Who invented sunglasses?
16th November 2015
Fans of the British TV drama Downton Abbey have always been quick to spot historical innacuracies in the series. This happened in one of the last episodes of the final series when several of the cast members were seen wearing sunglasses at a race track in 1926. And you can understand why many viewers felt the producers had "dropped a clanger" because it's always been widely accepted that Sam Foster, founder of Foster Grant, first introduced sunglasses in 1929. He is certainly credited with getting sunglasses into mass production. From selling his first pair on the 'Boardwalk' at Atlantic City in 1929 they immediately took off, helped in no small part by the quick adoption of several big movie stars of the day. However, W H Brock, Professor of History at the University of Leicester, writing to The Times newspaper, said that the characters in Downton Abbey were correctly portrayed wearing sunglasses in 1926. And he's right! Sir William Crookes was developing sunglasses in the early part of the 20th Century and he went into partnership with a Wigmore Street Optician (owned by another Sir William – Willam Wingate) and by 1920 sunglasses (then known as 'Crookes Lenses') had become the very height of fashion.