M981.49.3.1 | Railway glasses

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Railway glasses
1880-1900, 19th century
2.3 x 10.5 cm
Gift of St. Peter's Church
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Eyeglasses (2)
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Keys to History

Not very developed until then, the eyewear industry expanded rapidly during the second half of the 19th century.

The spectacles of the 1860s were small and elliptical, and the frames were sometimes of steel or silver. The style, sizes and materials became more diversified starting in the 1890s.

These train spectacles had little screens on the sides to protect the eyes not only from insects, dust and wind gusts, but also from the ashes from the locomotive which came into the coaches through the open windows. The glasses are tinted green, a very common colour for glasses in the 19th century, along with blue. During this period, some experts strongly recommended this type of coloured lenses, while others claimed that they were harmful to eyesight.

  • What

    The tinted lenses had the advantage of providing protection against the sun's rays.

  • Where

    This type of glasses was used to protect the eyes from the dust, ashes and wind that came in through the open windows of trains.

  • When

    Actual sunglasses would not really be fashionable until the late 1930s.

  • Who

    In the 19th century, certain women who cared about their appearance would never dare to appear in public wearing glasses, thinking that they made them look ugly.