Antique Eyewear from McAllister: America’s First Eyeglasses Maker

Antique glasses from the 1800s are both a collectors’ item and a piece of wearable history. Dating almost 200 years old, McAllister glasses are some of the most historic glasses of the 19th century, representing the first glasses sold in the U.S.

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 At Eyeglasses Warehouse, we offer antique glasses from the 1800s, and from time to time may have rare antique McAllister glasses available here on our website.

About John McAllister – The Founder of American Optometry

John McAllister is a memorable name in the world of American eyeglasses. When he opened his optical shop in 1799 in Philadelphia, it was likely the first such shop in the young country. McAllister imported glasses from Europe and supplied well-known politicians and statesmen at the time. He was President Thomas Jefferson’s optician and created lenses and bifocals designed by Jefferson at the President’s request.

McAllister’s sales to the general public were interrupted by the War of 1812 between Britain and America when trade embargos made importing glasses nearly impossible. Instead, McAllister began to make his own glasses in 1815. These early American made glasses included the first lens for astigmatism, and came in increasingly diversified styles including:

  • Straight Temple Spectacles
  • Sliding Temple Spectacles
  • Turn Pin Spectacles

The materials for these glasses included gold, coin silver, and early steel.

There was soon plenty of competition in America with over 300 optical shops by the 1820s, and the McAllister brand eventually went under. But the early role John McAllister played in American optics has led many to consider him the father of American optometry, and his spectacles are highly sought after.

Glasses from the early 1800s are a great authentic addition to a reenacting outfit, stage, or film costume. You may also like them as a display piece or slip them on for a one-of-a-kind accessory to an everyday outfit. All of the antique glasses we offer on our site can have the lenses professionally replaced by an optician to work with modern prescriptions or sunglass lenses.

For more 1800s glasses, you can also check out our selection of Civil War era spectacles. We also recommend bookmarking our site and checking back often to be the first to know about new inventory.

Experience timeless elegance with our McAllister eyeglasses collection at Eyeglasses Warehouse. If you appreciate classic eyewear, discover the refined and sophisticated allure of “Silver Glasses.” Immerse yourself in the details that make McAllister frames a statement of enduring style. Trust Eyeglasses Warehouse for quality eyewear, including silver glasses that capture the essence of timeless elegance.

Learn about the McAllister glasses and their unique characteristics. Explore the McAllister collection, including frames with distinctive details like the sophistication of lorgnette eyeglasses, to discover eyewear that combines style with functional design.