On this day in 1983, Southbridge celebrated the 150th anniversary of the nation's oldest optical company — the American Optical Company, or "the A.O." as it was known in the Worcester County town where it began. In 1833 William Beecher opened a spectacle shop. Over the next two decades, the little workshop became a thriving enterprise. By 1879 George Wells, a former apprentice and mechanical genius, owned a controlling interest in what was now called the American Optical Company. Wells built the A.O. into the largest optical company in the world. His three sons carried on the firm, but they also started a new venture: they created Old Sturbridge Village, a nationally renowned living history museum.