PERIOD CORRECT GLASSES

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Mad Irish Jack

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T
hese are my glasses. They were documented as between 1803 and 1805. On the looped bridge inside is stamped USA. That was only applied between those years. These frames were being made since the early 1700s. The stems, when not one piece, were pinned, or riveted. Mine are brass and riveted and are made of heavy brass wire and heat treated at the end to hold the curve for the ears. I found them at a flea market for a hefty $3.00.
 

zimmerstutzen

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T
hese are my glasses. They were documented as between 1803 and 1805. On the looped bridge inside is stamped USA. That was only applied between those years. These frames were being made since the early 1700s. The stems, when not one piece, were pinned, or riveted. Mine are brass and riveted and are made of heavy brass wire and heat treated at the end to hold the curve for the ears. I found them at a flea market for a hefty $3.00.

Well ya beat me. I picked up a pair of the oval saddle bridge glasses at a flea market and paid an eye glass place to put plain glass lenses in them. An old timer hanging out at the eye glass place took one look at the frames and knew exactly what company, dates of manufacture and gave me a big long lecture about the evolution of eye glasses and styles. I did not soak much of it in. The sticker shock over getting plain glass lenses was still fresh in my mind. $1.00 for the original glasses and $40.00 for the lenses. That was about 1980.
 

Mad Irish Jack

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Well ya beat me. I picked up a pair of the oval saddle bridge glasses at a flea market and paid an eye glass place to put plain glass lenses in them. An old timer hanging out at the eye glass place took one look at the frames and knew exactly what company, dates of manufacture and gave me a big long lecture about the evolution of eye glasses and styles. I did not soak much of it in. The sticker shock over getting plain glass lenses was still fresh in my mind. $1.00 for the original glasses and $40.00 for the lenses. That was about 1980.
That's par for relensing the glasses. I reprinted the photo that Photobucket hijacked. These are as bought. The pic has the glasses placed upside down so I could photo them. I had them for almost 30 years. I got ridiculed for them, until I got documentation. If you don't have a paper for documentation. You can write one up and have the documentor that will agree with what's written, sign and date it.

HC Glasses.jpg
 

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Well ya beat me. I picked up a pair of the oval saddle bridge glasses at a flea market and paid an eye glass place to put plain glass lenses in them. An old timer hanging out at the eye glass place took one look at the frames and knew exactly what company, dates of manufacture and gave me a big long lecture about the evolution of eye glasses and styles. I did not soak much of it in. The sticker shock over getting plain glass lenses was still fresh in my mind. $1.00 for the original glasses and $40.00 for the lenses. That was about 1980.
In the mid/late 1970's, I asked an Optometrist whether they could put modern prescription lenses in antique spectacles and he said the could, BUT to make sure I bought a set with screws that held the temples (side pieces of the frame) in place. He said it was much too easy to ruin spectacle frames on which the temples were pinned and thus must Optometrists and Eyeglass Shops would not work on them. I ran across dozens of pinned framed spectacles and one pair of original LARGE Round Lensed frame from the 1740's with screws, but they wanted almost $ 200.00 for them, so those were out.

Finally found an original pair with sliding/telescoping temples that were correct for very early 19th century (and I could get away with wearing for 18th century events) and cost an affordable $25.00. They served me well for a few years in different time periods, before I lost them on the field of tall grass at a reenactment of New Market. (Some day when they are excavated in the future, I wonder if someone will say, "AHA! This proves they had prescription glasses earlier than normally thought!" GRIN.) OK, so back to the flea markets and antique/junque shops for a new pair.

Found another similar original pair with the sliding/telescoping temples, but this time one screw to hold on one temple was missing. However, the threaded hole wasn't wallowed out, so I hoped they could be saved. They had no problem fixing that pair and putting prescription lenses in them.

Finally in the 1990's when I "came back to the 18th century" and by that time, Townsend was selling good 18th century replica frames. I figured it would cost me more in gas and time to find another pair of original frames, so I went that route instead and have been well pleased with them.

However, if one is looking for an original pair, I most strongly suggest to buy the kind that has screws that attach the temples to the frames.

Gus
 

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There has been a longstanding controversy about when colored lenses first appeared in spectacles. Some sources flatly state it didn't happen until the very end of the 18th century at the earliest. However, a forum member showed an original period advertisement on another forum where different color lenses were available for sale in 1755.

Following up on that, I found the following link that names the Inventor of the Double Hinged or Double Jointed Temple frames as British Dr. Ayscough in 1752. This is one of the few times we can easily track down the original date of 18th century spectacles with a certain style of Temples. However, the link mentions colored lenses that go even further back.

"This idea was not new in the 1750s. The great diarist Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) purchased a pair of spectacles with green lenses from spectacle maker John Turlington in December 1666 in the hope that the tint might relieve the soreness of his eyes that he believed was caused by working in candlelight. In the eighteenth century, spectacles were used mainly for magnification like modern reading glasses. So, while it would be easy to think these spectacles with green lenses were made as sunglasses, that is probably not the case."

http://www.memorialhall.mass.edu/collection/itempage.jsp?itemid=9304

Gus
 

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It wasn’t until the first quarter of the 18th century, that it became common for spectacles to have Temples (side pieces) that enabled people to wear their spectacles on a regular basis and not have to deal with spectacles they held up to their eyes or were held in place by pinching the sides of the nose. It seems these spectacles were mostly used by artists, clerks, mapmakers, clock makers, etc. who dealt with fine detail work or reading/writing as a main focus of their trade. The original set I mentioned earlier that cost $ 200.00 way back then, were this type of spectacle.

This earliest type of Temple Spectacles often had round lenses and straight temples with round rings on the ends to use ribbons or cords to tie them on, when they first became available around 1720 to 1730. Oval lenses seem to have been offered a little later and perhaps around Mid 1730’s to 1740. Both in the period and as reproductions, these have some of the largest lenses available and some people really like that, especially if they need “split lense” or bifocal lenses. The Frames and temples were commonly available in Iron, Brass and Silver; depending on what the customer could afford. Though a bit “out of fashion” by the AWI, they were still being worn then and a little later. So this type is excellent to do very early 18th century right up through the AWI.

Here is an original pair of this type with Round Lenses and made from Brass:
https://i.pinimg.com/236x/cb/99/69/cb9969f48d3f7b9e91b91b1111383be3.jpg

Here is an original Iron pair of this type with Oval Lenses:
https://i.pinimg.com/originals/ac/4e/18/ac4e183895cb809a593d8ca7975a261e.jpg

The only place I know of that has reproductions of this very early type of Spectacles is James Townsend. He extended the length of the original Temples so the round loops for the ribbons/cord sit behind the ear and are thus more comfortable to wear. (More on using Ribbons/Cords to tie them in place later on.)
www.townsends.us/collections/eyewear/products/1740-1800-reproduction-glasses-frames-gl-784

Finally, though not common at all for this early period glasses, some originals had square or rectangular lenses:
www.aao.org/museum-search-detail?imgid=250e4dae-e8f6-448b-a30f-37916b5f0dce

Steel frames began to be commonly used in Britain during the late 1740’s/Early 1750’s thanks to Benjamin Huntsman inventing the process of crucible steel in 1742. Steel Frames were sometimes “japanned” blackened and sometimes plated or gilded, again if the customer could afford it.

In 1752, the “double hinged” or “double jointed” folding Temples Spectacles were invented by the British Doctor Ayscouph. The earliest ones of these continued to have Round Lenses and Round Tie Loops on the Temples, though others incorporated new fashion details of Oval Lenses and Tear Shaped Loops on the Temples. Thus this style was correct for the FIW through the AWI and way beyond into the first quarter of the 19th century.

Here is an early pair:
www.aao.org/museum-search-detail?imgid=1ade2549-4d75-41c7-a12b-aead8660aa8c

Colored Lenses in this style from around 1775:
www.aao.org/museum-search-detail?imgid=d83b4dca-fe4b-41e1-9d78-e54660da2d4b

Repro from Townsends:
www.townsends.us/collections/eyewear/products/18th-century-reproduction-glasses-gl-791

Repro from Townsends w/Reading Lenses if one doesn’t need full prescription lenses:
www.townsends.us/collections/eyewear/products/18th-century-reproduction-glasses-gl791-p-166

Repro w/Round Lenses and Tear Drop Tie loops:
www.mackenziefrain.com/index.php?product_id=451067&option=Prod_detail&category_id=112981

Same? Repro from Crazy Crow :
www.crazycrow.com/personal-mountain-man-gear/18th-century-spectacles

BTW, the one link below from the museum of the college of optometrists mentioned “split lenses” became common in Britain in the 1760’s, though they were made with two lenses on each side to achieve what we get with Bi-focal lenses today. Thought some folks would find that interesting. When I finally got my first pair of 18th century reproduction spectacles from Townsends, I needed bi-focal lenses, so I tried a pair of progressive lens bi-focals that don’t show a line on the lenses. Well, that didn’t work for me, so I put a pair of bi-focal lenses in the frames and just didn’t worry it would not be correct for FIW.

I have not been able to discover the period term for Spectacles with Sliding/Telescoping Temples, but this style seems to have come out around 1790 at the earliest and other sources say 1800 at the earliest. Originally Oval Shaped Lenses were probably the most fashionable/common at first, but then Square/Rectangular Lenses came into vogue somewhere around or just after the War of 1812. Around 1825 Octagonal Lenses also became popular. From my experiences over three decades looking for Original Eyeglasses, these are by far the most common that have survived today and had their beginning in the 18th century. They were used all the way to the end of the 19th century and thus beyond the scope of this forum.

Should you come across originals of this style for a good price, I remind you to choose ones that the Temples are connected to the Frames with Screws, so you can get prescription lenses put in them, BECAUSE so many of these had the Temples pinned to the Frames and it will be difficult to impossible to get anyone to put prescription lenses in them. I don’t know of anyone making reproductions of this style of Spectacles, but there may be some out there.

SPECIAL NOTE: In the 40 plus years since I got my first original pair of these spectacles, true reproductions of 18th century spectacles have come out. Today if one is doing all or mostly 18th century, I would recommend buying 18th century reproduction spectacle frames specifically of the type/s listed above for the best historical accuracy. However, if one is doing 19th century only, then originals of this type with Sliding/Telescoping Temples are correct and will serve all the way through the Civil War.

Here is an early pair of these 19th century spectacles with sliding/telescoping Temples and Oval Lenses and Tear Drop Shaped Tie Loops:
http://p1.la-img.com/1327/31689/12531167_2_l.jpg

Just a note on “Wire” or “Cable” Temples on Spectacles. The earliest I have ever been able to document them was during the Civil War, but for the most part they seem not to have come into common use before the end of the Civil War at the earliest.

A few thoughts on wearing period glasses from many years of doing so. Please don’t try to use rather inexpensive “ribbons” that come on rolls from some fabric stores, as they come loose or break easily and that from personal bad experience. Spend a little more money and get some good fabric ribbons or tapes, if that is what you want to use. I have not been able to examine original 18th century spectacles with original ribbons or tapes on them, but I’m fairly certain they flat stitched the ends to the Tie Loops. I got away from two piece ribbons/tapes pretty fast when I began wearing the original spectacles and especially after I lost my first pair on a reenactment battlefield.

Since we did a lot of Physical Exertion like running, diving down to take cover, wading through streams where the water came up as high as our chests and going through woods where branches or brambles could/would catch on the Spectacles; it was very important to find a way to ensure the Spectacles would remain in place through much, if not all of that exertion. So at first I decided to tie a piece of “artificial sinew” on one Temple Tie Loop, it went around the back of my head and then tied to the other Temple Tie Loop. I would take care the bridge of the frames rested on my nose where I preferred it and learned to make sure the large loop of artificial sinew went around the rear base of my skull – just above where the vertebrae of the neck joined the skull. I did that by tying one end of an over long piece of artificial sinew to one Temple Tie Loop and leaving a loose loop to go around the back of my head and held loosely in the other Temple Tie Loop. When I got the length right so the frame bridge sat on my nose correctly, I held the artificial sinew near the other Temple Tie loop at the right distance and removed the spectacles. Then I tied the loose end at that place. That gave me a large enough loop I could put on and remove the Spectacles with the “one piece loop” that connected to both Temple Tie Loops, but it was not so loose that Spectacles could come off when bending down or even more exertion. It worked great. After I quit using artificial sinew, I used heavy linen flax thread and it worked just as well. I thought about replacing the flax thread with a piece of good small size fabric tape or leather, but the flax thread never frayed enough to need it, so I never got around to trying that.

Townsends Video talking about their Repro Spectacles, including some fitting tips:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=bG0ahlK3kUY

Documentation is linked below. Also, since I have researched this for many years, I don’t remember many of the written sources.

www.college-optometrists.org/the-college/museum/online-exhibitions/virtual-spectacles-gallery/eighteenth-century-spectacles.html

There are some published works in the below link I have read in the past and some original artwork showing people wearing different types of period spectacles.

www.larsdatter.com/18c/spectacles.html


I hope others will find this information useful.


Gus
 
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Rifleman1776

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There has been a longstanding controversy about when colored lenses first appeared in spectacles. Some sources flatly state it didn't happen until the very end of the 18th century at the earliest. However, a forum member showed an original period advertisement on another forum where different color lenses were available for sale in 1755.
There is a great deal of info available in the internet about the history of eyeglasses. I once spent some time researching this subject of colored lenses. I found one source that explained, in length, that it was believed different colored lenses would help cure certain diseases. I have a pair that has been in the family for many generations. The lenses are blue. I'm too embarrassed :rolleyes: to say what they are supposed to cure. I also found as source that said those lenses that were photo sensitive would darken in the sun but once dark stayed dark.
 

Artificer

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There is a great deal of info available in the internet about the history of eyeglasses. I once spent some time researching this subject of colored lenses. I found one source that explained, in length, that it was believed different colored lenses would help cure certain diseases. I have a pair that has been in the family for many generations. The lenses are blue. I'm too embarrassed :rolleyes: to say what they are supposed to cure. I also found as source that said those lenses that were photo sensitive would darken in the sun but once dark stayed dark.
That 1755 advertisement I mentioned wrote about green and blue lenses for "weak or watery eyes."

By the 19th century, the same colors were mentioned for those with syphilis, because the disease causes the eyes to be much more light sensitive, though that was mostly just an additional "selling point" for the colored lenses.

Gus
 

ugly old guy

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Oh good! My oval lensed no line bifocals are HC/PC should I ever attend an Rendezvous again. :)

(I feel confident my rollator walker won't be though. :( )
 

Belleville

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Indian documentation for eye glasses:

Found 2 or 3 pairs of eye glasses in La Vérendrye's inventory. Michel Loiselle

“Of note, in 1755, Paxinosa referred to himself “an old man”; in 1757 his eyesight was so defective that he wore spectacles; Moravians referred him as the “Great Shawanos”; Chief Cornstalk was Paxinosa’s grandson. The Beginning of the Pennsylvania Long Rifle - The Transitional Rifles of J. Andreas Albrecht by A. Newman, E. Cowan and R. Keller.

Eye glasses were found in the grave of Oconostota (Cunne Shote), Great Warrior of Chota, Tenn. Draper n.d. : 14DD16, 2) recorded he was buried in 1783 (The glasses were wire rimmed, info from a website.) Page 118, Tellico Archaeology by Jefferson Chapman. Reference eyeglasses, and painting c.1762

The optician’s bill according to Henry Timberlake was “Fifty odd pounds in these costly play-things (eye glasses) for the Cherokee.”, (from page 71, The Memoirs of Lt. Henry Timberlake – The Story of a Soldier, Adventurer, and Emissary to the Cherokees 1756-1765, 2007. The eye glasses illustrated on p. 71 are not from those supplied in the Timberlake citation, as they are a later design.



The list of the estate of White Eyes, a Delaware Chief, taken on November 9, 1778, at Pittsburgh included “1 P (pair) Spectacles”.



A 1778 inventory of Charles Gratiot’s store in Cahokia included 25 pairs of eye glasses (from page 250, Archaeology at French Colonial Cahokia by Bonnie L. Gums, 1988).



The order for goods at Sandusky on January 10, 1806, contained a request for a dozen pairs of spectacles “middling low priced” for old Indians (from Page 61 of A History of the United States Indian Factory System 1795-1822, by Ora Brooks Peake, Ph.D - Originally published: Denver: Sage Books, 1954).



6 pairs Spectales from the Memorandum of Articles wanted for the Wyandots for their annuity of One Thousand Dollars, by the Treaty of Greenville, for the year 1809.
 
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