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.
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.