From Salvage to Space
When you come to a fork in the road, take it. —Yogi Berra
This is the extraordinary story of a family-owned corporation that bailed out of its half-century-old signature business and took off in a whole new and highly profitable direction.
In 1942, an avid young amateur photographer named Norman W. Edmund tried to locate good camera lenses. But the war had thrown a wrench into the entire stream of consumer and industrial products. After an exhaustive search, he found a source for his lenses.
It occurred to him that other camera buffs may be in the same boat, so the fledgling entrepreneur created a small kit of five lenses and offered them for sale under the name Edmund Salvage. His marketing techniques included a catalog printed on mimeographed sheets and small space ads in Popular Photography, Popular Science and Popular Mechanics magazines.
The little business thrived throughout World War II as Edmund bought surplus optics from the government and resold them to his growing list of customers via his monthly mimeographed catalog. One of his early buyers was in Tennessee and placed substantial orders every month.
With an instinct for what is now known as customer relationship management, Edmund wrote the gentleman, asked what kind of business he was in, and suggested perhaps they could do something together. After several unanswered letters, Edmund got his reply: a visit from Secret Service agents who told him to simply fill orders and quit asking questions. It turned out the customer was Oak Ridge, the government laboratory doing top-secret research for the atomic bomb.
Immediately After the War
Edmund Salvage became Edmund Scientific in the late 1940s and continued to specialize in optics. Edmund made regular trips to Japan, bringing back for sale binoculars and microscopes. The company began to branch off into consumer science, offering educational products for elementary and high school students and laboratories.