Spectacles of Well Known People in History (Part Seven)

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.








Max Ramstein 1890-1973 Founder of the private Ramstein Collection of instruments, books, prints, and spectacles beginning in 1910 Max Ramstein’s eyeglasses, late 1930s, probably aluminum case, Collection Ramstein, Basel, Switzerland Ramstein Collection - Basel Pince nez, solid gold, rimless, created 1935-38 by Max and also worn by him.  

Field Marshall Erwin  Rommel


Commander of a panzer division that smashed the French defenses, Hitler’s favorite general

Field Marshall Rommel eyeglasses, Copyright Deutsches Museum, Munich

Deutsches Museum

Early 1940’s

Died an apparent suicide

Norman Percevel Rockwell


A 20th century  American painter whose works enjoy a broad popular appeal in the United States, where he is most famous for the cover illustrations of everyday life scenarios he created for The Saturday Evening Post magazine over more than four decades. Among the best-known of Rockwell's works are Rosie the Riveter (although his Rosie was reproduced less than others of the day), Saying Grace (1951), and the Four Freedoms series.

Norman Rockwell’s glasses, Photo courtesy of the Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge.

Norman Rockwell Museum

“Vertical bifocals” which make them more interesting. , circa 1950

Rockwell had them made so he could look from side to side - from his easel to a distant model, rather then up and down

Alejandro Velasco Astete 1897-1925 He was the Peruvian pilot, most recognizable for being the first man to fly over the Andes. Starting in Lima, he succeeded in crossing the Andes and arrived in Cusco on August 31, 1925. His next flight on September 28, 1925 took him to Puno where many spectators had gathered. When he tried landing without hitting them, the plane crashed. Soon after that he was pronounced dead at age 28 Alejandro Velasco Astete
Alejandro Velasco Astete flight goggles
On display at the Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport in Cusco These are early flight goggles In recognition of his pioneering achievements in Peruvian aviation history, the airport was named in his honor. Corpac is the company which manages the airport.
Marcel Achard 1899-1974 French playwright and screenwriter whose popular sentimental comedies made him a highly-recognizable name in theatrical and literary circles for five decades. Was elected to the Académie Française in 1959. Spectacles of Marcel Achard Musee Carnavalet Circa mid 20th century  
Heinrich Himmler 1900-1945 A leading member of the Nazi Party. One of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany and one of the people most directly responsible for the Holocaust. Round brass frame glasses, “strong lenses” Auctioned in the past by Alexander Historical Auctions Round brass frame glasses, “strong lenses” Himmler's daughter Gudrun Himmler (born 1929) penned the label
Victor Vasarely 1906-1997 French Hungarian-born artist often acclaimed as the father of Op-art. Working as a graphic artist in the 1930s he created what is considered the first Op-art piece — Zebra, consisting of curving black and white stripes, indicating the direction his work would take. Over the next two decades, Vasarely developed his style of geometric abstract art. His work won his international renown and he received 4 prestigious prizes. Victor Vasarely eyeglasses
Victor Vasarely, illustration from the book Vasarely by Robert C. Morgan
From his daughter-in-law Michèle Vasarely    
Father Frank Flynn

“Flynn of the North”

c. 1906 - 1999

Lived to age 93


From Darwin, Australia he was a renown ophthalmologist since he led the world in the identification and treatment of trachoma, He was also a Roman Catholic missionary, and an anthropologist Father Frank Flynn invented automatic tear delivery eyeglasses
note the reservoir for fluid
Father Flynn, from the OAICC Newsletter
The Banninga Collection Note the reservoirs for fluid – as treatment for kerato-conjunctivitis sicca, better known as dry eyes Apparently not more than four of these were ever created

Interesting is the fact that Father Flynn was blind when he died.

Hubert H. Humphrey, Jr. 1911-1978 He served under President Lyndon B. Johnson as the 38th Vice President of the United States. Humphrey twice served as a United States Senator from Minnesota, and served as Democratic Majority Whip. Humphrey was the nominee of the Democratic Party in the 1968 presidential election but lost to the Republican nominee, Richard Nixon. Hubert H. Humphrey, Jr. eyeglasses, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, MN Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, MN grey and black plastic frames with bifocal lenses worn while serving as the 38th VP of the US  
Pince Nez from the titanic which sank in 1912 after hitting an iceberg in the North Sea These were recovered with other items after Bob Ballard first discovered the sunken ship in 1985 Found in a leather case bearing a Parisian maker's name, they may have belonged to an American passenger who had travelled in France and bought them before boarding the Titanic at Cherbourg. Pince nez recovered from the sunken Titanic vessel, early 20th century, Merseyside Maritime Museum part of the National Museums Liverpool Loaned to the Merseyside Maritime Museum by the Liverpool and London Steamship Protection and Indemnity Association. Rimless Pince nez The Association, which was based in Water Street, Liverpool at the time of the liner's sinking was founded in 1881 by legendary White Star chief Thomas Ismay with other steamship owners from the two ports
Juylius Axelrod 1912-2000 American pharmacologist and neuroscientist,Won Nobel Prize in 1970 Juylius Axelrod: a black patch over the left because of blindness Private collector One black lens Blind in his left eye
Jaume Ramón Mercader del Río Hernández 1914-1978 The Soviet agent who murdered Leon Trotsky (creator of the Red Army) on August 20, 1940 in Mexico City with a pick-ax. One of the key figures in the Russian Revolution, Trotsky died the next day.  eyeglasses of Jaume Ramón Mercader del Río Hernández seen on eBay Still stained with Trotsky’s blood, right lens cracked The glasses were broken during the attempted murder. The originals were then handed down through the family of Dr. Gaona, famous Mexico City eye doctor of the 1940s
Fred Spillmann 1915-1986 well-known couturier and beloved enfant terrible from Basel. He was a prominent eccentric, but many well-known international personalities came to his shop at the Rheinsprung to have costumes made. Marlene Dietrich and Grace Kelly were among his clients. He also created the legendary feather costume for Josephine Baker. Fred Spillmann, designed by and worn exclusively by him, courtesy of his family and also the Toys World Museum Basel where these were part of a major exhibition during 2012
Fred Spillmann, designed by and worn exclusively by him, courtesy of his family and also the Toys World Museum Basel where these were part of a major exhibition during 2012
Fred Spillmann, designed by and worn exclusively by him, courtesy of his family and also the Toys World Museum Basel where these were part of a major exhibition during 2012
Toys World Museum Basel three modern pair, each is strikingly unusual The family kindly shared these photos
Dom Dimaggio 1917-2009 1st baseball player to go from sandlot to AAA league to the major leagues wearing spectacles for myopia

Major league player from 1937-1953

Joe Dimaggio’s youngest brother

Boston Red Sox Center fielder, seven time All Star

Dom Dimaggio: with Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr Dom Dimaggio: eyeglasses, National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame Dom Dimaggio: from the Cooperstown Collection, copyright Photo File, inc. Nicknamed the “Little Professor” because of his appearance with eyeglasses Horn-rimmed eyeglasses for moderate myopa O.U. First to use Shatterproof and armor plate in the lenses “Broke open the flood gates for other professional athletes who also wore eyeglasses”.

Actually the first major leaguer to wear spectacles on the field was right-handed pitcher William White, `1877 – 1886. He later became an optician and even founded the Buffalo Optical Company which is still in business today. Then Lee “Specs” Meadows was the first 20th century major leaguer to wear glasses on the field. George “Specs” Toporcer was the first major league infielder to wear glasses on the field.

Angelo Merena, better known in the boxing world as Angelo Dundee 1923- A boxing cornerman who has worked with 15 world boxing champions, among them, Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Jose Napoles, George Foreman, Jimmy Ellis, Carmen Basilio and Luis Rodriguez.

Dundee was enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1994.

Angelo Dundee,  eyeglasses, National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame   Most recently, Angelo Dundee was hired to train Russell Crowe for Crowe's characterization of James J. Braddock in "The Cinderella Man".

Nathan Leopold, Jr. (his reading glasses) and Richard Loeb

1924 This trial proved to be a media spectacle and was one of the first cases to be dubbed "The Crime of the Century."

Two wealthy University of Chicago students murdered 14 y.o. Bobby Franks and received sentences of life plus 99 years. Their crime was notable in being largely motivated by an apparent need to prove their belief they were capable of committing a perfect crime, and for its role in the history of American thought on capital punishment.

Nathan Leopold eyeglasses and case, Chicago Historical Society

Chicago Historical Society

This story is quite a tale because the eyeglasses were the major evidence which led to the killers.

For more details click here to go to the Chicago Historical Society website.

These are not antiques by definition but the glasses were the key evidence pointing to the killers!

Dr. Holmes

mid 20th century

He became a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II in Changi POW camp in Sangapore

Eyeglasses improvised by moulding a toothbrush around the frame, belonged to a POW in a Japanese WWII camp, donor the Kent County Ophthalmic Hospital, via Mr. Michael Davis, FRCS, now at the Army Medical Services Museum

Army Medical Services Museum

When the original frame broke, it was replaced by moulding the handle of a toothbrush around the lens

Martin Luther King 1929-1968 An American clergyman, activist and prominent leader in the African-American civil rights movement Martin Luther King’s eyeglasses and case, on display at the Concourse C Centerpoint, Atlanta International Airport Terminal E, on loan from Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King National Historic Site, Atlanta King Center for Non-Violent Social Change   “Although he didn’t need them, Martin Luther King, Jr. thought glasses made him look distinguished
Audrey Hepburn 1929-1993 An iconic Academy Award-winning actress, fashion model and humanitarian.
Hepburn had the reputation of being a humble, kind and charming person, who lived the philosophy of putting others before herself. She showed this side particularly towards the end of her life in her work for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). She has often been called the most beautiful woman of all time, most recently in a 2006 poll for New Woman magazine. She was ranked as the third greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute (AFI's 100 Years... 100 Stars.)
Audrey Hepburn: model worn by her, designed by Pierre Marly, photo taken from Spectacles and Sunglasses published by The Pepin Press. Spectacles and Sunglasses published by The Pepin Press.    
Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis known in the 1960s as Jackie Kennedy, and later as Jackie Onassis, 1929-1994 wife of President John F. Kennedy, and First Lady of the United States from 1961 to 1963.

From the time of John F. Kennedy's election to the U.S. presidency in 1960, through his assassination in 1963, and for the rest of her life, Jackie's name and image were symbolic of social grace and elegance, beauty, glamour and fashion sense.

Jackie Kennedy: model designed for her by Pierre Marly, photo taken from Spectacles and Sunglasses published by The Pepin Press. Spectacles and Sunglasses published by The Pepin Press.    
Jean-Pierre Vasarely    professionally known as Yvaral 1934-2002 A French artist who worked in the fields of op-art and kinetic art from 1954 onwards. He was the son of Victor Vasarely. Jean-Pierre Vasarely eyeglasses From his wife Michèle Vasarely    
Nana Mouskouri, born Ioanna Mouskouri 1934- A singer of Greek origin who over four decades forged a highly successful international career. She recorded many of her songs in many different languages. She is noted for her trademark squarish black-rimmed eyeglasses and straight black hair parted in the middle, and her songs of melancholy, longing, and sentimental musings upon love, for which the emotion of her voice is exceptionally suited. Mouskouri has recorded from the 1960s into the new millennium. She has tailored releases to specific international markets with tremendous success. Nana Mouskouri: model designed for her by Pierre Marly, photo taken from Spectacles and Sunglasses published by The Pepin Press. Nana Mouskouri: from Wikipedia Spectacles and Sunglasses published by The Pepin Press.    
Charles Hardin Holley better known as Buddy Holly 1936-1959 American singer, songwriter, and a pioneer of Rock and Roll. The change of spelling of Holley to Holly came about because of an error in a contract he was asked to sign, listing him as Buddy Holly. That spelling was then adopted for his professional career. The original spelling of "Holley" was engraved on his headstone Buddy Holly: model he used to wear but not the original, photo taken from Spectacles and Sunglasses published by The Pepin Press. Buddy Holly: album cover, copyright Wikipedia Spectacles and Sunglasses published by The Pepin Press.   A model he used to wear, not the original

Celebrity eyewear


Orville Redenbacher, Jack  Nicklaus, Sophia Loren, President Gerald Ford, and Red Skelton

Celebrity eyewear display, OSU College of OptometryCelebrity eyewear display case, Ohio State University, College of Optometry

Ohio State University, College of Optometry


These eyeglasses are not antiques, but the people are all very famous

More Celebrities

very modern

Madonna, Elton John, U2’s Bono, Ray Charles, Charlize Theron, and Elvis Presley

Gallery Celebrities from the Safilo website.

Galleria Guglielmo Tabacchi – Safilo (Padua, Italy)

The Safilo Website
(Go to Galleries, then Celebrities)

These eyeglasses are not antiques, but these people are all world-renowned

Additional celebrities Very modern Isabelle Adjani, Jimmy Carter, Bridget Bardot, Anthony Hopkins, Gloria Steinum Celebrities from the Museum of Vision website The Museum of Vision, Waterloo website   These eyeglasses are not antiques, but these people are all world-renowned

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