Collecting Military Binoculars
American Military binocular 6 x 30 "M5" Wollensak WW2
In 1899 Andrew Wollensak and his brother John decided to establish a new company for the purpose of manufacturing a line of high quality shutters which could be sold at areasonable price. The brothers managed to obtain financial help from Stephen Rauber, former president of the Union Brewing Company in North Clinton Avenue, and the new company, Rauber and Wollensak, was established in a building at 280 Central Avenue. Mr. Rauber died in1901, and the name of the firm was then changed to the Wollensak Optical Company. The following year Wollensak commenced the productionof lenses as well as shutters. The company purchased the Rochester Lens Company in 1905,thereby obtaining the right to manufacture the 'Royal' anastigmat line developed by that company.
Andrew Wollensak senior, president of the company since its foundation, died in January 1936, his brother John having died three years earlier. John left five children, of whom Andrew A. and Frank J. remained active in the business for many years. In 1913 the company moved to 1415 Clinton Avenue North at NortonStreet, and in 1924 to 872 Hudson Avenue. In 1938 a larger and more desirable building a few yards to the south, at 850 Hudson Avenue,fell vacant (it had been a clothing factory), and Wollensak moved into it. Unfortunately, during the past 15 years, after several changes ofownership, including Revere and 3M, the company gradually went downhill and in 1972 finally closed its doors.
Wollensak was one of Rochester's finest companies, and at their height in 1958 they had over 1200 employees. Their lenses, shutters, andother products were considered to be excellent, and during the war they made a wide variety of optical equipment for the armed forces.
Although the build and optical qualities of the M5 are quite satisfactory, those of the Bausch & Lomb style M3 6X30 and its variants are clearly superior. The M5 is not as robust and weatherproof as the M3, and optically its field of view is approximately one degree smaller. Otherwise, its view is comparable being nicely bright (many M5’s had coated optics) and sharp. Its graticule is of lower quality consisting of a scale of nine thick un-numbered vertical lines (producing a graticule such as the M3’s with fine markings was not a simple or inexpensive process), but such a graticule is easier to discern under low light. However, the M5 had qualities which led to military acceptance probably because it was lightweight, compact and inexpensive to manufacture. Its unorthodox design is uncomplicated and easy to service