Spectacles of Well Known People in History (Part Two)

We are very fortunate that the personal vision aids of many important individuals have been preserved at institutions and in private collections. Much insight into the development of eyewear during specific time periods can be gained by reviewing examples which have known dates of use. Provenance information associated with the numerous examples presented here is assumed to be mostly correct. It has been difficult to establish in several cases and for some of the others listed, it has not been 100% proven. We have basically tried to confirm that each object and its provenance is believable based at least in part on the known date of death of each person. Hopefully any related information also seems correct. We do know that the more famous the person, the more objects which seem to appear over time following his/her death. We have chosen to believe everything that appears below. Kindly write in if you have questions, concerns, or other knowledge which might be useful in the regard. The advantage of a website is that it is “alive” and can always be updated and corrected. For comparison you are invited to visit “Treasures - Mistaken” where the dates or descriptions unfortunately appear to be false.

Many of the descriptions specifically under the heading “Contributions” have been taken directly from Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia. This is an excellent resource and is very highly recommended for others to use. Included below also are known examples of spectacles used by several American Presidents. The eyewear of these famous individuals will likely appear again on this same website but under a different key heading.

Certainly there must be other examples (out there) of noted leaders or famous people whose lives and accomplishments have impacted mankind during the past five hundred years of history. If you are aware of any examples which might belong on this page, kindly email the website and we will actively pursue any available information as well as the appropriate image. The Vatican Museum does not have any rivet spectacles. But we hope that their curators will eventually appreciate our international educational efforts here. Any discoveries in this realm would be considered world-class treasures and if objects of this nature are ever displayed on their Vatican Museum website we will link to these images in order to present this to our visitors also.

Finally one additional point must be stated here. In the course of gathering the images and information for this important webpage, a group of 20th century vision aids have also appeared. Although they are NOT antiques in the strict sense of the word, they are still quite interesting to observe and these are presented at the bottom of this listing. A few have quite fascinating stories as you will notice.

Hans Kloti 1712 - Born in Rikon, Zurich, Switzerland, then emigrated to the Americas and in 1750 was granted 150 acres in Orangeburgh (South Carolina) Township. His wife Anna arrived from Rikon, Illnau, Zurich, Switzerland on 19 Dec 1749 via Greenwich on the Capt. Randolph. Kloti, back of caseD. Hans Kloti, Nuremburg spectacles, hand-carved wooden case, 1784 In a private collection Nuremberg style nose spectacles were common to Switzerland. Is this the Hans Kloti we have researched?  
John Owen 1712-1783 Original Higley Coppers are a rare monetary token struck in Simsbury of copper mined in present day East Granby by Dr. Samuel Higley in the first half of the 18th century when it was illegal to mint coins in America. Owen, made by Higley Coppers, 1765, Simsbury Historical SocietyJohn Owen, brass, 1765, Simsbury Historical Society Simsbury Historical Society Brass case. It says “John Owen Simsbury” on the front and “Higley fecit 1765” on the back 

Made by the Higley family of metal workers, individual yet to be identified.
Israel Putnam 1718-1790 Great hero of the American Revolution who led the American forces at the Battle of Bunker Hill during which he likely uttered the famous lines, "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes!" He also said “Aim for their belt buckles” because musket balls had a slightly upward trajectory. He has been characterized as the “General Patton of the American Revolution” and after the battle was named Major General, second only to George Washington. Major General Israel Putnam spectacles, N. Y. Historical Society

New York Historical Society Oval frame, double hinge, Circa very late 1780’s Used at the tail end of his life. One doubts he wore them “during” the Revolutionary War.
Admiral Esak Hopkins 1718-1802 a successful sea captain who had traveled the world, Hopkins was appointed in 1775 Commander-in-Chief of the newly-formed Continental Navy. He later served in the Rhode Island legislature. The U.S. Navy has named two destroyers in his honor
Statue of Commodore Esek Hopkins,  Photo #: USN 1120070,  Located at Branch Avenue & Charles Street, Providence, Rhode Island., Photographed on 12 January 1967.,  Official U.S. Navy Photograph
leather framed, circa 1770, RHi X4 276 Museum Collection, Rhode Island Historical Society
Rhode Island Historical Society Leather-framed Commodore Hopkins flew on his first voyages the Gadsden flag, designed by a man from Charleston, Carolina, with a coiled rattlesnake and the motto ``Don't Tread on Me.''
Sir Joshua Reynolds 1723-1792 He was the most important and influential of 18th century English painters, specializing in portraits and promoting the "Grand Style" in painting which depended on idealization of the imperfect. He was one of the founders and first President of the Royal Academy. George III appreciated his merits and knighted him in 1769. Joshua Reynolds spectacles, round frame, double hinge with medium tear-shaped finialsJoshua Reynolds, self-portrait 1788, at the BOA Museum Private collection -4.75 o.u.   Hallmarked silver round frame spectacles with turn-pin sides in a shagreen flip-top case with silver trim. Like other artists, Reynolds painted himself wearing these. They were exhibited by the Royal Academy, London in 1986

Moses Mendelssohn 1729-1786 a German Jewish philosopher. He was an important Jewish figure of the 18th century, and to him is attributable the renaissance of European Jews, Haskalah, the Jewish enlightenment. To some he was the third Moses (the other two being the Biblical lawgiver and Moses Maimonides) with whom a new era opens in the history of the Jewish people. Moses Mendolssohn
Moses Mendolssohn spectacles, Baeck Institute and the Jewish Museum, Berlin
Jewish Museum, Berlin and Baeck Institute, New York Solid tortoiseshell or more likely wood

Quite unusual frame, especially in the front
Catherine the Great 1729-1796 An enlightened despot who ruled over Russia, she is responsible for many positive changes in Russia, as well as securing the country a warm water port. Catherine the Great eyeglass case, Solid gold, from the September 2000 Carolina Arts Magazine, from the traveling exhibition “Unseen Treasures--Imperial Russia and the New World
Round frame silver temple spectacles, shagreen case
Originally the State Hermitage Museum but now the Russian State Historical Museum St. Petersburg, Russia

Solid gold jewel encrusted case

Round frame silver temple spectacles, shagreen case

The photo appeared in the magazine publication Carolina Arts in September 2000. It was from a traveling exhibition “Unseen Treasures--Imperial Russia and the New World," which was here in the United States over five years ago.  Unseen Treasures was organized by the American-Russian Cultural Cooperation Foundation in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Russian American Company. 

Johann Georg Sartorius 1729-1798 He was a Protestant priest Priest Johann Georg Sartorius: horn scissors-glasses private collection Scissors-glasses in a horn case Probably 4th quarter 18th century
  unknown date An emperor of France An Emperor of France: solid gold and enamel lorgnette watch, ivory case private collection Ivory case, lorgnette watch, solid gold and enamel  
Martha Washington 1731-1802 Served as the first First Lady of United States, being married to George Washington. 'Martha Washington tortoiseshell damaged spectacles, Mount Vernon Mount Vernon Ladies Association Broken tortoiseshell oval framed spectacles These are unfortunately damaged

Nellie Rose Conway Madison 1731-1829 Mother of President James Madison Nelly Conway Madison, painting by Charles Peale Polk, 1799, Portrait photo courtesy of Belle Grove Plantation Belle Grove Plantation

The plate reads: Mrs. James Madison, Born Jan. 9 1731, Died Feb. 11 1829, Mother of President James Madison, Artist Charles Peale Polk
She is holding a pair of steel round frame spectacles with a C bridge and double hinge sides, with large circle finials

a search is on for these eyeglasses

George Washington 1732-1799

the first President of the United States from 1789 to 1797 and commander of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War from 1775 to 1783. Because of his significant role in the revolution and in the formation of the United States, he is often referred to as "Father of His Country"

A metal eyeglass case engraved, “To George Washington from Mother / August 17, 1777”, from the estate of Josephine Voorhees Wilder. Copyright Minnesota Historical Society Minnesota Historical Society




A flip-top metal spectacle case engraved, “To George Washington from Mother/August 17, 1777”, from the estate of Josephine Voorhees Wilder (548.H291)


The document related to the provenance certainly raises some issues because of the 100+ year gap in its status between 1777 and about 1890. Also no other reports describe Washington with this case, especially as early as 1777. This evidence is therefore very weak in my own opinion.


Four lens sunglasses of Washington, Courtesy of Mount Vernon Ladies' Association Mount Vernon Ladies' Association Tortoiseshell front, steel turn pin sides, D Frame These were very possibly Washington's, presented by his great grand-niece in 1886 (W-490)
Three draw telescope of George Washington, mahogany and brass, c. 1775, made by Henry Pyefinch, W644, Courtesy of Mount Vernon Ladies' Association Mount Vernon Ladies' Association made by Henry Pyefinch, circa 1775 Gift of Mrs. Jefferson David in 1899, W-644
Refracting three draw telescope of George Washington, mahogany and brass, c. 1800, #2000.008.001-A, Courtesy of Mount Vernon Ladies' Association Mount Vernon Ladies' Association Three draw telescope made by John Dolland, London, circa 1790. “John Park Custis Peter” inscribed along the length of the case. Dolland, London is on the eyepiece itself. #2008.008
George Washington’s eyeglasses were described in a Wellsworth Magazine article, April 1918 issue, page 159 Article published in Wellsworth Magazine, April 1918 Heavy silver, elaborately engraved, about +3.50 each eye These were stolen from the Assembly Room of Independence Hall, Philadelphia in 1967
William Maxwell 1733-1796 Alexander Hamilton and he co-founded the Bank of New York in 1784, where Maxwell served as vice president and director. Round frame, double hinge, silver temple spectacles
Round frame, double hinge, silver temple spectacles
private collection Round frame, double hinge, silver temple spectacles  
Madame Victoire de France 1733-1799 Daughter of Louis XV. Silver spectacles, Victoire de France, a daughter of Louis XV Essilor-Pierre Marly collection, Collectible Eyeglasses, Crestin-Billet Unique silver spectacles, one finial bears the initials “V.L.” and the other the royal fleur-de-lis, the armorial emblem of French royalty,  Just wonderful!
Joseph Priestley 1733-1804 An 18th-century British theologian, Dissenting clergyman, natural philosopher, educator, and political theorist who published over 150 works. He is usually credited with the discovery of oxygen, having isolated it in its gaseous state, although Carl Wilhelm Scheele and Antoine Lavoisier also have a claim to the discovery.  Joseph Priestley spectacles and case, Royal Society, London The Royal Society, London Round frame, double hinge tortoiseshell in a red leather and cardboard case  
Paul Revere 1735-1818 An American patriot and silversmith, Paul Revere became a legendary hero at the start of the American Revolution, when he rode from Charlestown to Lexington, Mass., on the night of Apr. 18, 1775, to warn the countryside of approaching British troops. Paul Revere spectacles, Paul Revere House, circa 1810-1815 Paul Revere Memorial Association Oval frame, steel, turnpin. From the end of his life he was an original underwriter of Mass. Mutual Fire Ins. Co. and left these behind at a meeting.

Records show that he only made three spectacle frames in 1788 and three temple frames in 1765 (likely all in silver). He did not make the eyeglasses at the Revere house.
Patrick Henry 1736-1799 An American Patriot and orator who protested British tyranny and became a symbol of the American struggle for liberty. Famous phrases attributed to him are “Give me liberty or give me death” and “If this be treason, make the most of it”.  He served as Governor of Virginia 1776 – 1779. 'Charles Bird King, copy of portrait of Patrick Henry, Redwood Library and AthenaeumPatrick Henry,  by Thomas Sully, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, VirginiaPatrick Henry, attributed to Asa Powers, 1820-1830, Shelburne MuseumPatrick Henry spectacles, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, Virginia Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, Virginia Round frame, double hinge This pair appears to be the one shown in the two earlier paintings.

The work attributed to Asa Powers shows an oval frame which was more prevalent in the first quarter of the 19th century, after Patrick Henry had died.
James Watt 1736-1819 He was a Scottish inventor and engineer whose improvements to the steam engine were fundamental the changes wrought by the Industrial Revolution James Watt: silver round frame temple specs and round frame tortoiseshell Science Museum

(better images will soon be available)

Round frame, C Bridge, temple sides with large round finials Round frame tortoiseshell, straight temples, missing on one side  
Johann Michael Haydn        1737-1806 Austrian composer of the classical period, younger brother of (Franz) Joseph Haydn Johann Michael Haydn’s temple spectacles, circa late 18th century, courtesy of Musikalienarchiv St. Peter, Salzburg, Austria Musikalienarchiv St. Peter, Salzburg, Austria Temple Spectacles     
Thomas Paine 1737-1809 American and English political activist, philosopher, political theorist and revolutionary. Author of the two most influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution, he inspired the Patriots in 1776 to declare independence from Britain. Oval frame, pin-in-slot adjustable sides With permission of the TPNHA Collection at Iona College Archives Oval frame, pin-in-slot adjustable sides  
Ethan Allen 1738-1789 Patriot of the American Revolution, leader of the Green Mountain Boys, and champion of statehood for Vermont. Ethan Allen spectaclesEthan Allen, from the American Revolution Home Page Bennington Museum Oval frame, steel, double hinge Used right at the end of his life

Reverend Chandler Robbins 1738-1799

A graduate of Yale (1756), he was ordained to the ministry of First Church in Plymouth, MA, in 1760 and he held this position until his death in 1799.  Robbins was a preacher, an author and a scholar.  During the Revolution, "he was a most zealous advocate for liberty and independence."  Reverend Robbins Chandler spectacles, Pilgrim Hall MuseumReverend Chandler Robbins, First Church of Plymouth, Pilgrim Hall Pilgrim Hall Museum Round frame, silver, double hinge, dated 1795,  These have the maker’s mark of Samuel Drowne II, (1749-1815, Portsmouth, N.H.
Henry Cruger 1739-1827 A member of Parliament (a Whig) from 1774-1780 and then 1784-1790.  Was a highly successful merchant who suffered because of the infamous Stamp Act and then lost most of his fortune. He brought Alexander Hamilton to the US with a scholarship.

Henry Cruger, Member of Parliament Private collection 3 pair, mother of pearl and silver scissors-glasses, a solid gold quizzer, and a silver lorgnette in a special case It is doubtful the spring-loaded folding lorgnette was his during his lifetime because it is more likely 1840-1850
Gotskalk Thorvaldsen 1740-1806 Artisan craftsman and artist, wood carver who specialized mainly in decorative pieces, such as ornamental frameworks for mirrors and easel paintings. He had significant success in wooden figures and even full-sized sculpture. He carved figureheads executed for the Danish fleet in the shipyard at what is today called Larsens Plads, along the designs of his son, Bertel Thorvaldsen, who assisted him throughout his youth in Copenhagen. Gotskalk Thorvaldsen: steel frame, green oval lenses, turn pin extensions, Thorvaldsen’s Museum Thorvaldsens Museum Steel, green lens oval frame, turnpin sides  
André Ernest Modeste Grétry 1741-1813 Composer from the Prince-Bishopric of Liège (present-day Belgium), who worked from 1767 onwards in France and took French nationality. Most famous for his opéras comiques. Spyglass of André Ernest Modeste Grétry Bibliothèque-Musée de l'opéra Spyglass, gilded brass with enamel work on the barrel, original case  
James Wilson  1742-1798 Scottish lawyer, most notable as a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence. Twice elected to the Continental Congress, he was a major force in the drafting of the United States Constitution, a leading legal theoretician and one of the six original justices appointed by George Washington to the Supreme Court of the United States James Wilson, by Jean Pierre Henri Elouis, c. 1792, watercolor on ivory, 2 5/8 x 2 in., Collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum purchased through the Catherine Walden Myer Fund, Accession # 1952.3.3 The official portrait of Supreme Court Justice James Wilson Life size bronze statue of James Wilson, created under the direction of Head sculptor Kiril Kirov, of Studio EIS in Brooklyn, New York, located in Signer’s Hall, National Constitution Center, NYC notice how the glasses are tied on, around the back of the head Smithsonian American Art Museum Constitution Center Sculptured work Showing round frame metal specs

Perhaps he was quite myopic?
Notice that the sculptor showed the glasses being tied on which we really have never seen before !!!  

Also notice these 18th century glasses have 19th century sides !!!
Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier 1743-1794 the "father of modern chemistry" and a French nobleman prominent in the histories of chemistry and biology. He found and termed oxygen (1778) and hydrogen (1783), helped construct the metric system, compiled the first extensive list of elements, and helped to reform chemical nomenclature Magnifying glasses and other various optical objects originating from Lavoisier’s laboratory © Museum of the arts and trades cnam, Paris France/ photo S. Pelly Musée des arts et métiers CNAM, Paris Three Magnifiers, lorgnette, two Nuremberg nose spectacles, and one spyglass  
Thomas Jefferson 1743-1826 Third President of the United States, 1801-1809, one of the most influential Founders of the United States and one of the earliest and most prominent American politicians and statesmen. Thomas Jefferson spectacles with eight-sided case, MonticelloPresident Jefferson spectacles and letter to McAllister, Monticello Monticello/Thomas Jefferson Foundation Silver spectacles designed by Jefferson in 1806 and made by McAllister Died on July 4th exactly 50 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed
John Jay 1745-1829 1st Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court Coin silver spectacles, worn by John Jay, from the Richard Corson book These exist at the Museum of the City of NY but the image is from the Corson book Oval frame with adjustable side arms, made by Poole Supposedly there is “weak attribution”

Colonel Richard Cary

1747-1806 Served as an aide-de-camp for George Washington. He built a residence at one other end of Otsego Lake just after the war.  His home is called Swanswick and one of his daughters married into the James Fenimore Cooper family Colonel Richard Cary, solid gold glasses, Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York   solid gold glasses with round frame and turn-pin sides Round frame in solid gold are quite unusual
Dr. Edward Jenner 1749-1823 Discovered vaccination Dr. Edward Jenner: silver, adjustable sides, on loan from the Wellcome Institution for the History of Medicine On long-term loan to the Edward Jenner Museum Silver, round frame, c Bridge, adjustable pin-in-slot sidearm, small round finial object is from the collections of the Wellcome Institute/Science Museum.

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