I was walking in town yesterday afternoon, and met this young, beautiful lady who was wearing stunning sun glasses. She has been on my mind since, but what really caught my attention were the sun glasses. This made me wonder, who invented sun glasses? I therefore did a little research and found the following.
James Ayscough, a designer and inventor, was the first person to create eyeglasses in 1752. He created eyeglasses with a blue or green tint. However, it was Sam Foster who mass-produced sun glasses from celluloid in 1929. Foster found a ready market on the beaches of Atlantic City, New Jersey. This is where he began selling sunglasses under the name Foster Grant from a Woolworth on the Boardwalk.
These sunglasses were made to protect people’s eyes from the sun’s rays. Polarized sunglasses first became available in 1936, when Edwin H. Land began using his patented Polaroid filter when making sunglasses.
Why did Sam Foster invent sunglasses?
None of these innovations did much to protect the eyes in bright sunlight, however. Even the inventor commonly credited with developing tinted lenses, James Ayscough in 1752, wasn’t interested in sun protection. He thought green and blue-tinted lenses would correct impaired vision.
Along came Sam Foster, who had co-founded his firm in Leominster, Mass., to produce women’s hair accessories. It turned out that the newfangled plastic injection molding technology used in such products was also perfect for sunglasses’ frames. That breakthrough came in handy when a trend toward shorter women’s hairstyles also abbreviated Foster Grant’s profits.
Sam Foster Genealogy – Birth of Sun Glass Business
According to genealogy research by Foster’s relative, Samuel L. Foster Jr. was born in Skala, Austria, a suburb of Vienna, on June 22, 1883, to an Ashkenazi Jewish family with Russian roots.
His parents were Samuel Carl Foster and Fanny (Frieda) Talchinsky, though “Foster” was probably not the family’s original name.
According to the 1920 US census, which shows Sam Foster in the “celluloid” business, he immigrated in 1896 and was naturalized in 1915.
Foster’s first enterprise, producing fireworks, literally blew up on him. After learning the plastics trade with the Viscoloid Co., he struck out on his own again with salesman William Grant.
That partnership lasted only a few months, the story goes, but finances were so tight Foster couldn’t afford to change the company name.
A lucrative account producing plastic dice for Kresge stores saved the business until sunglasses came along.