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. Early descriptions of eyeglasses are present when one reviews the literature but the objects listed below have apparently never surfaced.
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.
|Johann Wolfgang von Goethe||1749-1832||German novelist, dramatist, poet, humanist, scientist, philosopher, and for ten years Chief Minister of State at Weimar. He was one of the paramount figures of German literature and European Neo-classicism and Romanticism in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.||
||These exist at the Goethe Museum||Two pair of eyeglasses, hers are the scissors-glasses on the left||Described in Clinical Monthly Publication of Eyewear, July 1961, 138, page 885. The pair on the right may be his.|
|James Madison||1751-1836||Fourth President of the United States, 1809–1817, he is traditionally regarded as the “Father of the United States Constitution”||Click to see his telescope||James Madison Center||“could possibly be the spyglass listed in the inventory of the estate of James Madison, Sr., in 1802.”|
|Ezra Ripley||1751-1849||Became the minister of the First Parish in Concord, Massachusetts; step-grandfather of Ralph Waldo Emerson; cofounder in Concord of America’s first lyceum. Ordained a Trinitarian Calvinist, he became a Unitarian.||Concord Museum holds the eyeglasses and case. The painting hangs in the First Parish Church in Concord.||Oval frame, coin silver, adjustable sides, circa 1820-30||Made by John Pierce of Boston|
|John McAllister, Sr.||1752-1830||Father of American Opticianry/Optometry Additional Important Informaton||
||Philadelphia Museum of ArtHowever this seems to conflict with the information of the antique dealer who handled much of the Francis W. McAllister estate, including the paintings of Sr. and his wife. No glasses were known to exist at that time.||Coin-silver spectacles and red Moroccan leather eyeglass case. The case has a rare paper label inside the flap||Actually part of the Berman FoundationDoes anyone know what the "ACM" stands for? These are not the initials of McAllister, Sr. Instead this is "McA" backwards. Hmmm. Very interesting !|
|John Thoreau||1754-1801||Grandfather of Henry David Thoreau||Concord History Museum||Nuremberg style with a carved wooden case|
|Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna von Habsburg-Lothringen||1755-1793||Known to history as Marie Antoinette, was born an Archduchess of Austria and later became Queen of France and Navarre. At fourteen, she was married to Louis-Auguste, Dauphin of France, the future Louis XVI. She was the mother of Louis XVII, who died in the Temple Tower at the age of ten during the French Revolution. She is best remembered for her legendary excesses and for her death: she was executed by guillotine at the height of the French Revolution in 1793 for the crime of treason.||Musee Carnavalet, Paris||Ivory and gold spyglass with gold trim in its original case lined with blue velor||Donated in 1914 by Pierpont Morgan’s son|
|Alexander Hamilton||1755-1804||An American politician, statesman, journalist, lawyer, and soldier. One of the United States' most prominent and brilliant early constitutional lawyers, he was an influential delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention and the principal author of the Federalist Papers, which successfully defended the U.S. Constitution to skeptical New Yorkers. He also put the new United States of America onto a sound economic footing as its first and most influential Secretary of the Treasury, establishing the First Bank of the United States, public credit and the foundations for American capitalism and stock and commodity exchanges. Alexander Hamilton died in a duel with fellow politician Aaron Burr.||From an auction site||This red Moroccan leather case was apparently used by Hamilton during the duel with Burr.||This was authenticated by Christies in 1982. But, more importantly, where are the spectacles?Unfortunately the case is being cut up and sold in pieces for display on the wall|
|Cambaceres||1755-1824||Had a long legal career, and became Second Consul to Napoleon||Private collection||Round frame tortoiseshell, temple sides|
|Sarah Siddons||1755-1831||A British actress, the best-known tragedienne of the 18th century. She was most famous for her portrayal of the Shakespearean character, Lady Macbeth, a character she made her own.||New York Historical Society||Round frame tortoiseshell with turn pin sides, early 19th century|
|John Marshall||1755-1835||Highly influential American statesman, lawyer, legislator and soldier who served as a Virginia Delegate, U.S. Representative, special emissary to France, Secretary of State and, most significantly, as the fourth Chief Justice of the United States (1801-1835). Marshall presided over the Supreme Court of the United States for over three decades and was the principal founder of American constitutional law and the power of judicial review.||On display at the John Marshall House but this has been loaned by a private individual||Round frame tortoiseshell, temple sides||Awaiting permission to show the image|
Giovanni Antonio Galignani
Italian newspaper publisher born at Brescia. After living in London he went to Paris where he started in 1800 an English library, and in 1808 a monthly publication, the Repertory of English Literature. In 1814 he began to publish, in Paris, Galignani's Messenger, a daily paper printed in English. After his death in 1821 the paper was carried on by his two sons.
Madame Heymann Collection, Musee de la Renaissance
small round case with pattern of tiny silver studs, dark
tortoiseshell, for two round frame silver collapsing nose spectacles at
least one hallmark (needs identification), probably original lenses.
the hallmark needs to be identified
only one other similar example of this round case is known to exist
|Grand Duke Carl August||1757-1828||"the hunter among kings and king among hunters"- he and his brilliant court first developed a silver-gray breed for hunting in Thueringia's great forests. Weimar was the capitol of Thueringi, a principality in central Germany. Grand Duke Carl August played an important role in breeding and establishing Weimaraners as the special prerogative of the German aristocracy. His interest also coincided with the introduction of firearms to bird hunting||
||Private Collection||Tortoise shell round frame front with steel sidesSunglasses, temple sides, padded finials, pull-off case|
|1757-1836||Lt Colonel Loomis was a member of General Washington's staff during the Revolutionary War and one of the founders of the Society of the Cincinnati||brass telescope with removable end cap. The body is wood painted in a barn red color. Inscribed Thomas Jones Liverpool on the section nearest the eye piece|
|John Brown||1757-1837||A United States lawyer and statesman who was very involved with creating the State of Kentucky. Then became 1st of Kentucky’s two Senators serving 1792-1804||Liberty Hall Historic Site||Oval frame, crank bridge, possibly gold|
|General John Steele||1758-1827||Revolutionary War hero wounded at Battle of Bradywine Sept 1777. Received a near-mortal wound but finally recovered and then later held a command at the siege of Yorktown. Later he held a seat in the Senate of the state of Pennsylvania. Later became a County Commissioner||Chester County Historical Society||Solid gold oval frame, double hinge, made by McAllister of Philadelphia|
|James Monroe||1758-1831||Fifth President of the United States, 1817–1825.||James Monroe Museum||Rectangular frame, crank bridge, loop-to-loop adjustable sides.||Although these were passed thru the family, there has been some debate because their style is associated more with the 1840’s and after|
|Benjamin Chew, Jr.||1758-1844||A gentleman of the old school, meaning that he wore wigs and breeches long after they fell from general fashion||
Cliveden, the Chew's
summer mansion, built between 1763 and 1767
|Gold (probably) round frame wig spectacles with turn-pin sides in the painting of Benjamin Chew, Sr. (1722-1810) Benjamin Chew, Junior's wig spectacles with oval frame, C bridge and turn-pin sides, made by one of the McAllisters.||
The father (Sr.) was a lawyer and aristocrat of the upper class of
Pennsylvania. His appointed
positions included service as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1774), as attorney
general, on the Governor's Council, and as Register of Wills.
|Albert Gallatin||1761-1849||Secretary of the Treasury 1801-1814, United States Envoy to France 1815-1823||New York Historical Society||Steel, oval frame, turn-pin sides||Probably from right at the end of his life|
|Pierre-Jean Garat||1764-1823||French singer and nephew of writer and politician Dominique Joseph Garat. Devoted himself to cultivating his musical talents (especially singing) and later gave musical lessons to the Queen of France||Bibliothèque-Musée de l'opéra||Silver scissors-glasses, much patina|
Jean Armour Burns
|1765–1834||Wife of the poet Robert Burns and the "Belle of Mauchline", she inspired many of his poems|| © Dumfries & Galloway Council - Nithsdale Museums, Dumfries, UK
|oval frame with adjustable sliding sides|
|George Crowninshield, Jr||1766-1817||Member of an important Salem merchant family during the city's Golden Age (post Revolution to just after the War of 1812) and the owner of the America’s first pleasure yacht, Cleopatra's Barge||Peabody Essex Museum on display in the museum’s reconstruction of the Barge's saloon. The barge was a New England icon, built in 1816||Spectacles and a brass case embossed in an Empire style that is 5" long||the ship sank on April 5, 1824, in Hanalei Bay, on the north shore of the island of Kauai.|
|Duke of Richelieu||1766-1822||Great nephew of the Cardinal Richelieu and also the Premier of France (1815-18 and 1820-21)||Poulet’s book, in the collection of Carl Zeiss, Oberkochen||Gold with jewels, scissors-glasses, circa 1800||Invented the 'indoor'opera, in his palace at Versailles, so that ladies could look at the 'purified' plays, indoors. The instruments were ok for opera, the magnification was rather poor, up to 2.5-3times, just enough for the opera.|
|John Dalton||1766-1844||British chemist and physicist who became internationally famous for developing the atomic theory of matter. Hence he is known as one of the fathers of modern physical science.||Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester, England||Tortoiseshell spectacles circa 1820 – 40. He is shown still wearing silver spectacles with round lenses in the 1842 portrait by James Stephenson.||Early on “Daltonism” became another term for Color Blindness|
|Andrew Jackson||1767-1845||The seventh President of the United States, 1829-1837, he was one of the founders of the Democratic Party||The Hermitage||Two pair, one is solid gold while the other is silver (damaged sidearm) in a silver case.||It is so unfortunate that his 4 lens spectacles (which appear in so many paintings) has never surfaced|
|John Quincy Adams||1767-1848||The sixth President of the United States, 1825-1829. The son of President John Adams and First Lady Abigail Smith, he was the only son of a former President to become President himself until George W. Bush took office in 2001.||Adam National Historical Park||Rectangular frame, crank bridge, circa 1840||These were originally attributed to John Adams, the father of John Quincy Adams|
|Calvin Ammidown||1768-1826||Calvin was a descendant of Roger Ammidown (about 1637), of Salem, MA., who was of French descent, of a class known as Huguenots. Calvin was the son of Caleb Ammidown who distinguished himself in public affairs and who owned land in the east part of Southbridge. He was a relative of Holdridge Ammidown of American Optical Fame.||Worcester Historical Museum||Round silver frame, missing both lenses Engraved name|
|Dolley Madison||1768-1849||Wife of the fourth President||James Madison Museum||Gold, rectangular frame, temple sides|
|Napoleon Bonaparte||1769-1821||Emperor of the French. Responsible for many French Revolution reforms as well as conquering most of Europe. He was defeated at Waterloo, and died several years later on the island of Saint Helena.||
||Located at the Arch di Triumph Museum. Paris. From the Musee de l’Armee, Paris||The telescope was made by JA Chapman, London. Used in the battle of Pyramides 7/21/1798 and given by his surgeon.||This extremely rare and very beautiful telescope is signed by the maker ‘G. Dixey, London’|
|National Library of France, Paris||In brass with a hand grip of fine green long grain leather, decorated with the crowned ‘N’, surrounded by a sowing of bees, with eagles and small gilded iron stones at the edges.|
|Duke of Wellington||1769-1852||Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington was an Anglo-Irish soldier and statesman, widely considered one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century. He rose to prominence in the Napoleonic Wars, eventually reaching the rank of Field Marshal. He returned to Europe to command the Anglo-Allied forces at Waterloo, after which Napoleon was permanently exiled at St. Helena. Wellington was victorious over Napoleon and the French at each of six major battles, confirming his place as one of history's greatest generals and strategists. He served as a Tory Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on two separate occasions, and was one of the leading figures in the House of Lords until his retirement in 1846.||Private collection||Oval frame, silver, turn pin sides, in a tortoiseshell case, circa 1830’s||He lived at Stratfield Saye House which remained the home of the Dukes of Wellington.|
|Alexander von Humboldt||1769-1859||German naturalist and explorer, and the younger brother of the Prussian minister, philosopher and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt||Bibliothèque de l’Observatoire de Paris||Round frame steel, K bridge, turnpin sides|