The On-Line Museum and Encyclopedia of Vision Aids.
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.||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.||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.||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||
||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.||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.||
||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.||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||private collection||Scissors-glasses in a horn case||Probably 4th quarter 18th century|
|unknown date||An emperor of France||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.||Mount Vernon Ladies Association||Broken tortoiseshell oval framed spectacles||These are unfortunately damaged|
|Nellie Rose Conway Madison||1731-1829||Mother of President James Madison||
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|
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"
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.
|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)|
|Mount Vernon Ladies' Association||made by Henry Pyefinch, circa 1775||Gift of Mrs. Jefferson David in 1899, W-644|
|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|
|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.||
||private collection||Round frame, double hinge, silver temple spectacles|
|Madame Victoire de France||1733-1799||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.||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 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.||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||
(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||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.||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.||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."||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.||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.||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.||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||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||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.||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||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||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||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.|