Safety goggles have had a longer history than most people realize, and some in the form of Windsor eyeglasses date back to the first years of the 20th century. In fact, a French medieval helmet has been found with clear mica in the visors, or “vision slits”, to keep splintered lances or the knives of opponents from finding their way through. Vintage Safety glasses only became widespread in the 19th century, though, and even at that time, it was limited to a few lucky workers, as well as early motor car drivers.
Several different substances were used to make safety glass lenses fro vintage eyeglasses in the immediate wake of the American Civil War, at a point when industrialization was taking hold rapidly and more people than ever were being exposed to potentially blinding factory processes. The materials used included mica – which was also called “isinglass”, and was used for covering peepholes in early Model T Ford cars – and “marine glass”. These safety glasses, which already had a Windsor eyeglasses-like configuration, were rare and expensive, however.
The early 20th century witnessed the creation of the first effective, mass-produced safety antique eyeglasses. These were created by (or under the direction of) Walter King, the inheritor of the Julius King Optical Company of Cleveland from his father. King was motivated by seeing the massive orders for glass eyes in the industrial cities of the United States, indicating the high rate at which factory workers were being maimed by dangerous industrial processes.