Binyon Optical Company was founded in 1911 in Seattle then quickly expanded across Washington
Dr. James R. Binyon opened the first Binyon Optical Company in 1911 on First Avenue in Seattle. He went on to open several other offices in Everett, Tacoma, Spokane, Richland, Yakima, Bremerton and Bellingham, which opened in 1934. At one time, it was estimated one of every three Washington families wore glasses dispensed by Binyon Optometrists. Binyon optometrists and opticians were trained to be masters of their craft- providing an excellence in glasses and service not found elsewhere. Today there are three remaining operating clinics with the Binyon name in Bellingham, Burien and Seattle, each operating independently.
Binyon Optical- a presence in downtown Bellingham since the 1930’s
The Binyon office in Bellingham has always operated out of downtown- on Holly, Cornwall, Railroad Avenue and since 1993 on the corner of Garden and Magnolia Street. The Holly Street storefront opened in 1934 with Dr. J. H. Peterson practicing. The office moved to Cornwall Avenue in 1947. In 1951, Dr. Binyon’s nephew Dr. LeRoy Freeman moved to up to practice in the Bellingham office. Binyon made another downtown move to the corner of Railroad and Magnolia Street in 1974. Dr. Terrence Hansen joined Binyon Optometrists as an associate during that time. In 1980, Dr. Mark McEathron joined the practice. When Dr. Freeman passed away in 1985, Dr. McEathron, who was a partner at that time became the sole owner. In 1992, the office moved three blocks east on Magnolia into the former Pietro’s Pizza restaurant. This location offers over 1,000 square feet dedicated to frames displays and off-street parking. In 2019, Dr. Heather LeClaire joined Binyon Vision Center as an associate. After two years, she purchased the practice from Dr. McEathron, making her the first woman owner.
American History through Binyon Newspaper Advertisements
We have a unique opportunity to look at a business- in this case an optometrist office that provides eye exams and glasses- through the eyes of its newspaper advertisements. While today we have instant access to an internet search of “Bellingham optometrist,” even as recently as the 1990’s, newspaper marketing was vital for being seen by prospective and returning patients.
The Bellingham Herald was founded in 1890 as the Fairhaven Herald, and after a few mergers (just like our city), was renamed the Bellingham Herald in 1903. An amazing online resource – newspapers.com is the largest online newspaper archive – containing archives back to the 1770’s from over 23,900 newspapers including the Bellingham Herald. A search for “Binyon” in the Bellingham Herald brought up advertisements and press releases going back to the 1930’s. The creativity and current event references in these advertisements are a peek into marketing, US history, optometry, and downtown Bellingham. Here is a breakdown by decade of the historical advertisements for Binyon in the Bellingham Herald.
Bellingham Herald Advertisements from the 1930’s
During the 1930’s, years of depression and economic hardship for the United States and Bellingham, Binyon advertisements focused on the importance of eye exams and subtly hinted at the stress on Bellingham resident’s finances. “We do not prescribe glasses unless absolutely necessary” appears in a few adverts.
An emphasis on the science of visual defects, having skilled, registered optometrists, and modernized equipment highlights eye health and vision as an important part of overall health and establishing credibility in the health profession.
An often repeated slogan is “Binyonize Your Eyes,” and by this point, Binyon Opticals had been operating for 20 years in other locations and had gained a healthy reputation for quality and service.
Bellingham Herald Advertisements from the 1940’s
In the early 1940’s the themes of the past decade’s advertisements continued – “Your Eyes Deserve the Best” and “Truly Friendly Service” are notable phrases the company used to distinguish itself. The advertisements include higher quality artwork and reference the entire chain of Binyon plus wisely pointing out the doctor’s name and address for the Bellingham location.
When the United States entered WWII, you see a definite shift in the messaging to relate the importance of having good vision to help the country’s wartime effort. It is fascinating to see the connection of one of the key times in US History to a local optometry’s advertisements. Visual efficiency is even called a patriotic duty and essential to help with wartime production. To note, the Bellingham Shipyard was the largest privately owned shipyard in the US in the 1940’s. They produced minesweepers during the war for the United States Navy.
Other interesting additions in the 1940’s ads are the discussion of children’s vision and its effect on school work:
When the war ends, the advertisements go back to focusing on quality and service. One ad shows the proper steps to taking care of glasses. Binyon advertisements give solid advice for getting the most out of your glasses, the last step being to visit a quality optometrist for adjustments and new glasses when necessary.
The quality of glasses is a frequent theme in advertisements, including the importance of taking proper measurements and lens manufacturing. This is also an introduction to the “look” of glasses – the idea they can make you look younger and have style.
Like we see every November on social media – there is an advertisement posted to remember to vote.
There are also lifestyle advertisements in the later 1940’s – addressing specific tasks and their visual needs and how Binyon glasses can help address. “Enjoy Good Vision… Enjoy Sports More” is one tagline.
In 1947, the office moved to a new location, announced with a press release and a change in logo in some of the proceeding advertisements.
Stay tuned for advertisements from the 1950 – 2000!
The advertisements from the Bellingham Herald by Binyon Optical Company in the 1930’s and 1940’s are an extensive walk through this important time period, in the most used medium of the day. There are five more decades to cover, with the newspaper advertisements becoming less each decade as other forms of marketing emerge. Stay tuned for the additional treasures to come in next month’s blog post!