American Optometric Association Records Collection

Reference Code:

Record Group 2014.100: AOA Records Collection

Inclusive Dates: 1896-   

Extent: ~800 cubic feet 


The Archives & Museum of Optometry, 243, Lindbergh Ave., St. Louis, MO 63141


Archives mobile shelving.  Unprocessed material is held in adjacent storage or at off-site storage facility.  Some born-digital materials are held on AOA network servers or other media.  


American Optometric Association (1918- ) American Optical Association (1909-1918) American Association of Opticians (1898-1909)                          


The American Optometric Association Collection includes organizational records, publications and other materials generated by AOA staff, governors, members, volunteers, advocates and others in support of the Association's activities. The collection also includes assembled series of materials on various subjects related to the Association's history and activities.  The records reflect the functions of the Association's governing body, divisions (centers, groups, and sections), auxiliaries, councils and committees and are comprised of administrative, governance, organizational, advocacy, membership, program, conferences and meetings as well as publications and multimedia. This collection includes materials created from the Association's inception to the present as well as other materials that relate to the history of the Association and its role in defining, regulating, promoting and expanding the scope of the profession of optometry.  The records include those of the American Association of Opticians [1898-1909], The American Optical Association [1909-1918] and the American Optometric Association [1918-].

Historical Note:

The American Optometric Association (AOA) represents the optometric profession in the United States. The AOA membership includes doctors of optometry, students, paraoptometric assistants and technicians.  The purpose of the Association is to promote quality vision and eye care and provide optometric professionals and paraprofessionals with leadership in setting practice standards, developing clinical guidelines, lobbying on behalf of the profession and providing research and education to practitioners and the public. The Association is organized as a federation of state, student and armed forces optometric associations represented by delegates in the Association's governing body, the House of Delegates, which creates legislation and policy for the Association as delineated in Constitution and Bylaws.  The Board of Trustees, as the administrative body of the Association, implements the policies and laws generated by the House of Delegates. The administrative functions of the AOA are performed by a constantly evolving set of groups, centers, departments, sections, bureaus, councils and committees.  The Association's current administrative offices are located in St. Louis, Missouri and advocacy activities are conducted in the Washington, D.C. office.

The Association was formed on October 10, 1898 at a meeting called by Frederick Boger, Secretary of the Optical Society of the State of New York, at the Broadway Central Hotel.  Originally named The American Association of Opticians (1898-1909), the Association was formed in response to organized medicine's attempts to restrict the provision of optometric services to medical doctors through legislation. The AOA sought to unify a proliferation of state and local societies under a single body in order to promote and define the profession at the national level.  Initially, the Association membership included both dispensing and refracting opticians and all others engaged in the optical trade.  In 1900, membership in the Association was restricted to refracting opticians. In 1903, the Association adopted the term "optometrist" to refer to its members. In 1910, the name of the Association was changed to The American Optical Association and in 1918 the Association adopted its current title (The American Optometric Association).  In 1919, the AOA was incorporated in the state of Ohio.

The Association's first officers consisted of a President, two Vice-Presidents, a Secretary and a Treasurer.  These officers along with committee members drew up the first Constitution and Bylaws.  Election of new officers, establishment of new divisions and structures, and changes to the Constitution and Bylaws were conducted at subsequent annual conventions (1899-present), referred to as Congresses beginning in 1914 and then Optometry's Meeting® in 2001. The first Code of Ethics was adopted in 1908.  The Board of Trustees held its first meeting in 1924. In 1926, the first official publication, the AOA Messenger was published, followed by the AOA Organizer in 1929.  The Organizer was superseded by the Journal of the American Optometric Association in 1930 and the JAOA was superseded by Optometry (2005-2012). The "AOA News" began publication in 1961 and ceased in 2013. Optometric Economics ran from 1991-1997.  The AOA Focus began publication in February of 2014. Several electronic publications and social media sites are maintained by the Association.

The first administrative staff was hired in 1908, but there was not yet an administrative headquarters.  Officers typically conducted Association business from their various locales through correspondence and at national meetings. In 1922, Ernest Kiekenapp began his three decade career as the AOA Secretary, setting up an office in Faribault, MN.  Harold Kohn was appointed the first General Counsel in 1933; Mr. Kohn operated out of New York, NY.  In 1942, William P. MacCracken was hired to provide legal counsel for advocacy in Washington, D.C.   In 1952, J. Harold Bailey was appointed as the first Administrative (Executive) Director and an official AOA headquarters was established adjacent to President James Wahl's office in Anna, IL.  In 1953, the AOA headquarters moved to 4030 Chouteau Avenue in St. Louis, MO.  In 1964, the AOA purchased a new building at 7000 Chippewa and in 1978 acquired its current location on North Lindbergh Boulevard in St. Louis County.  The Washington office at was opened at 1025 Connecticut in 1961 with David Sharman as the first Director.

Scope and Content:

The American Optometric Association Collection consists of materials relating to the history of the Association from its inception until today.   The collection comprises textual documents including organizational, institutional and personal records. These include correspondence, directories and rosters, reports, manuscripts, transcripts, forms, minutes and governance documents, policies, publications, course materials, testimonies, newsletters and other communications.  The Association also holds microfilm and other micrographic material, motion picture films and sound and video recordings, transparencies and slides, photographic prints and negatives, graphic media and vital records such as certificates, posters, display cards, maps, patents, and drawings.  The collection also includes ephemera, such as pamphlets, fliers, brochures, tickets and other material.


The collection is arranged using a subject classification system devised by the ILAMO staff in the 1970s that divided the Archives holdings into nine subject groups. The classification system for the AOA Collection is primarily organized by creators as it mirrors the structure of the Association over time.  Also included in the collection, however, are subject and biographical files assembled by the librarians.  Most of the materials have been minimally arranged, but will be more thoroughly processed as the collection is reappraised and rehoused.  A great number of files contain photocopies of journal articles on particular subjects; these also sometimes include written histories and occasional primary source (archival) documents.  Materials within these folders are usually arranged in date order.

Other Finding Aids in Collection:

International Library, Archives & Museum of Optometry (ILAMO) Card Catalog File.  Subject-based index card file.  Contents have been converted to an MS Access database and MS Excel workbook.  Catalog digitization in-progress.

Series 140. Archives & Museum Classification System.  MS Word file describing numerical classification system devised by ILAMO staff.

Series 140. Pre-existing finding aids. 1 box of miscellaneous indexes compiled by the ILAMO staff. Box list under construction.

Series 101. Subseries 101. AOA Bulletins Container List.  

134. AOA Publications. Under Construction.

Related Material:

International Library, Archives and Museum of Optometry& American Optometric Association. (1976). Serial holdings in the International Library, Archives, and Museum of Optometry. St. Louis: American Optometric Association.

International Library, Archives and Museum of Optometry (ILAMO) Records 1964-2009. The American Optometric Association Collection Record Group 100.  Series 140. The Archives & Museum of Optometry. Gregg, J. R. (1972). American Optometric Association: A history. St. Louis: American Optometric Association.


Gregg, J. R. (1972). American Optometric Association: A history. St. Louis: American Optometric Association.

Hirsch, M. J., & Wick, R. E. (1968). The optometric profession. Philadelphia: Chilton Book Co.

International Library Archives and Museum of Optometry. (2008). Centennial: ILAMO 100 Years.  St. Louis: American Optometric Association.

Koetting, R. A., & American Optometric Association. (1997). The American Optometric Association's first century. St. Louis: American Optometric Association.