Did Old West folks wear sunglasses to protect their eyes from the sun?

David Fuller

Storrs, Connecticut

Not usually, sunglasses weren’t readily available, especially in the frontier areas. You do see some photos of Westerners—even Indians—wearing sunglasses. But those are pretty rare.

In the 1800s, store-bought sunglasses came in a variety of shapes, such as round, horizontal or octagon. They were usually dark blue or black, although green wasn’t uncommon. They were not stylish, like today. Besides, eyeglasses of any kind back then were regarded by most as a sign of old age, blindness or physical weakness.

One way of protecting the eyes when sunglasses weren’t available was to take broken glass from a beer or medicine bottle and make your own eye protection.

By the way, the desert sun wasn’t the only natural element that could damage your eyes on the frontier. Snow blindness was even worse.

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