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.
|Bertel Thorvaldsen||1770-1814||Sculptor who created almost 550 sculptures, reliefs and portrait busts||
Silver, round frame, unusual nosebridge, early unusual adjustable sidearm, pull-off case
Green shagreen case dated 1820
|Ludwig van Beethoven||1770-1827||Beethoven was a German composer of Classical music who lived predominantly in Vienna, Austria, He is widely regarded as one of history's supreme composers, and he produced notable works even after losing his hearing. One of the greatest figures in the transitional period between the Classical and Romantic eras in music, his reputation has inspired — and in many cases intimidated — composers, musicians, and audiences who were to come after him||Beethoven-Haus Bonn||3 pair All are metal (1) round frame, C bridge, turnpin extension (2) round frame X bridge, turnpin extension (3) single lens magnifier||*Eyeglass Duet by Beethoven for Viola and Cello*|
|Johann Christian Friedrich Holderlin||1770-1843||One of the greatest German lyric poets melding classical and Christian themes in his works.||Optisches Museum, Jena||Ornate design, German brass, circa 1820’s||Very unusual|
|William Wordsworth||1770-1850||A major English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English Literature with their joint publication "Lyrical Ballads" in 1798||The Wordsworth Trust||round frame silver spectacles, turn-pin sides|
|Thomas Young||1773-1829||English polymath who contributed to the scientific understanding of vision, light, solid mechanics, energy, physiology, and Egyptology||The Royal Institution of Great Britain||Likely this was an instrument he actually used in 1801|
|Nathaniel Bowditch||1773-1838||Born into a family who had followed the sea for generations, he eventually became captain of the the captain and owner of the Putnam. During the period from 1795 to 1802 Bowditch produced one of the most remarkable scientific books ever published in America, the New American Practical Navigator. This manual, which contained navigational aids, tide tables and astronomical tables, remains in general use today. He is also noted as the first insurance actuary in this country, acting as president of the Essex Fire and Marine Insurance Company.||Awaiting additional Image||Peabody Essex Museum||Round frame|
|Isaac Hull||1773-1843||A commodore in the US Navy, Captain of USS Constitution during the War of 1812. Defeated HMS Guerriere, August 19, 1812.||USS Constitution Museum, Boston||Oval frame, X bridge, turn-pin sides, solid gold|
|Louis-Philippe||1773-1850||King of the French from 1830 to 1848 in what was known as the July monarchy. He was the last king to rule France.||
4 lens spectacles, steel frame, turn-pin sides, cardboard and leather case
spectacles and case
sold at auction October 2008
Sold by Christies 2010
|William Bainbridge||1774-1833||Captain of USS Constitution during the War of 1812. Defeated HMS Java, December 29, 1812.||USS Constitution Museum, Boston||Round frame lorgnette folds into a monogrammed case|
|John Mallord William Turner.||1775-1851||An English Romantic landscape painter and watercolorist, whose style can be said to have laid the foundation for Impressionism||auctioned by Philip Mould Limited||
Round tortoiseshell frames with brass turn-pin sides along with an oval horn cased-magnifier.
|The provenance of these is in question because of the prescription. In addition, one must be suspicious because of the German brass sides (maker’s mark BENZ) and the English tortoiseshell front.|
|Henry Clay||1777-1852||An American statesman and orator who served in both the House of Representatives and Senate. He also made five failed bids for the presidency, but was nevertheless extremely influential in U.S. politics.||Henry Clay Memorial Foundation||Probably gold Rectangular frame, crank bridge, loop-to-loop sides tortoiseshell case|
|Patrick Bronte||1777-1861||Reverend of the Church of England and father of the famous literary sisters Charlotte, Anne and Emily||Brontë Parsonage Museum||Round silver frame, blue tinted lenses, temple sides + 5 each eye||Eventually had cataract Surgery likely to just his Left eye in 1847|
|Adam Oehlenschlåger||1779-1850||Denmark poet, the leading figure of Danish Romanticism. In 1829 he was proclaimed the King of Nordic Poetry||Bakkehus Museum (Bakkehusmuseet|
|Captain Thomas Lawrence||1779-1856||Father of the whaling captain who did not hunt whales, rather he was a housewright who built homes in Falmouth and then took them south on his coastal schooner and put them up in the Carolinas. In 1830 he built a wonderful home in Falmouth for his family that is reminiscent of a southern plantation. Thomas Lawrence also introduced his brother-in-law Elijah Swift to the Carolinas. Elijah later took crews of men to the Carolina swamps to harvest live oak for US naval ships. Thomas and his wife Martha produced six sons and a daughter. Four of those sons became whaling captains.||Falmouth Historical Society||Coin silver oval frame, pin-in slot circa, 1830-40||Thomas (the younger) was the subject of a famous poem because he was from a famous family of Ships Captains.|
|Jane Hutchinson Lithgow Henderson||1780 -1848||Her husband’s family were close friends of the George Washington family||Henderson Hall||Steel octagonal frame, crank bridge, loop to loop sides, missing their extensions||They sat with the Washingtons and the Madisons on Sundays in Church|
|Pierre-Jean de Béranger||1780-1857||A prolific French poet and songwriter who enjoyed great popularity and influence in France. He has been described as "the most popular French songwriter of all time" and "the first superstar of French popular music".||Musee Carnavalet||Silver frame, oval, X bridge, turnpin sides, moderate myopia|
|James Blanding, Esq.||1781-1870||He lived in Rehoboth, married in 1811 and was Town Clerk from 1812-1836. The name Blanding is one of the oldest and most respected in the town, dating to about 1640.||Carpenter Museum||
Nuremberg magnifier, in its original case. Written inside the case: “J.
Blanding to light his Segar
Is this confirmation that these were used as “burning lenses”?
|Most likely this was in the family in the 18th century and then was used by James and his father William who died in 1830. The prominent Blanding Library was named for the family.|
|Steen Steensen Blicher||1782-1848||author and poet||Herning Museum||round frame, a search is on for these eyeglasses||the painting was done by family member Diedrich Blicher, 1834, Blichermuseet på Herningsholm, Herning Museum It was presented to and owned by the poet himself.|
|William Czar Bradley||1782-1867||Son of Stephen Bradley, one of Vermont’s first two US Senators, William was one of the most successful lawyers and political figures of mid 19th century Vermont||Vermont Historical Society||Brass rectangular frame, crank bridge, temple sides||Notice his name on the top of the frame|
|Henry Fauntleroy||1784 – Nov 30, 1824||English banker and forger, the last to be hanged for forgery in the United
Executed by hanging in front of an estimated 100,000 people
||engraving at the inner side of the right frame arm, "Harris Holborn". William Harris of Holborn, London, a manufacturer of optical, mathematical and philosophical instruments||In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Blithedale Romance a minor character who is mentioned in the background is a banker named Fauntleroy.|
|King Jerome of Westfalen||1784-1860||Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother, King of Westphalia 1807-1813||Optisches Museum, Jena||Gold scissors-glasses without the case|
|Sir John Franklin||1786-1847||Rear Admiral in the British Royal Navy and also an Arctic explorer who mapped almost two thirds of the northern coastline of North America. His last expedition disappeared while attempting to chart and navigate a section of the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic. The entire crew perished from starvation and exposure after Franklin died and the expedition's icebound ships were abandoned in desperation.||National Maritime Museum, Royal Observatory||Protective glasses with side shields and blue tinted lenses|
|Eliza Clayland Tomlinson Foster||1788-1855||Mother of Stephen Collins Foster and an Aristocrat from the Clayland & Tomlinson families of the Maryland Colony, she married Col. W.B. Foster (1779-1855) in 1807 in Pennsylvania||Seen on eBay||Green-tinted lenses, octagonal frames with crank bridge, adjustable sides, original metal case||Stephen Collins Foster (1826- 1864) is know as the “father of American music” since he was The pre-eminent songwriter Of the 19th century|
James Fenimore Cooper
|1789-1851||A prolific and popular early 19th c. American writer. Among his most famous works is the Romantic novel The Last of the Mohicans||
|| Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York
Gift of Dr. Henry S. F. Cooper. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY. Photograph by Richard Walker
|Spectacles with thin temple sides|
|Henry Young Cranston||1789-1864||Speaker of the Rhode Island State House of Representatives, 1835; U.S. Representative from Rhode Island 1st District, 1843-47||Newport Historical Society||Wearing dark tinted glasses in a daguerreotype from the early 1850’s||“Some call these syphilis glasses. Others call them sniper glasses. As it turns out they are just what they appear – sunglasses. Usually used only by those with overly sensitive eyes.” A critique by Mr. John Graf, former president of the Daguerreian Society|
|Michael Faraday||1791-1867||An English chemist and physicist (or natural philosopher, in the terminology of that time) who contributed to the fields of electromagnetism and electrochemistry.||
||The Royal Institution of Great Britain||D frame, 4 lens spectacles, silver, turn-pin sides||
Why are the front glass lenses on the 4 lens pair smaller than the frame itself?
|Pope Pius IX||1792-1878||Born Giovanni Maria Mastai Ferretti, who was Pope for a record pontificate (not counting the Apostle St. Peter) of over 31 years, from June 16, 1846 until his death||
||Top: Luxottica Museum, Agordo, image from their book Bel Vedere, the Spectacles of the Luxottica Museum Bottom: Topography, 3rd Quarter, 19th Century||Tortoiseshell in a cardboard case||Possibly a damaged (missing) right sidearm|
|George Washington – given to General Lafayette||Washington 1732-1799 The Marquis de Layfayette 1757-1834||These were given to Whitelaw Reid of the American Legation in Paris by Count Octave d'Assailly in 1891. d'Assailly said that they had belonged to George Washington and were given by Washington to d'Assailly's great-grandfather, Lafayette. The glasses were passed to the State Department in 1892 and eventually transferred to the Smithsonian in 1921.||Smithsonian||Silver and mother-of-pearl scissors-glasses. There is no maker’s mark.||There is a small silver shield engraved, "Washington" on the front of the ivory handle, The case was apparently made by Lafayette at a later date.|
|Mrs. James Dunlap||1791-1858||
||New York Historical Society||Gold frame, crank bridge, temple sides||Fairly unusual frame – made by J.L. Moore|
|Gioachino Rossini||1792-1868||An Italian composer who wrote 39 operas as well as sacred music, chamber music, songs, and some instrumental and piano pieces||Scala Theater Museum, Milan, Italy||gold eyeglasses||the nose bridge here is quite unusual, probably French|
|Giovanni Battista Rubini||1794-1854||Most famous Italian tenor of his time, remembered as an extraordinary bel canto singer||Bibliothèque-Musée de l'opéra||optical fan, carved ivory, highly decorated|
|James K. Polk||1795-1849||Eleventh President of the United States, 1845-1849, he also served as Speaker of the House (1835–1839) and Governor of Tennessee (1839–1841) prior to becoming president. He is the only former Speaker of the House to become President.||Polk House||Octagonal frame, crank bridge, in a metal case, circa 1840’s|
|1795-1881||Scottish philosopher, satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher during the Victorian era||
||Carlyle’s House of the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest||Notice the sidearm finial areas||the sidearm extensions are very unusual|
|Franz Schubert||1797-1828||Austrian composer, considered the last master of the Viennese Classical school and one of the earliest proponents of musical Romanticism.||
||House of MusicWien Museum (image with green background)||Steel, K bridge, thin sides (possibly blued-steel even). What is the strength of these because he was a myope about – 4.00? Metal round frame, X bridge, bifocal, double hinge (image with green background)||Although the provenance supports Schubert, their style is associated with the later half of the 19th century The major concern is these appear as a bifocal, yet he died at age of 31. Measurements are pending. (image with green background)|
|Mary Lyon||1797-1849||A schoolteacher from Massachusetts, a remarkable American pioneer woman who founded the worldwide model of higher education for women--Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (now College) in 1837||Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections||Steel oval frame, double hinge, large circle finials||The glasses were likely her mother’s spectacles which Mary then used|
|Little Mary Hawks||1799-1876||Affectionately known as "Little Mary" because of her 3' 4" stature. Kindly and dignified, she captivated all those who met her. In 1824, Mary gave the presentation speech to the Franklin Cadets, an independent company of militia in Deerfield. In the 1840s she supervised Deerfield Academy's boarding school.||Memorial Hall Museum, Deerfield||Solid gold, rectangular frame, crank bridge, temple sides, circa 1845-50||She was a very popular midget. The spectacle frame is only 3 5/16 inches in width.|
|1799 – 1883||French geologist and palaeontologist||National Museum of Prague, Czech Republic||table magnifier|
Platt Rogers Spencer
|1800-1864||Spencer is credited as being the originator of Spencerian penmanship, a popular system of cursive handwriting||courtesy of the Newberry Library, Chicago||Octagonal frame, adjustable sides|
|William Henry Fox Talbot||1800-1877||British inventor and photography pioneer who invented the calotype process, a precursor to photographic processes of the 19th and 20th centuries.||courtesy of Lacock Abbey of the National Trust, UK||spectacles, one pair in tortoiseshell and the other in simple thin steel|
|Brigham Young||1801-1877||A leader in the Later Day Saint Movement and the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1847 until his death. Young was also the first governor of the Utah Territory of the US.||
||Pioneer Museum, Salt Lake City||4 lens spectacles with a blued steel frame, crank bridge, very thin turnpin sides, green glass on the front and clear glass on the sides. These came in a red leather case. Perhaps it is all circa 1850 or so.||Catherine S. Young, wife of Brigham Young, Jr. donated these in 1907|
|John Ericsson||1803-1889||Born in Sweden he came to be active primarily in the United States. He was a world-famous inventor and mechanical engineer. His most notable and innovative contributions were the steam-engine ”Novelty”, the armored cruiser ”Monitor” which became famous during the American Civil war, the Caloric engine and the propeller.||John Ericsson eyeglasses, the Nordic Museum website||all of the eyeglasses are circa 1870-1889|
|Johan Ludvig Runeberg||1804-1877||National poet of Finland who wrote the lyrics for the Finnish national anthem. Many of his poems deal with life in rural Finland.||
National Board of Antiquities
Archives for Prints and Photographs
X bridge, oval frame, turn-pin sides
Round frame, C bridge, double hinge
|1804-1881||British parliamentarian, Conservative statesman and literary figure. He served in government in four decades, twice as Prime Minister of Great Britain||Hughendon Manor Estate, National Trust, Buckinghamshire, UK||round frame lorgnette||
|Joseph Smith, Jr.||1805-1844||An American religious figure who founded the Latter Day Saint movement also known as Mormonism. Smith's followers declared him to be the first and true latter-day prophet, whose mission was to restore the original Christian Church. This restoration included the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the publication of the Book of Mormon and other new scriptures. As a leader of large settlement communities, Smith also became a political and military leader in the American Midwest.||
||Pioneer Museum, Salt Lake City||One is a hand-stitched leather case open at one end. The other is a metal case (probably not silver) that has some fancy decoration on the front, perhaps from the end of his life.||
Zina Young Card, granddaughter of Brigham Young was the donor of the leather case in 1907.
Eliza Broadbent, an early DUP member, donated the silver case in 1908.
|Hans Christian Anderson||1805-1875||a Danish author and poet most famous for his fairy tales||Odense City Museums/Hans Christian Anderson Museum||
Brass 4 lens green posterior, double hinge sides
Other is steel K bridge, thin sides, turn-pin sides + 2.25 each eye