product code : k5564 :
1920's/30's silver metal frame marked KING MODEL US
Original yellow glass lenses
The name King - stamped here on the reinforcing top bar - is
an important one in American eyewear. The family were early
silversmiths, watchmakers and jewellers, from Massachussetts
in the 1600's originally, then Ohio.
It was Julius King, born in
1835, who saw more opportunity in the frames sold in his
father's jewellery shop and became an MD after the Civil War.
He started the Julius King Optical Company, which was very
successful, with branches in New York and Chicago but it was
his son, Walter King, who joined the company in 1881, who
wanted to specialise in protective eyewear. Safety 'goggles'
were produced with AO in 1909 and in World War One they
were developing an oxygen mask for airforce pilots. The
glasses we have for sale though are likely to be driving 'goggles'
or glasses, the yellow lenses sharpening detail in overcast and
dimly lit conditions. The Henry Ford Museum has a Julius King
Optical Co. 'Auto Specialities' catalogue dating from 1900.
An AO automobile, sports and other eyewear catalogue from
1916, has some glasses on the front
very similar to this pair.
As you can see driving was more hazardous in those days with
less street lighting and the driver also vulnerable to the wind
throwing dust and dirt from unmade roads into an open top
vehicle. We have a distributor's catalogue from 1922 in our
own archives, which shows nearly exactly the same types of
motoring goggles as this pair. By the 1930's, such glasses were
changing shape to ellipses or 'faceform' types. Early 'aviators'.
Walter King became the first safety director at American Optical,
after they purchased JKO Co in 1925. As King was absorbed into
AO by 1925, we feel confident then that this King pair dates
from the early 1920's. A real Auto Speciality then.