Spectacles of Well Known People in History (Part Six)

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.

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.








King Ludwig 2nd of Bavaria



King Ludwig 2nd of Bavaria ivory, silver, silk and white leather case King Ludwig II-Museum in Herrenchiemsee, Bavaria

King Ludwig II-Museum in Herrenchiemsee, Bavaria.

This case is identical to the one hand crafted by Anton Diessl  for King Otto 1st of Bavaria


Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen


A German physicist, of the University of Würzburg, who, on November 8, 1895, produced and detected electromagnetic radiation in a wavelength range today known as x-rays or Röntgen Rays.

Wilhelm Roentgen pince nez, Ramstein Collection Basel
Wilhelm Roentgen portrait Case for pince nez from an optician in Munich, Ramstein Collection - Basel

Ramstein Collection - Basel

Pince nez


George Washington Wells

1846-1912 Optical pioneer who in 1869 helped establish American Optical Company in Southbridge, MA. He became company president in 1891 Optical Heritage Museum, American Optical circa 1900 eyeglasses A search is currently underway to locate these eyeglasses.

Thomas Edison


American inventor and businessman who developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph and a long lasting light bulb. One of the first inventors to apply the principles of mass production to the process of invention, he is therefore often credited with the creation of the first industrial research laboratory.

Thomas Edison’s glasses, Courtesy of U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Edison National Historic Site.

Edison National Historic Site, Glenmont, CT

round frame,W bridge, curl sides

Taken on his desk in the
second floor den of his home, Glenmont. 
This photo was taken by a gov't employee while on duty, so it is in the public domain. 

Edison is considered one of the most prolific inventors in history, holding 1,093 U.S. patents in his name, as well as many patents in the United Kingdom, France and Germany

Dr. David Ricardo 1847–1941 His father, Moises Frois Ricardo (1812-1880), a Sephardic Jew, performed religious circumcisions between 1840 and 1878, when he served as a model (circumciser) throughout the Caribbean. There were three generations of the Ricardo family Thomas Edison’s glasses, Courtesy of U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Edison National Historic Site. Courtesy, Jewish Cultural Historical Museum, Curacao specs and case, late 19th century  

King Otto 1st of Bavaria


His Royal Highness, Prince Otto of Bavaria, became King Of Bavaria in 1886 (he was the brother of King Ludwig 2nd of Bavaria)

King Otto 1st of Bavaria, silver, silk and white leather case


Made of ivory, silver, silk and white leather, this rectangular folding case features King Ottos monogram running into ornaments, with an additional King’s crown and an ornamental framing.

A second case (above)  identical to this one was made for King Ludwig 2nd of Bavaria, and is part of today’s King Ludwig II-Museum in Herrenchiemsee, Bavaria.

Ulrich Wille


General of the German Army in World War 1

General Wille portrait, from the Ramstein book
Bar spring pince-nez of General Wille, the Ramstein Optical Collection of Basel

Ramstein Collection - Basel.

Pince nez with bar spring

As a point of interest the war caused a
serious schism
between German
-speaking and
French-speaking Switzerland.

Admiral Heihachiro Togo

1848-1934 A marshal-admiral (Fleet Admiral) in the Imperial Japanese Navy and one of Japan's greatest naval heroes Admiral Heihachiro Togo glasses, from the Photo Book of Japanese Spectacles by Kiyokawa Shoichi as seen in the Photo Book of Japanese Spectacles by Kiyokawa  Shoichi X bridge with curled sides  

Sir William Osler


best-known Canadian physician in the English-speaking world at the turn of the century, called the "most influential physician in history", an icon,  the Father of Modern Medicine

Sir William Osler’s desk, magnifier and other personal artifacts, in the Osler Library, McGill University

Osler Library of the History of Medicine McGill University


called the father of psychosomatic medicine, helped create the system of postgraduate training for physicians that is followed to this day

Imperial Romanoff Family of Russia Second half 19th century Notice the family logo, the Romanov Double Head Eagle Romanoff, Imperial Family of Russia, Silver lorgnette with a silver and enamel handle Romanov: insignia, coat of arms, family logo, the double headed eagle Romanov: award presentation lorgnette noted on EBay Private collection Lorgnette in silver with enamel handle. Made by Fabergè Apparently not used by any of the Romanoffs
George Eastman 1854-1932 American innovator and entrepreneur who founded the Eastman Kodak Company and popularized the use of roll film helping to bring photography to the mainstream George Eastman eyeglasses, Courtesy of George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film early 20th century specs a photo of him wearing these has not yet surfaced
Admiral Robert Edwin Peary, Sr. 1856-1920 An American explorer who claimed to have led the first expedition, on April 6, 1909, to reach the geographic North Pole. Admiral Robert Edwin Peary’s telescope, Old Sydney Society, Sydney, Nova Scotia Old Sydney Society, Sydney, Nova Scotia telescope used at the North Pole in 1909  
Thomas Woodrow Wilson 1856-1924 28th President of the United States. A leading intellectual of the Progressive Era, he served as President of Princeton University and then became the Governor of New Jersey in 1910. With Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft dividing the Republican Party vote, Wilson was elected President as a Democrat in 1912. He proved highly successful in leading a Democratic Congress to pass major legislation that included the Federal Trade Commission, the Clayton Antitrust Act, the Underwood Tariff, the Federal Farm Loan Act and most notably the Federal Reserve System. Rimless pince nez with a C bridge, in a simple black leather case, Copyright Woodrow Wilson House, a National Trust Historic Site, Washington, DC.
Obverse side of United States of America $100,000.00 dollars bill.  Series:1934
Woodrow Wilson House Rimless pince nez with a C spring nosebridge Another example is known to be at the Seeley G. Mudd Library of Princeton University.
Sigmund Freud 1856-1939 Austrian neurologist and the founder of the psychoanalytic school of psychology based on his theory that human development is best understood in terms of changing objects of sexual desire Sigmond Freud: Freud memorial plaque Eyeglasses, Freud Museum Freud Museum Round frame, curl sides  

Emile Nouguier


Engineer who designed the Eiffel Tower

During construction of the Eiffel Tower, Gustave Eiffel was accompanied by the tower’s two design engineers, Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nougiuer with their pince nez, wax statues, top of the Eiffel Tower, Paris

Top of the Eiffel Tower

Pince nez


Axel Martin Fredrik Munthe


A Swedish physician and psychiatrist, best known as the author of The Story of San Michele (1929) an autobiographical account of his work and life.

Axel Munthe in 1930, Villa San Michele, Anacapri, Italy
Axel Munthe eyeglasses, Villa San Michele, Anacapri, Italy
Axel Munthe eyeglass case, Villa San Michele

Villa San Michele, Anacapri, Italy


His book has been published in over 50 languages

Teddy Roosevelt


The 26th President of the United States, 1901–09. As the 25th Vice President he became President upon the assassination of President William McKinley. Roosevelt, age 42, was the youngest person ever to serve as President under the Constitution. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906, he was the first American to win a Nobel Prize in any category.

Teddy Roosevelt\'s pince nez and case, Christies, Nov. 2003

From a Christies Sale




Pince nez




At the age of 13 while hunting with friends he first realized that he needed glasses. “I had no idea how beautiful the world was until I got those spectacles. I had been a clumsy and awkward little boy.”


Teddy Roosevelt Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace, New York. Black leather case, 5 inches long, E. B. Meyrowitz (opticians) name on the reverse  
Black leather eyeglass case, E. B. Meyrowitz (opticians) name on the reverse, Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace, New York   Notice the bullet hole (actually on both sides). This was in his pocket at the time of the attempted assassination October 14, 1912 in Milwaukee. The case helped save his life.
President Teddy Roosevelt wearing pince nez, huge granite sculpture at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, as seen on Wikipedia Mount Rushmore National Memorial Notice the pince nez This sculpture was carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore near Keystone, South Dakota, US. Sculpted by Gutzon Borglum and later his son Lincoln, Rushmore features 60-foot sculptures of the heads of former US presidents (from left to right) Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln.

Marcella Sembrich

1858-1935 The stage name of the Polish coloratura soprano, Prakseda Marcelina Kochańska, who had an important international singing career, chiefly at the New York Metropolitan Opera and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London Marcella Sembrich, three lorgnettes, courtesy of the Marcella Sembrich Opera Museum, Bolton Landing, NY
Marcella Sembrich, solid gold spring lorgnette with long chain, courtesy of the Marcella Sembrich Opera Museum, Bolton Landing, NY
courtesy of the Marcella Sembrich Opera Museum, Bolton Landing, NY four various lorgnettes  
Sholem Aleichem

1859-1916 The pen name of Sholem Naumovich Rabinovich, a leading Yiddish author and playwright. The musical Fiddler on the Roof, based on Sholem Aleichem's stories about Tevye the Milkman, was the first commercially successful English-language play about Jewish life in Eastern Europe.

Sholem Aleichem, Yiddish Book Center, Amherst Yiddish Book Center, Amherst, MA

circa 1900 eyeglasses A search is now underway for these glasses

Alfred Dreyfus


The Dreyfus Affair was a political scandal which divided France during the 1890s and early 1900s. It involved the wrongful conviction of Jewish military officer Alfred Dreyfus for treason.

Alfred Dreyfus, Photo copyright: Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme

Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaisme, Paris

 Pince nez

An exhibit at the Jewish Museum will display this photo and the eyeglasses

Kaiser Wilhelm II


King of Prussia and Emperor of Germany whose political policies led his country into World War I. He was forced from power when Germany lost the war.

Kaiser Wilhelm pince nez, Ramstein Collection BaseKaiser Wilhelm portrait

Ramstein Collection Basel

Pince nez


Florence Mabel "Flossie" Kling deWolfe Harding 1860-1924 Wife of Warren G. Harding, she was the First Lady of the United States from 1921 - 1923 First Lady Florence Harding’s glasses, pince nez, Japanese style, circa 1910-20, Courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society, Harding Home

Ohio Historical Society

Pince Nez, C spring, Japanese style  
Dr. William J. Mayo 1861-1939 He was a founder of the Mayo Clinic along with his father and brother Charles Dr. William J. Mayo’s glasses, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, MN     (71.90.2) Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, MN     circa 1920-30 eyeglasses  
Edith Wharton 1862-1937 Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, short story writer, and designer. Edith Wharton’s folding gold-plated lorgnette with oval lenses and short scrolled handle, courtesy of the Mount, photo taken by Elizabeth Stone The Mount Folding gold-plated lorgnette with oval lenses  
Joseph Allen Skinner 1862-1946 Industrialist, a state park in Massachusetts is named after him.   Skinner Museum   The search is on for his eyeglasses.
Carl Ramstein 1864-1929 Started the famous family optical business in Basel, Switzerland - now in its fifth generation Painting of Carl Ramstein, founder of the family optical business in Basel, Switzerland Ramstein Collection – Basel Pince nez, rimless  These are currently being searched for. The painting was done after he had passed away. So the painting was based on the photo
Maggie Thompson 1864-1936 She was married to the earliest permanent white settler in the Oak Creek Canyon area, Arizona (currently Sedona) Maggie Thompson eyeglasses, early 20th century, Sedona Historical Society Sedona Historical Society White metal, W bridge, thin sides, ear curls, early 20th century  
Arturo Toscanini       1867-1957 Italian conductor, one of the most acclaimed musicians of the late 19th and 20th century, renowned for his intensity, his perfectionism, his ear for orchestral detail and sonority, and his photographic memory Arturo Toscanini, two photos from the Bolaffi auction catalogue
Arturo Toscanini, two photos from the Bolaffi auction catalogue
Sold by Bolaffi  December 2012 pince nez  and monocle  
Mahatma Gandhi 1869-1948 Was a major political and spiritual leader of India, and the Indian independence movement He was the pioneer and perfector of Satyagraha — the resistance of tyranny through mass civil disobedience strongly founded upon ahimsa (total non-violence), which led India to independence, and has inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Gandhi is commonly known and addressed in India and across the world as Mahatma Gandhi (from Sanskrit Mahatma : Great Soul) and as Bapu (in many Indian languages, Father). Mahatma Gandhi: Eyeglasses, National Gandhi Museum
Mahatma Gandhi: Portrait of Gandhi, 1936, courtesy of National Gandhi Museum
Eyeglasses (not bifocals) allegedly given to a colonel by Gandhi in 1930.
National Gandhi Museum Yellowish plastic covered steel round frame (broken), lenses intact, black leather case. S. Benson and Co., Hornby Road, Bombay is embossed on the case. These are on display. In the museum Showcase #. NGM 13 It was presented by His son Devadas to the Museum 3/18/54.


At that time he was seen in public usually wearing only round-frame bifocals. However his family evidently did confirm that these originally belonged to Gandhi. These were sold in a public auction March 2009, Antiquorum Auction House (mostly sells watches)

Piet Mondrian 1872-1944 Dutch painter known for his Neo-plasticism, which consisted of white ground, upon which was painted a grid of vertical and horizontal black lines and the three primary colors Mondrian’s Pipe and Glasses, Paris, 1926, taken from Andre Kertesz 55     This photograph was first shown in 1927 at the Au Sacre du Printemps Gallery. André Kertész (1894 – 1985) was a Hungarian-born photographer
Hayim Nahman Bialik 1873-1934 A pioneer of modern Jewish poetry who became recognized Israel’s National Poet Two pair of pince nez and two pair of common circa 1930s glasses. Courtesy of Beit Bialik, Tel Aviv Yafo Municipality Two pair of pince nez and two pair of common circa 1930s glasses.  

Leo Baeck


German rabbi and scholar, Baeck was a liberal modern Jew who  presented his major philosophical ideas in a book called The Essence of Judaism. A college, a temple, and several institutes are named after him.  

Rabbi Leo Baeck spectacles, Baeck Institute

Baeck Institute

Modern 1940’s

These eyeglasses are not antiques, but he is very renowned and certainly left his mark.

Sir Winston Churchill 1874-1965 British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is the only British prime minister to have received the Nobel Prize in Literature, and he was the first person to be made an honorary citizen of the United States. Frame of Sir Winston Churchill, © C.W. Dixey & Son Ltd London Created by C. W. Dixey & Son of London   The glasses were returned to the firm for repair (damage and wear is clearly visible) but repair was obviously not possible

Albert I, King of the Belgians

1875- 1934

The third King of the Belgians. Born Albert Léopold Clément Marie Meinrad in Brussels, he was the younger son of Philip, Count of Flanders, and succeeded his uncle, Leopold II of Belgium, on the throne in 1909. He was married to Duchess Elisabeth Gabrielle Valérie Marie in Bavaria, a Wittelsbach princess whom he met at a family funeral. She became Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians.

Photograph of Albert I of Belgium
Albert von Belgien rimless eyeglasses,  Ramstein Collection

Ramstein Collection - Basel

Rimless Pince nez

Gotten by Mrs.Vogel,
the former proprietress of the Park Hotel Pontresina

The Dalai Lama, the 13th


Thubten Gyatso The spiritual leader of the Tibetan sect of Buddhism, and is considered to be the reincarnation of the bodhisattva, or "buddha-to-be."; in English, often granted the style "His Holiness"

The Dalai Lama’s snow glasses, Poulet (Essilor-Pierre Marly Collection

Marly’s book

Poulet’s book

Protective goggles from Tibet, (property of the Dalia Lama), of leather and cloth with fine ornaments on the frame, circa 1900

“Richly decorated silver snow glasses lined with silk” the Marly book

General Billy Mitchell


American general who is regarded as the father of the U.S. Air Force. He is arguably the most famous and most controversial figure in American airpower history, a true pioneer of military aviation.

General Billy Mitchell eyeglasses, National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, OhioGeneral Billy Mitchell eyeglasses, National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, OhioGeneral Billy Mitchell, 1940’s, from Air Force Link website

National Museum of the United States Air Force

Oxfords – pince,nez

The 1955 motion picture The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell, directed by Otto Preminger, portrays Mitchell's plight in a dramatic yet vindicating light.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964 An American general, United Nations general, and Field Marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and later played a prominent role in the Pacific theater of World War II. Gen. Douglas MacArthur's RayBan Aviator sunglasses with personal embossed leather case, courtesy of MacArthur Memorial, Norfolk, Virginia
Close-up of the sunglasses of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, courtesy of MacArthur Memorial, Norfolk, Virginia
MacArthur Memorial Ray Ban Aviator sunglasses  

Personalized case

Jenő Fuchs


Jewish Hungarian Olympic champion sabre fencer, gold medal winner 1908 and 1912, who was

inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame


Jenő Fuchs, pince nez, Hungarian Sport Museum, Budapest, Hungary
Jenő Fuchs, pince nez, Hungarian Sport Museum, Budapest, Hungary
Hungarian Sport Museum, Budapest, Hungary pince nez A search is underway to locate these pince nez
George Patton 1885-1945 A leading U.S. Army general in World War II in campaigns in North Africa, Sicily, France, and Germany. Binoculars of General Patten with leather case, Patten Museum of Cavalry and Armor
Monogrammed top of the case “G S Patten, Jr   USA”, Patten Museum of Cavalry and Armor
Patton Museum of Artillery and Armor binoculars and monogrammed leather case  
General Tomoyuki Yamashita 1888-1946 Japanese general. He studied military science in Germany. He commanded (1941) the Malayan campaign and forced Singapore to surrender (Feb., 1942). He also commanded during the unsuccessful defense (Oct., 1944-Aug., 1945) of the Philippines against the invading Allies under Douglas MacArthur. In Sept., 1945, he surrendered. He went on trial before a military commission in Manila for atrocities committed by soldiers under his command. He was found guilty and hanged (1946). General Tomoyuki Yamashita: round plastic frame, West Point Museum Collections United States Military Academy, West Point Plastic frame, leather case The letters “YAMA” were probably painted on the case by the guards at the prison he was held in during his trial and before his execution by hanging.
William Hobart Molson 1888-1951 Canadian entrepreneur and philanthropist. Family name is associated with Molson Bank, Molson Brewery, and other business interests including early railroading and shipping, Nuremberg spectacles, early 18th century, said to have belonged to William Lilly, grandfather of Mrs. William Molson.
Eyeglasses case, early 18th century, said to have belonged to William Lilly, grandfather of Mrs. William Molson, The McCord Museum of Canadian History, M5694.2.
The McCord Museum of Canadian History, M5694.1 Nuremberg spectacles, early 18th century, said to have belonged to William Lilly, grandfather of Mrs. William Molson.  
Alexander Lowy, PhD 1889-1941 Educator, inventor, lecturer, distinguished author and renowned Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh from 1918-1941 Alexander Lowy, Ph.D. Visit www.alexanderlowy.com       Circa 1930s rimless glasses A search is currently underway to locate these eyeglasses. This was my own Grandfather and our family is quite proud of all his accomplishments (DAF).
Adolf Hitler   1889- 1945 Leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party (The Nazi party). He was appointed Chancellor of Germany in 1933, and became Führer (leader)in 1934, remaining in power until his suicide in 1945 Adolf Hitler eyeglasses, Sterling Militaria Lancashire, UK
These were worn while Hitler was signing the Munich Agreement
English text of Hitler Glasses from the Catalogue, owned by Sterling Militaria
Adolph Hitler’s reading glasses, + 2.00 each eye, Museum of World War II
Sterling Militaria Lancashire, UK





Museum of WWII

  The pair for reading at the Museum of WWII are marked +2.00 each eye

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