July Treasure of the Month: Antique Eyeglasses


This month Rosenberg Library will exhibit an assortment of antique eyeglasses from its permanent collection. The glasses, which range in date from the early 1800s to the 1940s, were gifts of the following donors:  Rose Smith, Mrs. A.W. Dunham, Ethel B. Buckley, Mrs. W.B. Cook, Mrs. Edward R. Thompson, Lise Darst, and the Morgan Family.

Eyeglasses are believed to have originated in Italy during the late 13th century. Early glasses were essentially two magnifying glasses riveted together with an attached handle to hold in front of the eyes.

Frame styles, which included sides held in place behind the ears, emerged in the early 1700s and are still the most prevalent type used today. During the 19th century, a frameless style known as pince nez was popular. French for “pinch nose,” pince nez glasses were held in place by fitting snugly on the bridge of the wearer’s nose.

Prior to the 1940s, eyeglasses were considered more of a burden than a fashion statement. Glasses were often associated with physical frailty or old age. However, developments in the manufacture of plastics greatly influenced the eyewear industry. The use of plastic frames allowed for endless shape and color options. As a result, glasses evolved from a medical device into a style accessory. Today, many top fashion designers produce their own eyewear lines.

The Treasure of the Month is located on the second floor of the Rosenberg Library, 2310 Sealy Ave., near the East Entrance. It can be viewed during regular library hours, 9am-9pm, Monday-Thursday and 9am-6pm, Friday-Saturday. For more info contact the Museum Office at (409)763-8854 x 125 or go to rosenberg-library-museum.org.