19th Century Straight Temples

Eyeglasses Warehouse offers antique straight temple glasses made between the 1830s and early 1900s in a variety of frame styles and materials. Each pair of glasses is ready to be warn, with only minor age-related markings. These are the original 19th century straight temples, crafted over 150 years ago.

Historically used for reading, embroidery, or other similar pastimes, our straight temple glasses are ready to be fitted with prescription lenses, magnification lenses, tinted lenses, clear lenses for reenactors, or just added to your collection. As a rarer frame style, our selection of straight temple eyeglasses changes as we locate new pieces so we encourage you to check back regularly to find the right pair.

About Our Authentic Straight Temple Glasses

Straight temple glasses were the equivalent of today’s reading glasses. As the name suggests, the temple piece of these spectacles was straight, extending from the lens frame without a curve to fit them over the ear.

Manufacturers introduced straight temple glasses in 1833. These glasses were machine made, offering a more affordable solution for those in need of glasses. They were worn by both men and women primarily during reading, letter writing, embroidery, and other stationary tasks. This was due to the fact that the straight temple would not hold the glasses while the wearer was moving.

Even activities around the home like walking or cooking would often result in straight temple glasses falling off. People who wished to wear these glasses while moving would generally tie the arms together behind their head with a string.

Straight temple glasses with colored lenses served as sunglasses. Although not suitable for outdoor exercise, they offered protection for sensitive eyes when sitting outside. Doctors of the time also purported the health benefits of different colored glasses lenses, which could be added to straight temple glasses and worn frequently for that reason.

When made with colored lenses, straight temple glasses could be designed as sharpshooter glasses. The lenses of shooting glasses were frosted except for a small circle in the center. A yellow or orange lens was most popular as it provided better contrast when looking at the sky, such as when the wearer was shooting birds. There is some debate, however, regarding whether sharpshooter glasses were indeed used in hunting or were only for everyday wear as sunglasses.

Like other glasses of the time, straight temple glasses had small lenses. Producing large lenses was cost prohibitive with the lens grinding capabilities of the era. Additionally, glasses were not yet a stylish accessory and smaller lenses were less likely to stand out on the face.

Straight temple glasses were made of a variety of metals or tortoiseshell. Popular metals included for these glasses include:

  • Brass Glasses
  • Gold Glasses
  • Silver Glasses
  • Blued Steel Glasses
  • Common Steel Glasses

The frames could also be metal plated instead of pure metal. Oval was the most common lens shape, with octagonal or square as alternatives. The wire frames surrounding the lenses were almost always thin.

By the end of the 1800s, straight temple glasses were out of style. This was largely due to the introduction of spring steel which was easily shapeable. Creating a curve to keep eyeglasses securely on the wearer’s face was now inexpensive, leaving little need for straight temple frames, although some manufacturers continued to produce these glasses until 1920.

We provide straight temple eyeglasses for collectors, those that want a unique pair of eyeglasses, or any other use. They are also very popular for Civil War reenactors. Since our glasses are antiques, they are an authentic part of your uniform or period attire. For costumers, props masters, and others working in theater or film, the distinct look of straight temple glasses is a quality addition to many productions.

There are two main challenges when selecting period accurate straight temple glasses to wear. The first is rarity. Because these glasses did not easily stay on, their use was limited and it was not uncommon for the frames to be melted down to reclaim the valuable gold or silver. This leaves us with fewer straight temple glasses in existence than other styles.

The second challenge is fit. The smaller lenses and general eyeglass style during the majority of the 1800s meant that straight frame glasses were only about two-thirds the width of the face as opposed to the full width glasses that became common in the 1900s. When coupled with the smaller average stature of men and women in the 19th century versus today, it can require some searching to find a pair that fits your face.

At Eyeglasses Warehouse, we are dedicated to procuring an expanding inventory of these rarer eyeglasses in a range of fits and styles. All of our straight temple glasses are original frames dating to the 1800s, making them perfect for Civil War and Victorian era reenactors or those looking for an interesting historical addition to their daily wardrobe. Browse our website to find a unique pair of straight temple glasses today or check back as we update our selection.