HISTORY OF EYEGLASSES

Throughout history and even today, eyeglasses have served as one of the oldest and improved upon accessories around the world. Yes, there are now contacts and laser surgery, but we, who are conscious of the way we look and the way we are perceived by others, know that eyeglasses can drastically improve our appearance and the way others view us.

This brief overview of the historical progression of eyeglasses is limited to our collection which stems primarily from Europe and the US.



These primitive spectacles are some of the earliest known dating back to the years 1500 - 1700. Made of steel, they are simple in design but remarkably manage to stay in place resting on the wearer's nose. Although these are made of steel, many early spectacles of similar design were made from baleen, a material derived from the mouths of whales used to filter plankton.



Popular in the early 1800s, these spectacles are designed with extendable temples that are made to reduce the pressure on the wearer's head.



These spectacles date back the late 18th/early 19th century. They were distinguished the by foldable temples.



Lorgnettes made their first appearance in the late 18th century. They became a fashionable accessory for the privileged and socially upward crowd and were characterized by a handle to hold the lenses to the wearer's eyes. Those pictured would have been considered to be quite drab. Some of the more desirable lorgnettes had detailed, very artistic engraving and long handles.



Wire spectacles from the late 1800s/early 1900s.



Spectacles with metal mesh netting that were commonly used by passengers in the late 1800s during long train journeys to diminish glare.



Pince nez (nose pinch) spectacles came on the scene around mid 1800s. They were popular in America from 1900 - 1920s. The American Optical Company and Bausch & Lomb were the major US producers of this type of eyeglass.



1920s eyewear was distinguished by round eyeglasses. They were made in silver, gold and, like the ones in the photo, with celluloid covering the rims and sometimes the temples. Windsor, a company based in England, found high acclaim as the top producer of this type of eyewear.



12 karat gold filled eyeglasses from Bausch & Lomb and The American Optical Company began to inundate the US in the 1930s and were popular through the 1940s.



In the 1950s through the early to mid 1960s, plastic eyeglasses began to take a more prominent role in the direction of eyewear. Combination eyeglasses as worn by Malcom X and seemingly anyone in this time period who wanted to project an intellectual image could likely be found in this style. There was also a prominence of black horn rim glasses. Cateyes were the staple for women's eyeglasses typically decorated with artful designs and rhinestones.



The late 1960s through 1970s were characterized by large, prominent eyeglasses.