The finely made aluminum cat eye prescription glasses frames that Tura made at the start of the 1950s were initially a unique product of the American eyeglasses market at a time when other companies were using only small bands and slips of aluminum for decorative purposes on brows or temples. Durable, strong, and hypoallergenic, aluminum glasses frames soon came to be made by other companies in the United States who had the resources and technical know-how to do so.
Art-Craft Optical Co., Inc. of Rochester, New York was another American firm to successfully take up the banner of making aluminum cat eye prescription glasses frames. Appropriately in light of the avian symbol of the U.S.A., the founder of Art-Craft was one Charles J. Eagle, along with a German-American, Otto W. Dechau, continuing the long history of cross-fertilization between the American and German eyeglasses industries.
The company appeared in the final year of the First World War, and was headquartered for the next 83 years in the famous Pullman Building, itself a storied fixture of the town. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, the company began to produce cat eye glasses frames of its own, using aluminum with anodized coatings, engraving, crystals, and metal appliques quite similar to those made by Tura.
Art-Craft was a leader in high quality plastic cat eye glasses frames at the same time, and never focused completely on aluminum. Many of these frames were embellished with imported Austrian accessories such as metal brows, rhinestones, and so forth. Aluminum did become steadily more common in the company’s offerings during this period, however.
Bausch & Lomb and the cat eye glasses market
Bausch & Lomb, the company founded a century before by a German-American entrepreneur who made pince nez with vulcanized rubber frames and ultimately helped establish a powerful eyeglass industry in the United States during the American Civil War, also had their part to play in producing vintage eyeglasses.
However, the company did not attempt to compete heavily with Tura and Art-Craft in the aluminum branch of manufacturing. Instead, their cat’s eye glasses featured plastic frames, sporting such names as “Haiku” and “Provocative”. Blacks, browns, greys, and purples were the predominant colors among these rather plain, workmanlike frames.
American Optical was another United States firm that entered the cat eye glasses vigorously during the Fifties. The company showed a certain awareness of the changing status of eyeglasses over the past half-century with advertisements that pointed out older glasses were meant solely to correct vision, while the newer types were just as good for vision correction but had the extra advantage of “flattering” the eyes and matching the complexion of the wearer’s face.
Many American Optical designs were light, airy creations with openwork transparent plastic temples and slender, decorated laminate or metal brows. Many featured slender metal bands that held the lenses in place from below – not close enough to the supra design patented by Neville Chappell to violate his legal protections, but operating on much the same principle and giving the eyerims a much more delicate, feminine appearance.
As part of their advertising efforts, American Optical produced a “Sun Glass Guide” which featured a sort of color wheel where the user could choose their favorite color chip for the Zylonite of their cat eye glasses frame and see the available lens styles, frame styles, and product code. As of 1956, American Optical was producing 28 different colors of Zylonite for their vintage eyewear, as the Guide reveals, showing the intense demand for these stylish glasses.