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.

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.








Charles Louis Joseph Desauty

Early 19th century

A teacher in Hodence L'eveque, a district north-west of Noailles. “le canton de noailles’ is a department, situated in Picardie, north of Paris. This a town near Beauvais, France. He had a  son Nicolas Prosper who was born in 1813. His wife was Louise Mari

Horn rimmed magnifier in a wooden case, 4.5 inch diameter.

Private Collection

Large horn rimmed magnifier in a wooden case.
 This appears to be the second largest magnifier of this style in the US

As a teacher in 1823, he was on the same level as the doctor and the priest if that village at that time.
Can anyone locate more information about this person?

Robert E. Lee


A career army officer and the most successful general of the Confederate forces during the American Civil War. He eventually commanded all Confederate armies as general-in-chief. Like Hannibal earlier and Rommel later, his victories against superior forces in an ultimately losing cause won him enduring fame.

Robert E. Lee eyeglasses, Courtesy of the Lee Chapel & Museum, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA

Lee Chapel and Museum, Washington and Lee University

Coin silver oval frame, blue lenses, pin-in-slot adjustable sides


John Greenlief Whittier


One of America’s greatest Quaker poets, reformers,  and abolitionists.  Was a pioneer in regional literature and a crusader for many humanitarian causes. Noted for his classic “Snow Bound”. 

John Greeleaf Whittier spectacles, John Greenlief Whittier Home

John Greenlief Whittier Home

Steel, oval frame, scroll bridge, thin sides, circa 1870s

“He made outstanding contributions to the life and literature of this country”.

David Swinson Maynard


"Doc" Maynard arrived in Seattle in 1852 and set up Seattle's first store, selling medicine and general merchandise in his salting works on First Avenue and Main Street. He proposed naming the new city Seattle after the chief of the local Native American people. Maynard also served as Seattle's Justice of the Peace.

David Swinson “Doc” Maynard (1808-1873), unknown photographer, caption on the image A.W.Dowe, circa 1868, Museum of History & Industry, Seattle

Museum of History & Industry Photograph Collection(MOHAI)

Octagonal frame scroll bridge, straight sides – resting on his forehead

A search is now underway to locate these eyeglasses. He will forever be know as the man who invented Seattle

Jefferson Davis


American soldier and politician most famous for serving as the first and only President of the Confederate States of America in the American Civil War. Before the Civil War he became Secretary of War in the cabinet of President Franklin Pierce.

Jefferson Davis spectacles and case, Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia

Museum of the Confederacy

Rectangular frame, crank bridge, pin-in-slot sidearms, circa 1850 (probably gold) Steel oval frame, scroll bridge, thin sides small spatula endings, circa 1870’s – 80’s


Eliza Baylies Chapin Wheaton


Founder of Wheaton College

Eliza Baylies Chapin Wheaton
Spectacles and case of Eliza Wheaton

Wheaton College Archives

Scroll bridge, oval frame, leather case

These are likely not the
same ones seen in the
Mary Lyons of Holyoke was the first principal

Abraham Lincoln


Nicknamed Honest Abe, the Rail Splitter, and the Great Emancipator, he was the 16th President of the United States, 1861-1865, and the first president from the Republican Party. Lincoln staunchly opposed the expansion of slavery into federal territories, and his victory in the 1860 presidential election further polarized an already divided nation. Other events soon led to the American Civil War. Lincoln is usually ranked as one of the greatest presidents. Because of his role in ending slavery, and his guiding the Union to victory in the civil war, his assassination made him a martyr to millions of Americans.

Matthew Brady photograph, Feb. 1864, Library of CongressAlexander Gardner photograph, August 1863 Lincoln, A Picture Story of His Life, Stefan Lorant President Abraham Lincoln, the two pair of spectacles found in his pockets, Library of Congress

Matthew Brady photograph Feb. 1864 from the Library of Congress. The shorter ones appear in this photograph and also the Gardiner photograph. These are Burt and Willard glasses dated Jan 4, 1859 (U.S. patent # 22,485)

Alexander Gardner photograph August 1863 in the Stefan Lorant's book  Lincoln, A Picture Story of His Life.

Two pair of spectacles with their cases, at the Library of Congress. A locked leather box contained the contents of Lincoln’s pockets the night of his assassination April 14, 1865. This remained with the family and was then donated to the Library of Congress in 1937. It was finally opened in the spring of 1976. The contents are shown in the last photograph. The one with adjustable sides has an inscription on one of the sidearms which says “A. Lincoln, presented by Ward H. Lamon.”

Lincoln Spectacles – Lincoln probably bought his first pair in May 1956 in Bloomington Illinois, for 37 ½ cents. Another pair was purchased from Franklin Optical Company in Washington, DC on May 4, 1864 for $ 2.50 because that check signed by Lincoln was never cashed. It has been suggested that several other pairs of eyeglasses at a few museums and in private collections were also used by Lincoln but questions have arisen and some of the provenance evidence is suspicious regarding each of those examples.

Charles Robert Darwin


Darwin was already eminent as an English naturalist when he proposed and provided scientific evidence to show that all species of life have evolved over time from one or a few common ancestors through the process of natural selection. His scientific discovery remains the foundation of biology, as it provides a unifying logical explanation for the diversity of life. His 1859 book On the Origin of Species established evolution by common descent as the dominant scientific explanation of diversification in nature.

“Darwin Family Magnifying Glass”, English Heritage # 88207264, from the Down House, Home of Charles Darwin

English Heritage

Darwin Family Magnifying Glass

On tour with the Darwin exhibit

Major General Sterling Price


Governor of the state of Missouri 1853-57 and later became a Confederate General. He was one of the South’s most prominent political generals.

Major General Sterling Price spectacles, Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia

Museum of the Confederacy

Octagonal frame, crank bridge, adjustable sidearms. circa 1850’s (probably gold)


Camillo Cavour


Prime Minister of Sardinia, a large Italian State. He formed alliances with other foreign powers to help end Austria's and Spain's control. Instrumental in the unification of Italy.

Count Camillo Cavour, Italian Statesman, instrumental in the unification of Italy, Art Resource Inc.

Luxottica Museum, Agordo


A photo has been requested, but this has been denied.

Henry Wilson


US Senate 1855-1873, 18th Vice President of the United States under Ulysses Grant 1872-76. He died in the Capitol Building, Washington, D.C., November 22, 1875.

Henry Wilson eyeglasses and case, Natick Historical Society Pince nez with original case, Fitchburg Historical Society. Donated by Henry Willis in 1913, an outstanding citizen of Fitchburg, the society's first president, and bank president for 31 years.

Natick Historical Society

Silver, octagonal frame, crank bridge, temple sides, leather and cardboard case


General Francis H. Smith 1812-1890 Served as VMI's first Superintendent (1839-1889). Graduated from West Point in 1833, and came to Lexington, Virginia in 1839 to lead the newly established Virginia Military Institute. He was known as the builder and --after the Civil War-- rebuilder of VMI. He was considered one of the leading educators of the 19th century General Francis H. Smith

A search is on for his glasses

Virginia Military Institute (VMI)   "Old Specs" as the Cadets called him.
Charlotte Bronte 1816-1855 An English novelist the eldest of the three Brontë sisters whose novels have become enduring classics of English literature Wrote Jane Eyre, Villette, the Professor, And Shirley Charlotte Bronte: round frame folding lorgnette, Brontë Parsonage Museum Brontë Parsonage Museum Was very myopic but sometimes refused to wear eyeglasses

Folding tortoiseshell round frame lorgnette

Wore minus 10 each eye

These specs are circa

Mary Todd Lincoln 1818-1882 She was the First Lady of the United States when her husband, Abraham Lincoln, served as the sixteenth President, from 1861 until 1865. Mary Lincoln’s opera glass case, photo credit Chris Hunt, Ford's Theater, National Historic Site
Lincoln assassination depiction, print by Currier and Ives, New York Mary Todd Lincoln oval spring lorgnette, courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution

Ford Museum and Theater Historic Site


Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. gift of Lincoln Isham

Opera glass case from the theater the night of the assassination


gold spring lorgnette, engraved with her monogram

Eduard Jäger von Jaxtthal 1818-1884 Austrian ophthalmologist, native of Vienna who was a professor at the University of Vienna, and was son to oculist Friedrich Jäger von Jaxtthal (1784-1871), and grandson to Georg Joseph Beer (1763-1821). He is most remembered for his work in eye surgery, and his research of ophthalmic diseases. He was an early practitioner of the ophthalmoscope, and introduced direct ophthalmoscopy, a method he used to determine the refractive error in the eye. Eduard Jäger von Jaxtthal’s ophthalmoscope, Institute of the Museum of History, Vienna Institute of the Museum of History, Vienna, Austria his personal ophthalmoscope His best known written work is Ophthalmoskopischer Hand-Atlas, an atlas of diseases of the eye identified by the ophthalmoscope.
Zacharias Topelius 1818-1898 Finland-Swedish journalist, historian and prolific author who wrote Finnish historical novels in Swedish Zacharias Topelius: Photograph  Johan Ludvig Runeberg (left and wearing glasses) with Zacharias Topelius (right), neg. 49227, photographer J. C. Lihr 1863, The National Museum of Finland Zacharias Topelius: Collection Zacharias Topelius, neg. 144870, KM 5000:329-325, photographer Timo Syrjänen 1978, The National Museum of Finland National Museum of Finland    

Gottfried Keller


Swiss novelist, poet and short-story writer whose best known work is Green Henry. His vital, realistic, and purposeful fiction gives him a high place among 19th-century authors.

Gottfried Keller portrait, Ramstein book
Gottfried Keller spectacles and chatelaine case, Ramstein book

Ramstein Collection - Basel.

White metal and leather chatelaine case, with thin wire oval frame spectacles, K bridge.


Herman Melville


An American novelist, essayist and poet. During his lifetime, his early novels were popular, but his popularity declined later in his life. His masterpiece, Moby-Dick -- which was largely considered a failure during his lifetime, and responsible for Melville's drop in popularity at the time -- was "rediscovered" in the 20th century. It is widely considered to be the greatest novel in American literature.

Herman Melville’s glasses and case. The specs are round frame with turnpin sides, very early 19th century and the case is frogmouth leather, circa post 1850
Herman Melville, Berkshire County Historical Society at Arrowhead, more likely

Berkshire County Historical Society

Steel or silver round frame, wide C bridge, turn-pin sides, circa 1800.

Another pair on the table with his papers, octagonal frame, crank bridge and sliding sides, circa 1840-50

Melville's great-granddaughter of donated the round frame spectacles in 1980, insisting they were his.

It seems more likely that the second pair was his, although Melville could have used the round frame pair which likely was handed down through prior generations of the family. A deeper search is underway.

Walt Whitman


An American poet, essayist, journalist, and humanist, his most famous work is the collection of poetry, Leaves of Grass.

Walt Whitman spectacles, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Pince nez


Isaac Mayer Wise

1819 - 1900

Rabbi and pioneer of the Reform Jewish Movement in the US. He was first President of Hebrew Union College

Isaac Mayer Wise, copyright Union of American Hebrew Congregations, as seen in Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, 1948.
Isaac M. Wise memorial plaque by Boris Schatz, as seen in Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, 1948
  circa last quarter 19th century

A search is currently underway to locate these eyeglasses.    

Susan B. Anthony


Dedicated her life to "the cause," the woman suffrage movement. Her accomplishments paved the way for the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 (14 years after her death) which gave women the right to vote.

Susan B. Anthony, by Hunt, 1877, Department of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation, Rush Rees Library, University of Rochester, on display at Liberty Bell Center Museum
Susan B. Anthony eyeglasses and case, Susan B. Anthony House

Susan B. Anthony House and the Liberty Bell Center Museum

Oval lens, rimless, thin wire sides, in a leather and cardboard case


Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson 1824-1863 Finland-Swedish journalist, historian and prolific author who wrote Finnish historical novels in Swedish
An American teacher and soldier, he became a famous Confederate lieutenant-general during the American Civil War as a corps commander in the Army of Northern Virginia under General Robert E. Lee. He was shot accidentally by his own troops at Chancellorsville and died of complications a few days later. He is acknowledged to be one of the most gifted tactical commanders in United States history. His death was a severe setback for the Confederacy; after his wounding, but before his death, General Robert E. Lee stated "He has lost his left arm; I have lost my right arm".
Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson: crank bridge, VMI Institute, Possibly the glasses of Stonewall Jackson, picked up from the battle field the night he was shot and died. Picked up by Captain C.C. Williamson Virginia Military Institute Crank bridge, rectangular frame, loop-to-loop adjustable sides Although these were
picked up on the battlefield where he was shot we can not be absolutely certain. Also he was never described by his troops to having had these.

Jackson was known to have a condition with his eyes. But he has never been described wearing these spectacles.
Suspicious and perhaps these were never his, but until a better example surfaces…..

Johann Strauss II 1825-1899 Austrian composer of light music particularly dance music and operettas. Known as "The Waltz King"; largely responsible for the popularity of the waltz in Vienna in the 19th century. Pince Nez Pince Nez    
Count van Axel Mid 19th century ? Austrian The Van Axel family came from Axel, near Gand ( Netherlands ) and had been in Venice From 1628 to 1919 circa. They owned palazzo Soranzo since that time, named palazzo Van axel. They've been very active in Venetian economy, and they owned many buildings in the country near Treviso or Montebelluna, where, in 1780, the citizens have been gifted a church. Count van Axel: Palazzo and Rio van Axel, in Venice Count van Axel: ruby, emerald and a pearl on the 18k solid case of an oval lens non-folding lorgnette, circa 1840 private collection Lorgnette With a razor's case shaped handle, where you can see a ruby, an emerald and a baroque pearl in gold 18K. When this is worn on the neck, the three stones look like the Italian flag, showed during the Austrian occupation in Venice, 1840. The lorgnette I was given as a present by the Count Van Axel, to his mother companion, when the two ladies used to go to Fenice Theater in Venice. The lorgnette originally had a letter with it, in which the Count thanked the young lady for all her duties.
Colonel Daniel Brewer 1829-1895

He owned and operated the first hotel in 1861 atop Brewer Mountain which became Green Mountain which became Cadillac Mountain, near Bar Harbor Maine, The city of Brewer, Maine is named for him.

Colonel Daniel Brewer, pince nez, courtesy of Bar Harbor Historical Society, Maine

courtesy of Bar Harbor Historical Society, Maine.



Pince nez




Emily Elizabeth Dickinson 1830-1886 An American poet., she lived a mostly introverted and reclusive life. After she studied at the Amherst Academy for seven years in her youth, she spent a short time at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary before returning to her family's house in Amherst. Thought of as an eccentric by the locals, most of her friendships were actually carried out by correspondence Of the several pairs of eyeglasses located at the museum, this pair was most likely the one she wore, Emily Dickinson Museum
From the daguerreotype taken at Mount Holyoke, December 1846 or early 1847. It is the only authenticated portrait of Emily Dickinson later than childhood, Wikipedia
Emily Dickenson House Octagonal frame, adjustable sides, likely gold, red leather and cardboard case missing its flap We are not 100 % certain of the provenance of these glasses
His Majesty Emperor Franz-Joseph I 1830-1916 Of the Habsburg Dynasty, Emperor of Austria and King of Bohemia from 1848 until 1916, and Apostolic King of Hungary from 1867 until 1916. His 68 years on the throne makes him one of the longest-serving monarchs in European history, and while his heir Karl took over for two years upon his death in 1916, Franz Joseph is clearly the last of the great Habsburg monarchs. His Majesty Emperor Franz-Joseph I: Canadian-style pince nez
spectacles made by Waldstein

From DurchBliche, by Fritz Faber (Timm)


Zeiss Oberkochen

Pince nez used during official moments.


spectacles made by Waldstein

Louisa May Alcott 1832-1888 An American author best known for the novel Little Women  published in 1868. This novel is loosely based on her childhood experiences with her three sisters. She was a strong advocate of 19th century reforms Spectacles of Louisa May Alcott, resting atop Miss Alcott's portable writing desk, circa 1875, photo credit L. M. Alcott Memorial Association/Orchard House, Concord, MA Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House Steel, oval frame, scroll bridge, with thin straight sides  
Charles George Gordon
Martyr of Khartoum
1833-1885 Known as” Chinese” Gordon, Gordon Pasha, and Gordon of Khartoum, he was a British army officer and administrator. He is remembered for his exploits in China and northern Africa.

The Chinese Emperor promoted Gordon to the rank of titu, the
highest grade in the Chinese army, and decorated him with the
Yellow Jacket. The British Army promoted Gordon to lieutenant-
colonel and he was made a Companion of the Bath. 

Chinese Gordon as Governor of Sudan, from Wikipedia Silver oval frame eyeglasses of Gordon of Khartoom with turn-pin sides “Colonel Gordon, RA, Woolwich” Noted on Ebay Hallmarked silver, London 1852 and engraved Colonel Gordon, Woolwich Major-General Henry William Gordon (1786-1865) was his father   so who did these actually belong to although it was likely the son.

Of special note also is the fact that Charleton Heston played his
character in the 1966 movie “Khartoum”.

Mark Twain

1835- 1910

Better known by his pen name, Mark Twain. He was a famous and popular American humorist, novelist, writer and lecturer.

Mark Twain glasses, The Mark Twain House and Museum, Hartford, CTMark Twain, from a Barnes & Noble mural, Gary Kelley, Illustrator

The Mark Twain House and Museum

Made from cellulose nitrate, circa 1909

The family states that these were Twain’s last eyeglasses

Countess Lisa de Odoardi Spina

1836- ?

In 1862 she married Baron Pietro Pallone (1832-1923). He was a magistrate in Florence, a high government official and at the end of his career he became the President of Court of Appeal of Naples.

Countess Lisa de Odoardi Spina lorgnette back, written Casa Cellini, an important 19th century school for jewelersCountess Lisa de Odoardi Spina lorgnette front, signed M. Meli on one side

Private collection

Fancy elaborate gold and enamel lorgnette

The arms on the lorgnette are her family's ones.

Maurice Koechlin


Engineer who designed the Eiffel Tower

Maurice Koechlin with his pince nez, wax statue, top of the Eiffel Tower, Paris

On display at the top of the Eiffel Tower

Pince nez


Claude Monet


French impressionist painter. Cataracts formed in both of his eyes for which he underwent two surgeries in 1923

Claude Monet lunettes, Musee Marmottan Monet

Musee  Marmottan  Monet 

These cataract glasses supposedly have very high astigmatism, and measurements are currently being analyzed. Results pending

These are also seen in  The Eye of the Artist  by Marmor and Ravin

Pierre-Auguste Renoir 1841-1919 French artist and a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist Style pince-nez Heritage Auctions, New York, Sept 2013 Auction pince-nez  
Alexander Franklin James 1843-1915 Frank James was an American outlaw and the older brother of Jesse James Frank James eyeglasses, from 1888
Frank James, Wikipedia
Noted on EBay Oval frame, steel, with thin straight sides, in an open leather and cardboard case  
Robert Todd Lincoln 1843-1926 Born first son of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Ann Todd. He was the only one of President Lincoln's four sons to reach adulthood. Became Chairman of the largest corporation in America at the turn of the 19th century. Robert Todd Lincoln: Brady-Handy photo, circa 1870-1880, Wikipedia Robert Todd Lincoln: circa after 1870’s, from a private California collection Robert Todd Lincoln: early 20th century plastic eyeglass frame, Hildene Brady-Handy portrait photo, c. 1870-80, Wikipedia

Private collection


Thin wire, scroll bridge

Round frame, Plastic from late in his life

First pair had been described as Abraham Lincoln's but they have a scroll bridge and were made after Lincoln was assassinated

Sarah Bernhardt


French stage actress

Sarah Bernhardt lorgnettes (3) with intricate openwork handle, first is ruby encasedSarah Bernhardt minus 10 monocle Sarah Bernhardt lorgnette with a built in watch Sara Bernhardt, painted by Mrs. Louise Abbens, 1875, Carnavalet Museum, Paris

Pierre Marly’s book

Antique gold-rimmed lorgnette with a built in watch, antique gold-rimmed lorgnettes (3) with intricate openwork handle, first is ruby encased, finally a minifier

She was a high (-10) myope.

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