Saturday, March 2, 2013

Civil War Optometrists

The practice of optometry began with the invention and subsequent refinement of eyeglasses in the early nineteenth century. Optometry guilds were formed at this time, and the practice eventually was regulated under statutory law. Jewelers were actually some of the first professionals to use eye charts and sell glasses to the public.
The industry in the United States expanded during the Civil War when the government purchased large quantities of binoculars and microscopes for the war effort. Eyeglasses became plentiful and, by the end of the nineteenth century, schools were teaching the science of optics, often in combination with instruction in watch repair.
Door-to-door peddlers, jewelers, and optometrists all sold eyeglasses in the late 1800s. At the beginning of the twentieth century, however, physicians conducted most of the eye examinations.


If a Civil War soldier needed eye glasses, how would he obtain them? Were there vision requirements for enlistment?

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