Saturday, January 29, 2011

A pair of vintage sun glasses

James Ayscough made the first sunglasses in the 18th century.  He found that glasses with green or blue-tinted lenses would correct vision related disparities but his discovery was not focusing on protecting the eyes from the sun's rays.  Transformation of sunglasses happened when they were introduced in America by Sam Foster, in 1929. His new glasses were aimed at protecting eyes from the rays of the sun. He started selling his sunglasses on the beaches of Atlantic City, New Jersey, under the name Foster Grant. Sunglasses became popular since the 1930s.  Click here for some information.

Sunglasses were available in India in the late 19th century.  My then-30-year-old great grandfather had ordered three pairs, probably together with his friends. The year was 1898 when he was a Munsiff in Chickmagalur.  I wonder how they came to know of its availability with dealers in those times.  People do business nowadays on the web!  Imagine those times how they had to advertise, how they had to correspond with hand-written letters and how the postman was so important!

This one was procured from an Optician, B.Kristnaswami Chetty, Narayana Modelly Street, Madras (now Chennai) through a certain A.G.Thing who was Principal at Shimoga College, Shimoga. Three pairs for Twenty one Rupees!  21 was a lot of money in those days. It carries no  maker's name, surprisingly.  But I guess they came from England as many such things came from there in those days of British rule.  

Bill dated March 11, 1898. Click on the picture to enlarge. Do not miss to notice the 'One Anna Government of Mysore revenue stamp' to authenticate the bill and the stamp pictures Queen Victoria. 

The description of the glasses supplied is interesting to read. It is very precise and does not seem to miss any important specification!  It says: 

“Three pairs of superior smoked neutral tinted crest pillared half-crape side eye-preservers with nikel silver turn-pin frame”!  

However, the only aspects missed are the shape of the glass and the material used for ‘side eye preservers’ which is actually of leather.  Let me explain:

This is "smoked neutral tinted" (very mild)

Crest pillared

Half-crape side eye preservers (leather)

Nickel silver turn-pin frame (Inset picture - 'posing author')

My great grandfather and later my grandfather too used it and still survives for the 113th  year.  I have no idea of its carry case or box in which it was supplied with, but I've preserved it in my father's spectacle case.  

I have used it occasionally in the past, one memorable occasion being the bicycle expedition to Somanathpur (blog linked - click on it) in 1979 when my friends made fun of my looks.  But they protected my eyes from the extremely stiff breeze that we encountered esp. on a greater part of our return journey of about 30 kilometres.  

Sunglasses were not in such rage in that time as it has become now.  My friends probably likened my looks to that of a blind man, what with a panama hat to top it!  A picture would have been fun to see now, but....

The sun is always harsh in summer but I reckon that the glare is becoming more disconcerting in the last decade or two or so.  There was a great desire for me to get a pair of Ray-Ban which was fulfilled about 15 years ago and it was a major purchase project. This is called the Aviator model. 

(Image from the Net)

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