Sunday, May 20, 2012

"Here's looking at you, kid."

Ah...Casablanca...Rick's toast to Ilsa, "Here's looking at you, kid", used several times, is not in the draft screenplays but has been attributed to something Bogart said to Bergman as he taught her poker between takes.  It was voted the 5th most memorable line in cinema in AFI's 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes by the American Film Institute.

We are getting ready to look at you in the shop!  We have an array of all kinds of fun "stuff"...retro, vintage, antique.  What started me on the looking at you was a display my design elf created with some old glasses I acquired in one of those buy it all auction moments.  These are vintage Hong Kong glasses...some with cases...and they are powerful!  The owner probably could have seen Alaska from Hong Kong...

Anyway, it got me thinking about glasses.  I have worn them for over 50 years, and I really never considered the history.  The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, or Romans did not have them.  In a letter written by a Roman about 100 B.C.,  he stressed his resignation to old age and his complaint that he could no longer read for himself, having instead to rely on his slaves. Further research uncovered that the Roman tragedian Seneca, born in about 4 B.C., is alleged to have read "all the books in Rome" by peering at them through a glass globe of water to produce magnification. Nero used an emerald held up to his eye while he watched gladiators fight. This is not proof that the Romans had any idea about lenses since it is likely that Nero used the emerald because of its green color, which filtered the sunlight. Ptolemy mentions the general principle of magnification,  but the lenses then available were unsuitable for use in precise magnification.

Around 1000 A. D. the reading stone, what we know as a magnifying glass, was developed. It was a segment of a glass sphere that could be laid against reading material to magnify the letters. It enabled presbyopic monks to read and was probably the first reading aid. The Venetians learned how to produce glass for reading stones, and later they constructed lenses that could be held in a frame in front of the eyes instead of directly on the reading material.

It is not clear who really invented the reading glasses, but
 early spectacles had convex lenses that could correct the presbyopia (farsightedness) that commonly develops as a symptom of aging. Nicholas of Cusa is believed to have discovered the benefits of concave lens in the treatment of myopia (nearsightedness). However, it was not until 1604 that Johannes Kepler published in his treatise on optics and astronomy, the first correct explanation as to why convex and concave lenses could correct presbyopia and myopia.

Benjamin Franklin, who suffered from both myopia and presbyopia, invented bifocals in 1784 to avoid having to regularly switch between two pairs of glasses. The first lenses for correcting astigmatism were constructed by the British astronomer George Airy in 1827.

 Early eyepieces were designed to be either held in place by hand or by exerting pressure on the nose (pince-nez).  The modern style of glasses, held by temples passing over the ears, was developed in 1727 by the British optician Edward Scarlett. These designs were not immediately successful, however, and various styles with attached handles such as scissors glasses and lorgnettes remained fashionable throughout the eighteenth and into the early nineteenth century.

In the 19th century the responsibility of choosing the correct lens lay with the customer. Even when the optician was asked to choose, it was often on a rather casual basis. Spectacles were still available from travelling salesmen. J. C. Bloom, writing in 1940, described the method of fitting glasses in the Western part of the United States in 1889, when he first went into practice: "When a person came in to get a pair of glasses, you would look him over, ask his age, and then reach into one of the boxes that had the mounted goods and you would-reach from box to box until the patient said he could see. He would ask what the price was, and it was anywhere from $150 to $5."

 A short paragraph in the "Optical Journal" of 1901 warned against peddlers: "If you value your eyesight, you will place no confidence in the statements of tramps who go from house to house selling spectacles. They will tell you your eyes are diseased and nothing but their electric or magnetised glasses will save you from blindness. Such talk is an insult to your intelligence."

At the beginning of the 20th century, Dr. Norburne Jenkins wrote in the "Optical Journal": "Wearing spectacles or eyeglasses out of doors in always a necessity, but glasses are very disfiguring to women and girls. Most tolerate them because they are told that wearing them all the time is the only way to keep from having serious eye trouble. If glasses are all right, they will seldom or never have to be worn in public".

Despite this statement, a variety of glasses and optical aids were available and were worn in public. Spectacles with large round lenses and tortoise shell frames became the fashion around 1914.
Here is Stephen Vincent Benet.  The time had now come when "the average human disfigurement, often an injury, seldom a person, instead of being ashamed that his eyes are on the blink, actually seems to be proud of it". The enormous round spectacles and the pince-nez continued to be worn in the twenties. In the thirties there was increased emphasis on style in glasses with a variety of spectacles available. Meta Rosenthal wrote in 1938 that the pince-nez was still being worn by dowagers, headwaiters, old men, and a few others. The monocle was worn by only a minority in the United States. Sunglasses, however, became very popular in the late 30's.

I do have some interesting glasses from that Hong Kong creative shop designer creatively spun them into the rafters...look up!

 Not to mention a rhinestone pair...and the traditional "granny" glasses...
and, as Ann Landers once wrote,
“Rose-colored glasses are never made in bifocals. Nobody wants to read the small print in dreams.”

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