Friday, August 29, 2008

August 29 - Friday From The Collectors

WOMEN WEARING GLASSES

Eyeglasses have a strong claim to be the invention that has brought
the most aid and comfort to human beings. Yet it is curious
that the name of their inventor is not certainly known,
nor the exact date of the invention.
~ A Spectacle of Spectacles ~

LINDA PALMER

Collecting old photographs of women wearing glasses is my passion. I never met one I didn't want. Over the last twenty years I have accumulated a wide variety of these lovely photographs. Some are priceless, others called my name from the dusty confines of various antique shops. All of my treasures give me personal satisfaction. Now I'd like to share that passion with everyone. This will not be a discussion of eye ware or its history. It is a celebration of those brave women wearing glasses.

So why women wearing glasses you ask? I wear glasses now and always have. As a child my glasses were very "red," my favorite color at the time. As I got older I had a different color for each outfit and now I buy hand-painted frames from local artists. Glasses have always been my fashion accessory.

I own many books written about glasses and they have several things in common. There are photographs of glasses with no one wearing them and there are drawings of people wearing glasses. None of my many books contain photographs of people actually wearing glasses. I wanted to know what real people looked like wearing their glasses from the early 1800s to about 1930. So I started my quest.

Two Pince Nez
American Optical Company
c 1915
Eyeware


Unknown artist
Blindness
c. 1810

A Spectacle of Spectacles


The first thing I realized was that I had no problem finding photographs of men wearing glasses. They were everywhere. Wearing glasses for men was viewed similarly to that of a man being overweight, it was a sign of prosperity. Far too easy a hunt I reasoned. Where were the women?

Gentleman Wearing Glasses
Cabinet Card
Mayes
Unknown
Author's Collection
(spectacles)

Women wearing glasses are difficult, but not impossible to find. Although glasses have been around for quite some time, women wearing them have not. Glasses, you see, were for elderly women, a product of their age. Young women had one goal in life - to be beautiful so they would make an advantageous marriage and glasses did not enhance their beauty. Men felt there was no beauty in a young women wearing glasses, rather it was a sign that the woman felt herself equal to men. Women were discouraged from wearing glasses and sometimes even forbidden to wear glasses. God forbid a woman was able to see what she was doing.

Mature Woman Wearing Glasses
Cabinet Card
Dore
Unknown
Author's Collection
(spectacles)

The photographers themselves had a great deal to do with why there were so few photographs of women wearing glasses. Most photographers considered themselves artists in the same sense as old world painters and glasses played no part in their artistic vision. They often asked women to remove their glasses. They complained of the glare from the glasses when taking a photograph. I do find it strange that there was no glare from the glasses men were wearing.

I like a challenge, so I decided to collect women wearing glasses. Once the collection grew
I knew I had to write a book to show those real women wearing glasses. The collection and the book became one, My Blind Passion.

My collection numbers several hundred examples of women wearing glasses. Below is probably the earliest photograph I own of a woman wearing glasses. It is a daguerreotype, of which I have three. The woman looks as if taking her portrait was very painful.

Photographer Unknown
Portrait of a seated woman. ca 1850
Sixth Plate Cased daguerreotype. Author's collection.
The case is covered with brown leather
and lined with red velvet.
(spectacles)

I also have one ambrotype and one tintype of a woman wearing glasses. As I only have one of each I'm sure you won't mind if I save them for the book. The bulk of my collection are Cartes de Visite, Cabinet Cards, and card mounted photographs. The following are examples of the different types of photographs I own.

Carte de Visite
Carte de Visite
O. E. Mitchell's
Lowell, Mass.
c. 1862
Author's Collection
(spectacles)

~::~

Cabinet Card

Cabinet Card
Allis
Unknown
Author's Collection
(spectacles)


~::~

Card Mounted Photograph


Card Mounted Photograph
Unknown
c. 1897
Author's Collection
(pince nez)

~::~

Mass Produced French Postcard

Postcard
Unknown
c. 1907
Author's Collection
(lorgnette)

~::~

Real Photo Postcard RPPC

RPPC
Unknown
1914
Author's Collection
(pince nez)


~::~

Photo Booth Card


Photo Booth Unknown c. 1915
Author's Collection
(pince nez)

Each of the different types of photographs in the collection are broken down into sub-categories. For example, infants, children, mothers and children, vignette, sitting, standing, communion, graduation, wedding, and occupation to name a few.

One of the categories I identify as glamour shots. Attractive women dressed elegantly and brave enough to wear those glasses.

Card Mounted Photograph
Erickson
Unknown

Author's Collection
(pince nez)


Another category is the weird strange and unusual. Below the young woman has tied herself to the fashion trends of her time even when they were not flattering and she wears those glasses.

Cabinet Card
Thayer

Unknown

Author's Collection
(pince nez)

One of the more exciting sub-categories of women wearing glasses, actually doesn't involve the wearing. Instead it is photographs of women who are holding their glasses, or who have pinned their glasses to their clothing. Below is a Carte de Visite of a Civil War era woman holding her glasses in her hand (see inset).

Directly below the inset is a photograph of a woman who has attached her glasses to her clothing. These are very difficult to find.

Carte de Visite
Hobson Brothers
Unknown
Author's Collection
(spectacles)




Next is one of my favorite sub-categories, an infant wearing glasses. Just as today we place a baby in a cooking pot, put a chef's hat on their head, hand them some spoons and take their picture, early parents played cute with their infants as well. Our little girl is wearing glasses and reading the newspaper. Infants wearing glasses either for fun or function are difficult to acquire.

Cabinet Card
Fellows
Unknown

Author's Collection
(spectacles)

Equally difficult to find are children wearing glasses. The little girl is wearing pince nez (pinch on the nose glasses) attached with a cord. She poses with an umbrella under her arm and an exceptionally short hairstyle which could indicate illness or hair that just wouldn't grow.

Carte de Visite
J. C. Steinman
Unknown

Author's Collection
(pince nez)

Below is a photograph of a nurse wearing glasses. It depicts her wearing the clothing suitable for her particular field. Photographs that reflect job affiliated costumes are called occupational photographs. Other occupations where photographs of women wearing glasses can be found are school teacher, nanny, librarian, and nun. I have the school teacher, nanny, and librarian, I'm still searching for the nun.

Card Mounted Photograph
Jarvis
Unknown

Author's Collection
(pince nez)

Another sub-category of collecting in women wearing glasses is women holding opera glasses or binoculars. I have very few photographs of this category. The women with opera glasses are usually elegantly dressed; the opera glasses a prop to indicate their level of culture.

Cabinet Card
Miller and Williams
Jackson, Ohio
Author's Collection
(opera glasses)


A bride must have really needed her glasses to have her wedding photograph taken wearing them.

Card Mounted Photograph
Steihaug
Unknown
Author's Collection
(spectacles)


I also collect ephemera to compliment my collection of women wearing glasses. Below are two small, illustrated cards we now call trade cards advertising two opticians. By the 1880s, trade cards had become a major way of advertising America's products and services. The popularity of trade cards peaked around 1890, and then almost completely faded by the early 1900s when other forms of advertising in color became more cost effective.

Trade Card
Unknown

Author's Collection

Trade Card
Unknown

Author's Collection

Along with advertising I collect photographs of businesses that sold eyeglasses such as the one below that advertises "Spectacles & Eyeglasses" and "Eyes Examined Free." Often the sales of eyeglasses were combined with jewelers, watchmakers and the sale of silver. Eyeglasses were one of the top items stolen, as they were originally constructed of silver and gold.

Postcard RPPC
Unknown
c. 1904

Author's Collection

And now I close with my favorite photograph of a woman wearing glasses.


Recognize Her?

Article
Copyright © 2008
Linda Palmer

Sources:

Books:

Ochiali, Gli. Eyeware. New York: Chronicle Books, 1987.
Winkler, Wolf. A Spectacle of Spectacles.Germany: Eurfurt, 1988.

Photographs:


Gentleman Wearing Spectacles. Mayes (Cabinet Card). Unknown. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2008.

Mature Woman Wearing Spectacles. Dore (Cabinet Card). Unknown. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2008.

Woman Seated. Unknown (Daguerreotype). Unknown. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2008.

Woman. O.E. Mitchell (Carte de Visite). 1862. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2008.

Woman With Spectacles. Allis (Cabinet Card). Unknown. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2008.

Woman Pince Nez. Unknown (Card Mounted). 1897. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2008.

Woman Lorgnette. Unknown (Postcard). 1904. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2008.

Woman & Mirror. Unknown (RPPC). 1914. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2008.

Woman Several Photos. Unknown (Photo Booth). 1915. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2008.

Elegant Woman. Unknown (Card Mounted). Unknown. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2008.

Weird, Strange & Unusual. Thayer (Cabinet Card). Unknown. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2008.

Woman Holding Glasses. Hobson Brothers (Caret de Visite). 1862. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2008.

Infant. Fellows (Cabinet Card). Unknown. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2008.

Child Wearing Pince Nez. J. C. Steinman (Carte de Visite). Unknown. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2008.

Nurse. Jarvis (Card Mounted). Unknown. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2008.

Woman With Opera Glasses. Miller & Willias (Cabinet Card). Unknown. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2008.

Wedding. Steihaug (Card Mounted). Unknown. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2008.

Business. Unknown(Postcard). 1904. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2008.

19 Comments:

Blogger Sheri said...

fM,

Have you finally revealed yourself to us?

Sheri Fenley

August 29, 2008 at 5:20 AM  
Blogger Becky said...

Love the pictures! As always!! But something is missing (the picture of Linda is sans glasses). So where is the one of you wearing glasses?

August 29, 2008 at 9:22 AM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Sheri:

There is definitely a resemblance!

fM

August 29, 2008 at 10:28 AM  
Blogger Linda-Rae Palmer said...

Becky:

I only wear glasses when I read.

Today's are very reminiscent of my high school volleyball coach.

Linda

August 29, 2008 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger Lidian said...

It is hard to decide which photograph is my favorite but I do rather like the Thayer cabinet card lady with the hairstyle that looks like a monocle perched on top of her head!

I am saving my favorite eyeglass-wearing lady for a future carnival (probably Smile For the Camera) - my great great Aunt Lizzie.

The wearers of tinted eyeglasses would fit in perfectly with the blog title, BTW.

August 29, 2008 at 10:58 AM  
Blogger Linda-Rae Palmer said...

Lidian:

Looking forward to Lizzie online.

I have saved some of the most rare photographs for the book. I have only three with tinted glasses. One actual photograph with a lorgnette, and three with glasses in their cases on chains around the neck.

Fingers crossed - a book!

Linda

August 29, 2008 at 11:22 AM  
Blogger Terry Thornton said...

My Dear Ms Palmer,

What an excellent story you spin and what a lovely set of photographs of ladies with and without glasses. I am so happy that you talked the footnoteMaven into letting you write today's guest column. The two of you compliment each other so very much.

I am delighted to learn of your book about ladies wearing spectacles --- I'm sure it will be most well received. Thanks for reviewing it for us here at SHADES.

Thanks, MAVEN, for another excellent writer and guest --- this is the best one yet in my opinion.

My regards to you both,
Terry Thornton
Fulton, Mississippi
HILL COUNTRY OF MONROE COUNTY MISSISSIPPI

August 29, 2008 at 4:04 PM  
OpenID pastprologue said...

Linda,

How very nice to finally meet you. I've heard so much about you from footnoteMaven! Thanks for sharing. And I adore your collection (as a woman who wears glasses...but I take mine OFF to read).

Donner

August 29, 2008 at 4:37 PM  
Blogger Linda-Rae Palmer said...

Terry and Donner:

Thank you both for your very kind comments.

And let me just say that any friend of the footnoteMaven is a friend of mine.

Linder

August 29, 2008 at 7:29 PM  
Blogger Kathryn Doyle said...

Linda,

Your photographs reminded me of a book from my childhood in which a young woman (of your early twentieth century time frame) wore eyeglasses. It took me some time to remember and track her down - Carney Sibley of the Betsy-Tacy series. As I recall, "Carney's House Party" had several illustrations of Carney wearing her spectacles. She was special because she wore glasses (as did I) and as I recall none of my other fictional friends did. Thanks for bringing her back.

August 30, 2008 at 12:12 AM  
Blogger Jasia said...

Bravo! Bravo! Wonderful photos, wonderful story, wonderful author!

Your passion comes through loud and clear. How I'd love to see some of those artist-painted frames you speak of. I wear glasses (since 8th grade) but not just for reading. Shopping for new frames is as excruciating a chore for me as shopping for jeans or a swimsuit. The problem is I just don't like myself in glasses!

The next time I have to shop for frames I'll come back and review your article and maybe just maybe I'll be more inspired.

August 30, 2008 at 7:12 AM  
Blogger FamilyTwigs (Sheri Bush) said...

Linda! Love the photos. I can't wait to see the entire collection! I love the children!


(BTW, Shani thinks Linda is beautiful.)

Sheri

August 30, 2008 at 7:07 PM  
Blogger Nikki-ann said...

Thanks for sharing this with us, it's been a wonderful read. I'm now trying to think of ancestors and photos in which somebody is wearing glasses and I can only think of my Aunty Edna. One photo of her as a child showed reflection in her glasses and the photographer had made a comment on the back of the photo.

August 31, 2008 at 11:01 AM  
Anonymous Denise L said...

At last, the "back story" and a wonderful one it is! Thanks so very much for opening the door and sharing it with us, Linda/fM.

Your collection makes us "four-eyes" feel like we have a true heritage. Let the word out if you want to expand to the mid 20th century -- there are some real winners in my scrapbooks.

September 1, 2008 at 6:56 PM  
Blogger Msteri said...

Just saw this article! What a wonderful article! Can't wait for more! Thought I saw a pix a few weeks ago of Linda, but wasn't sure it was here! Hope everything is progressing nicely for a wonderful writer and genealogist!

Msteri

October 14, 2008 at 12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some great photos of women wearing a pince-nez.
You may use any of the few photos I have of women posted on flickr.com under pince-nez...the majority of photos in my collection are of young men wearing a pince-nez. You'll find some detailed historical info there as well.

Pince-nez eyeglasses were by far the most popular type of eyewear from the late 1880's until 1920, especially the rimless type.

Contrary to popular belief, a perfectly fitted pince-nez stayed securely and very comfortably attached to the bridge of the nose at all times. Pince-nez in that era were referred to most often as eyeglasses. Spectacles had arms or temples. Eyeglasses and Spectacles were unisex until the late 1930's.

May 21, 2009 at 9:27 AM  
Blogger catherine simms said...

Brilliant Article and Brilliant collection!
thank you!

May 22, 2009 at 1:49 AM  
Blogger Crystal said...

I found this very interesting. I was doing some research on a photograph I recently acquired where a young boy is wearing glasses. Here it is if you are interested. http://i1186.photobucket.com/albums/z379/crystalcurtis/old-photo.jpg

November 11, 2010 at 10:35 AM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

I love the photograph! Thank you so much.

November 12, 2010 at 10:09 AM  

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