How Sunwear Became Funwear: Optical Heritage Museum

By Ted Gioia
Monday, May 13, 2019 12:00 AM In a 1916 article published by American Optical, chemist H.T. Reeve marveled over an exciting new technology: tinted glass lenses. But this scientist, for all his enthusiasm, was forced to admit that few people really wanted to wear sunwear. These lenses would never get dispensed, he explained, “unless those prescribing them were convinced that such glasses were a necessary and beneficial precaution.”

How Sunwear Became Funwear

By Ted Gioia
Friday, April 26, 2019 11:37 AM In a 1916 article published by American Optical, chemist H.T. Reeve marveled over an exciting new technology: tinted glass lenses. But this scientist, for all his enthusiasm, was forced to admit that few people really wanted to wear sunwear. These lenses would never get dispensed, he explained, “unless those prescribing them were convinced that such glasses were a necessary and beneficial precaution.”

When Vision Care Disrupted Hollywood

By Ted Gioia
Monday, December 17, 2018 12:30 AM Hollywood needed something exciting in the 1950s to compete with the newfangled home entertainment gadgets, from television to hi-fi record players, keeping people out of movie theaters. In an unprecedented move, studios turned to a vision care company for help—specifically to American Optical (now part of Carl Zeiss Vision). The result of this unusual partnership would change the course of cinema history.

When Vision Care Disrupted Hollywood

By Ted Gioia
Wednesday, November 21, 2018 1:08 PM Hollywood needed something exciting in the 1950s to compete with the newfangled home entertainment gadgets, from television to hi-fi record players, keeping people out of movie theaters. In an unprecedented move, studios turned to a vision care company for help—specifically to American Optical (now part of Carl Zeiss Vision). The result of this unusual partnership would change the course of cinema history.

How the Eyecare Profession Saw the Light About UV

By Ted Gioia

Thursday, November 1, 2018 12:26 PM A century ago, many believed UV exposure was good for vision. It took decades of research and investment to raise awareness of the real risks. Today, the hazards of ultraviolet light are well known. Surveys show that 90 percent of respondents take some steps to protect themselves from the dangers of the sun, even if it’s just putting on a hat and rubbing sunscreen on their body. There’s still too much risky behavior—just count the number of tanning salons in your hometown if you doubt it—but UV awareness is one of the success stories in preventive health care.

When Artist Norman Rockwell Worked for American Optical

By Ted Gioia, Contributing Editor


Thursday, September 27, 2018 9:10 PM In 2014, Sotheby’s auction house sold a painting by artist Norman Rockwell for $1.3 million dollars. Close observers of the work, which depicts two gentlemen playing cards, noticed a strange detail. In the lower right-hand corner, above the artist’s signature, they saw two mysterious letters in boldface: a capital A linked to a capital O.

High Tech Driving Vision: Then and Now

By Ted Gioia

Friday, September 7, 2018 11:57 AM Ask someone today about high tech eyewear, and they will probably mention Google Glass. But do they know that 100 years ago, the most high tech eyewear was goggle glasses? Or that the emergence of the auto had as much impact on eyewear as the invention of the computer—and is still changing it today? The rise of the automobile altered almost every aspect of American life. The first generation of motorists enjoyed new freedoms unknown to their parents, but perhaps the strangest story of all is how the auto changed eyewear—and how, in turn vision needs changed the automobile.

Teaching the World How to See

By Ted Gioia
Wednesday, August 1, 2018 1:23 PM Where do you turn to for information on protecting your eyesight? That’s an easy question nowadays. Medical information is everywhere. In fact, people are inundated with it on the web and TV. A simple Google search on “eyecare” comes back with more than 30 million results. Health care companies keep adding to this by spending billions on direct-to-consumer advertising each year.

Bringing Vision Technology to the Scene of the Crime

By Ted Gioia
Friday, July 6, 2018 12:19 PM What technology had the greatest impact in improving driver safety? No, it’s isn’t anti-lock brakes or power steering or even air bags. In fact, the most important device for ensuring a safe trip is the one that doesn’t even come as part of the standard equipment of any automobile. You can’t miss them—they’re right in front of your eyes. It’s your glasses.

Making Glasses Cool for Kids: A Hundred Year History

By Ted Gioia, Contributing Editor
Monday, June 11, 2018 12:00 AM How do you get youngsters to wear glasses? In 1927, an eyecare company entered the movie business to do just that. In the same year that Hollywood released the earliest “talking film,” American Optical distributed a three-minute movie showing the facial expressions of a young girl putting on glasses for the first time.

From Aviators to Astronauts: The History of Sunglasses for People Who Live Dangerously

By Ted Gioia

Friday, June 1, 2018 2:11 PM When you think of aviator sunglasses, maybe you envision Tom Cruise, who wore them in the movie Top Gun. Or, depending on your age and tastes, you might associate them with Hugh Jackman in X-Men, Al Pacino in Scarface, or Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City.

Making Glasses Cool for Kids: A Hundred Year History

By Ted Gioia
Thursday, May 3, 2018 3:56 PM How do you get youngsters to wear glasses? In 1927, an eyecare company entered the movie business to do just that. In the same year that Hollywood released the earliest ‘talking’ film, American Optical distributed a three-minute movie showing the facial expressions of a young girl putting on glasses for the first time.

Estelle Glancy, First Lady of Optics

By Ted Gioia
Thursday, April 5, 2018 3:56 PM During her entire career, she was the only female scientist in the field of eyewear lens design. Now, forty years after her death, Glancy is starting to get recognition for her innovative work. Women have faced a glass ceiling in many fields, but the glass ceiling in glasses may have been the toughest to break through. During the first half of the twentieth century, only one woman managed to overcome the obstacles and rise to the top in the field of eyewear lens design, Dr. Estelle Glancy.

The Long, Scary History of Driving Without Vision Correction

By Ted Gioia
Friday, March 2, 2018 11:17 AM How well do you need to see in order to drive a car? In the early days of driving in the U.S., licenses to operate a motor vehicle could be purchased for fifty cents, no vision tests required. Looking back, it’s easy to laugh at the laxness of these rules. But government officials were hardly qualified to administer eye exams. Writer Ted Gioia tells the story of how eyeglasses went from driving accessory to driving necessity.

 

How Eyeglasses Became a Lifestyle Accessory

By Ted Gioia
Thursday, February 1, 2018 11:11 AM Welcome to Deja View, a new series of VMAIL Weekend articles that looks at eyewear and optical history from a contemporary perspective. To kick off the series, author and optical industry consultant Ted Gioia shares his observations about products and dispensing trends from past decades—some of which were startlingly modern—and illustrates them with vintage ads and displays drawn from the archives of the Optical Heritage Museum in Southbridge, Mass. See how these historic images reveal how eyeglasses changed from a medical device to a consumer lifestyle enhancement.