesting moments in time from the vaults of Kollmorgen’s history.

K Class Submarine

First Sub class to use the vertical movement and 1.2 power setting periscope (Photo coutesy of Department of the Navy – Naval Historical Center)

About the Author

Bob White

Bob White - Author
Bob has been with Kollmorgen for over 30 years, serving in a variety of positions including Applications Engineering, Product Marketing, Industry Marketing, Territory Management, Systems Engineering, Training, and now Digital Marketing. In addition to being published in several magazines over the years, Bob is also credited with the creation of a famous collegiate football tradition - The Sousaphone line dance to the Hokie Pokie - performed at every Virginia Tech Football game over the past 30 years! Connect with this author at Google+

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