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“Norwalk” is stamped on landmark viewfinders. Are they made here?

One of the great pleasures of traveling to the famous and not-so-famous landmarks around the world is finding a bit of home, in this case a Tower Optical Viewfinder. Plop in a quarter (or two more likely) and these distinctive viewers provide a clear view of vistas and monuments, in locations all around the country.

The family-owned Tower Optical has been in Norwalk since it began in the 1930s. The first viewers cost only a dime for the public user, and today there are more than 2,500 viewers around North America, Locations include Rainbow Bridge, which straddles the US and Canadian border, and overlooks Niagara Falls for those that make cross the bridge by foot. Other viewers look over landscapes from the top of mountains, such as this one at Mount Greylock, in Adams, Massachusetts. A metal plate on each binocular viewer proudly states “Tower Optical, Norwalk, Connecticut.”

The viewers haven’t changed since the first mechanical design from the 1930s. In the age of digital, the device may seem retro, but many of the locations with the grand views are at sites that have no nearby electricity—and they are still super-useful. The rugged design is built to withstand being outdoors in all types of weather.

Every viewer is built in Norwalk and on each of the swiveling heads that allow for a full 360-degree view at ten-time magnification. And if you look at the ringed steps holding the viewer in place, the cast iron base is branded with Tower Optical Norwalk.

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