Spectacles of Well Known People in History (Part Four)

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 Bertel Thorvaldsen: silver round frame, unusual nose bridge and unusual sides,  pull off case
Bertel Thorvaldsen: shagreen case dated 1820
Thorvaldsens Museum 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 Ludwig van Beethoven: (A) round frame, C bridge, turnpin extension (B) round frame X bridge, turnpin extension (C) single lens magnifier, Beethoven Haus 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. Friedrich Holderlins spectacles, Optisches Museum, Jena 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 round frame silver spectacles, turn-pin sides 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 Thomas Young’s optometer, Royal Institution of Great Britain, London 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 ImageNathaniel Bowditch, Charles Osgood, 1835, by order of the East India Marine Society, Peabody Essex Museum Collection 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. Isaac Hull eyeglasses, 2nd quarter 19th century, Hull P. Fulweiler Collection, on loan to the USS Constitution Museum, Boston 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. Louis-Philippe, King of the French, 4 lens spectacles, Christie’s, Paris
Louis-Philippe spectacles, Christie’s, Paris

Christie's, Paris

4 lens spectacles, steel frame, turn-pin sides, cardboard and leather case

Oval frame, K bridge, thin turnpin 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. William Bainbridge lorgnette, 1830’s, USS Constitution Museum Collection, Boston USS Constitution Museum, Boston Round frame lorgnette folds into a monogrammed case  
John Mallord William Turner.


An English Romantic landscape painter and watercolorist, whose style can be said to have laid the foundation for Impressionism

Spectacles and magnifier of Joseph Mallord William Turner, Philip Mould Ltd, London 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 tortoiseshell case, Ashland, the Henry Clay EstateHenry Clay spectacles, Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate 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 Patrick Bronte: round frame tinted lenses, temple sides 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 Adam Oehlenschlåger: oval frame, horn, missing the left sidearm, pull-off case Bakkehus Museum (Bakkehusmuseet    
Domingo Bustillo 1779-1854 prominent military and political figure/ official of the Mexican colonial government in San Antonio, Texas Leather-framed  The Alamo Collection Leather-framed rare
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. Captain Thomas Lawrence, Falmouth Historical Society 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 Jane Henderson spectacles, Henderson House 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". Silver X bridge spectacles of Pierre-Jean de Béranger 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.

Nuremburg single wire magnifier in its original case, mid 18th century, Carpenter Museum Carpenter Museum

Nuremberg magnifier, in its original case. Written inside the case: “J. Blanding to light his Segar
with W.B.”
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 Steen Steensen Blicher: painting by family member Diedrich Blicher, 1834, Herning Museum, Denmark Steen Steensen Blicher: from Wikipedia 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 William Czar Bradley, Vermont Historical Society 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 Kingdom.
Executed by hanging in front of an estimated 100,000 people
Henry Fauntleroy_eyeglasses, front
Henry Fauntleroy_eyeglasses, from the back
Shield of identification, shows they were given Nov 30, 1824, on the morning of Fauntleroy’s execution
  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

King Jerome of Westphalia, scissors-glasses, Jena Optisches Museum, Jena Gold scissors-glasses without the case

Josiah Macy 1785-1872 Either the father or the uncle of Rowland Hussey Macy, Sr. (1822-1877) who established R. H. Macy and Company Octagonal frame, crank bridge, gold
Octagonal frame, crank bridge, gold
private collection Octagonal frame, crank bridge, gold  
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. Tinted spectacles, a relic of Sir John Franklin's last expedition 1845-48, Repro ID F4975-3, © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London National Maritime Museum, Royal Observatory Protective glasses with side shields and blue tinted lenses  
Dr. John Todd 1787-1865 He was the uncle of Mary Todd who married Abraham Lincoln Oval gold frame with crank bridge and adjustable sides; the silver case is engraved twice private collection Oval gold frame with crank bridge and adjustable sides; the silver case is engraved twice The spectacles' owners clearly were Dr. John Todd (d. 1865), uncle to Mary Lincoln and then JBS Todd (d. 1872), her 1st cousin.
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 Eliza Clayland Tomlinson Foster’s eyeglasses 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 James Fenimore Cooper eyeglasses, Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY Wikipedia- James Fenimore Cooper, 1822, painted by John Wesley Jarvis (1781-1840), Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY.    Seen on Wikipedia
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 Hon. Henry Cranston, Congressman, sixth-plate daguerreotype, Newport Historical Society 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. Michael Faraday's laboratory glasses
Michael Faraday, Wikipedia   (is he holding a different pair of glasses?)
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 Pope Pius IX, tortoiseshell spectacles, Bel Vedere, Spectacles of the Luxottica Museum
Pope IX. P.O.M., typography, Roma nel Negozio di Stampe, Via del Babuino N°82, third quarter 19th century
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.  George Washington to General Lafayette scissors-glasses, Smithsonian 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   Portrait of Mrs. James Dunlap (1791-1858), who was Eliza Bancker before her marriage, painted by William Hudson, Jr. in 1854, New York Historical Society
Gold glasses of Mrs. James Dunlop, appearing in her painting
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 Gioachino Rossini, Scala Theater Museum, Milan 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 Optical fan of Giovanni Battista Rubini 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. James Polk spectacles, Polk House Polk House Octagonal frame, crank bridge, in a metal case, circa 1840’s  

Thomas Carlyle

1795-1881 Scottish philosopher, satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher during the Victorian era Thomas Carlyle glasses, Carlyle’s House of the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest
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. Medal from 1978 honoring 150 years since the death of Schubert (1828)Schubert eyeglasses, House of Music, on loan from the Jesuiten-Order, ViennaSchubert eyeglaases, Wien Museum
Franz Schubert
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   Mary Lyon eyeglasses, Mount Holyoke College Mary Lyon, painted on ivory, circa 1832, given as a gift to her good friend Eunice Cowles who presented it to the Mount Holyoke Seminary at its 50th Anniversary 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.   Little Mary Hawks eyeglasses, Memorial Hall Museum 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.

Joachim Barrande

1799 – 1883 French geologist and palaeontologist      Joachim Barrande table magnifier, National Museum of Prague, Czech Republic 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 Platt Spencer eyeglasses, courtesy of the Newberry Library, Chicago 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. William Henry Fox Talbot, spectacles, courtesy of Lacock Abbey of the National Trust, UK 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.

Brigham Young spectacles, owned by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers Pioneer Memorial Museum in Salt Lake City.
Brigham Young eyeglass case, owned by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers Pioneer Memorial Museum in Salt Lake City
Brigham.Young, from Wikipedia

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 Thomas P. Rossiter (1818-1871) painting of John Ericsson, oil on canvas, U.S. Naval Academy Museum Collection.  Gift of an anonymous donor, 1945.  Official U.S. Navy Photograph Ericsson’s image on Wikipedia   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. Portrait of Johan Ludvig Runeberg, painted 1893 by Albert Edelfelt Johan Ludvig Runeberg: oval frame X bridge, turnpin sides, Porvoo Museum (Runeberg bought these silver-framed spectacles whilst at university and used them for over fifty years. The document underneath is his matriculation certificate.) Johan Ludvig Runeberg: steel round frame, double hinge, “probably” Runeberg spectacles,  Neg. 156892, KM 79081:1, Photograph Timo Syrjanen 1980, National Board of Antiquities National Board of Antiquities
Archives for Prints and Photographs

Porvoo Museum

X bridge, oval frame, turn-pin sides

Round frame, C bridge, double hinge



Benjamin Disraeli

1804-1881 British parliamentarian, Conservative statesman and literary figure. He served in government in four decades, twice as Prime Minister of Great Britain Benjamin Disraeli lorgnette, courtesy of Hughendon Manor Estate, National Trust, Buckinghamshire, UK 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. Leather eyeglass case of Joseph Smith, owned by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers Pioneer Memorial Museum in Salt Lake City.
Joseph Smith decorated metal case, perhaps from after 1840, owned by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers Pioneer Memorial Museum in Salt Lake City
Joseph Smith, from Wikipedia
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 Hans Christian Anderson: Brass 4 lens, copyright Odense City Museum, Hans Christian Anderson Museum Hans Christian Anderson: K bridge, steel, thin sides, copyright Odense City Museum, Hans Christian Anderson Museum 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


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