In 1964 there was a very real chance that a few children who had grown up with a B&L Model R in the house were setting up to begin their careers in education or finding themselves parents. Even in those comparatively recent days microscopy as a pursuit and optical companies in general were not what they are now. This was certainly not the boom period for the optical industry, but rather, it’s maturity.
The myriad firms on the continent, the island of Great Britain, and in the United States were consolidated. Spencer and American Optical had become AO Spencer. Smaller firms like Gundlach (later dissolved in 1972) had moved into other fields or drastically contracted their efforts. The Triple Alliance was dissolved a generation previous and with Saegmuller long dead Zeiss and B&L found themselves giants in their fields.
B&L, with military connections begun in the first and strengthened further by the second World War looked to expand in new markets. Their institutional arm sold to professionals of all stripes from the machines to the physicist, MD’s and DVM’s had B&L stands on their benches either those inherited with their practice or purchased new from salesmen and dealers catalogs. Re-printed advertisements touted the R1900 and other plastic marvels in educational publications and teachers periodicals.
Some few schools bought them, and the microscopes for want of educational use found their ways into homes and little hands. It’s telling that rather than being newly broken ground, the R1900 was an off-shoot of an earlier design called simply the 100x. The 60’s were as much the day’s of advertising as the 50’s and where the 100x had difficulty, a change in the color of the plastic resin and expansion of the line (not to mention a noticeable improvement in the optical quality) was only natural if sales were lax.
The robustness of B&L in those days meant it would continue to throw good money after bad for a few more years before the R1900 and it’s ilk disappeared from the market-place to make way for new efforts—the Academic line. Still the R1900 has a place in the companies history and those examples that are out there tend to be in pristine condition and quite usable. There’s little need to keep it as such, as a shelf queen it’s unlikely to appreciate in value so if one comes up at a yard sale or second hand shop don’t hesitate. Give it to a child and them run wild, for goodness sake just don’t buy them a Fisher-Price!
Manuals and printed inserts from the R1900 are now available in the B&L Library.