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The country's largest producer of eclipse glasses is located outside Memphis

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Millions are expected to watch the total solar eclipse on Monday, and they will all need specialty glasses to protect their eyes. Katie Riordan, from member station WKNO, visited the country's largest producer of eclipse glasses. It's located right outside Memphis.

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KATIE RIORDAN, BYLINE: On the factory floor at the American Paper Optics company, Greg Dyer is busy packing boxes and stuffing envelopes.

GREG DYER: This one's going to Springfield, Ill. This is 250 glasses.

RIORDAN: He fills orders from all across the country, both big and small.

DYER: They could be anywhere from 12 to 2,000.

RIORDAN: And much larger. Orders for eye protection for this eclipse started coming in as early as two years ago, says company founder John Jerit.

JOHN JERIT: We've shipped already about 70 million glasses, and I suspect I'm going to approach right at 75 million by the time next week comes.

RIORDAN: That's about 30 million more than the company made for North America's last total solar eclipse in 2017, when the path of totality covered less populated parts of the U.S. It's a lot of work for this small business, which is usually a top manufacturer of paper 3D glasses for other events and projects. In the lead up to this year's spectacle, they almost doubled their workforce to about 70 employees. Many of their glasses are branded for handouts with logos from big corporations, local libraries, even wedding parties and NASA. Some well-known figures will wear them, too.

JERIT: Here's Al Roker on a pair of glasses. He'll be using those in the "Today" show. Ohio State University bought 150,000 glasses. Coke in Atlanta gave a - is going to give away 100,000 glasses there.

RIORDAN: And while that kind of personal flair can attract the eye, what's most important is that the eyewear has a solar filter certified to an international standard.

SUSANNA KOHLER: They're more than a thousand times darker than sunglasses.

RIORDAN: Susanna Kohler is with the American Astronomical Society. It's compiled a list of vetted sources to buy from, including American Paper Optics. Be wary, she says, of fake and counterfeit glasses that can claim to meet the ISO standard but haven't been tested.

KOHLER: What you really want to be sure of is that your solar eclipse glasses came from a reputable manufacturer and a reputable vendor - that you didn't just go to Amazon and get whatever was cheapest, and you don't know what you've received.

RIORDAN: Of course, Jerit will wear a pair of his own glasses when he travels to nearby Arkansas to bask in totality for a few minutes and watch others, possibly wearing his product.

JERIT: The ultimate kumbaya moment. People are going to scream, dance, laugh. People are going to stand by themselves in silence. And it's going to be the most bipartisan moment of 2024.

RIORDAN: After all, most Americans will be able to view at least a partial eclipse with the right glasses.

For NPR News, I'm Katie Riordan in Memphis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Katie Riordan
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