I’ve seen Star Wars dozens of times. It’s one of the all-time-greatest film franchises ever made. It’s such a big series you can watch each movie over and over and still notice new details with every watch. That’s what blew so many Star Wars fans’ minds when one posted a crazy discovery to Facebook – Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber was made in Upstate New York.

A post by Michael Wright to a Star Wars Meme group on Facebook, showing New York written on Luke Skywalker's lightsaber.

Lightsabers: Made In New York

In 1887, the Folmer and Schwing Manufacturing Company started in New York City. At first they manufactured gas lamps, chandeliers, and bicycles, but after they started manufacturing camera parts they were bought up by Eastman Kodak and moved to Rochester in 1907.

In Rochester, the company name changed to Graflex, and manufactured parts for Kodak at their plant on Clarrisa Street. Graflex didn’t just make cameras, they also made portable flash guns that attached to the cameras for low light. Not only did this technology revolutionize photography, but it inadvertently changed pop culture forever.

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Jump forward a few decades to the 1970s: movie set designer Roger Christian is looking through boxes of old camera parts and accessories in London for his new boss George Lucas. Lucas wanted all the futuristic gadgets for his upcoming movie to have a retro-future aesthetic, especially one unique weapon.

As soon as Christian saw the Rochester-made Graflex flash gun handle, he knew that was what he was looking for:

“I put chrome tape around the handle to hide the Graflex name. And I had a calculator bubble-strip, which was where the illuminated numbers would come up, and that I put into the grip, and we added the D-ring on the end so we could hang it on Luke’s belt. And that was it!”

The lightsaber went on to become such a huge piece of history, that the original Graflex saber sold for $250,000.

Because of the cinematic history, remaining Graflex flash guns and cameras can go for thousands online and at auction. These are often bought up by die-hard Star Wars collectors who disassemble them to make their own authentic replicas. This angers some photography preservationists who would rather see the Graflex cameras restored, as opposed to destroyed for parts.

So the next time you’re watching Star Wars, look carefully and you can see New York’s monumental impact on pop culture.

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