Eyewear as Instrument of Death?

Celluloid Eyewear can be combustable
I came across a wad of legal documents from 1936 today. Don’t ask me how or why. It was from the Supreme Court of King’s County (Brooklyn!):

Kathryn G. Treacy and Donald E. Treacy as
administrators of the Goods, Chattels and
Credits which were of Eleanor M. Treacy,



F.W. Woolworth Co.,


A Notice of Appeal requests “permission to take a photograph of “the pair of eyeglasses (or what remains thereof) which were being worn by the plaintiff, Kathryn G. Treacy, the mother of plaintiffs’ intestate herein, at the time of the accident referred to in Paragraphs Twelfth and Seventeenth Of the complaint herein…”

And how did these eyeglasses (or what remains thereof) pertain to the case?

According to the attorney for Woolworth’s:

“Kathryn G. Treacy, at the time of the accident referred to in the complaint, was wearing a pair of eyeglasses rimmed with a celluloid composition which caught fire as a result of her use of dangerous high degrees of heat in drying her hair…”

An affidavit in support of the motion states:

“This action is brought to recover the sum of $100,000 as damages for the death of Eleanor M. Treacy, plaintiffs’ intestate, whose death, it is alleged, was caused by reason of the alleged negligence and breach of warranty of the defendant in the sale of water waving combs and as a direct result of an accident occurring to Kathryn G. Treacy, her mother, in the use of said water waving combs. It is alleged that the deceased’s mother inserted several of said combs in her dampened hair and thereafter endeavored to dry her hair by employing the heat of an electric light bulb held at a reasonably safe and proper distance from her head, and that by reason of the combustible, inflammable or other wise explosive materials of which the said combs were composed, they suddenly and without warning ignited or exploded while so inserted in the hair of deceased’s mother; and that as a result thereof a part of the clothing of the deceased became ignited and was burnt causing her injury and death. In defendant’s answer it is alleged in the first affirmative defense that the injuries made the basis of the complaint were sustained by plaintiffs’ intestate solely by reason of her negligence or the negligence of Kathryn G. Treacy, her mother, in employing at the time of the accident dangerously high degrees of heat in close proximity to her face and head and in close proximity to eyeglasses set in a frame of inflammable material.”

Basically the attorney for Woolworth’s is arguing that the combustable celluloid combs the mother bought at Woolworth’s exploded due to her mother’s improper use of a hair dryer. The mother’s combustable celluloid eyeglasses caught fire too causing a conflagration that claimed the life of the daughter.

The attorney for the plaintiffs responded:

the defendant is in possession of knowledge to the effect that deponent’s mother was

(a) Wearing glasses;

(b) That they were composed of combustible materials;

(c) That they burnt at the time of the accident.

(d) That the frames have been destroyed, and

(e) That deponent’s mother allegedly stated immediately after the accident that she ascribed the cause thereof to the burning of the glasses.

The motions and responses went back and forth.

I kept reading until a began to get a headache which is still with me as I type this. This is why I never considered going to law school. Life can often be a carnival of misery, but I draw the line at a long-winded carnival of misery.

At any rate, now you know why they don’t make eyewear out of celluloid anymore.
Posts might be irregular for a little while. You don’t want to miss any.


Celluloid Eyewear Woman

The image of the person on fire is from the film Burning Bush.

The image of the woman lying prone in celluloid sunglasses appears in my book Eyewear, which can be purchased by clicking HERE.

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