The first aviator sunglasses revealed!

The first sunglasses ever contracted for by the U.S. Air Force (or Army Air Corp as it was known in those days) were…
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Drum roll please…
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The model D-1 made by American Optical!!!

US Army Air Corp D-1 Sunglasses made by American Optical.   They were the first aviator sunglasses contracted by the US military in 1935.   Note the USAC badge over the hinged bridge.

US Army Air Corp D-1 Sunglasses made by American Optical. They were the first aviator sunglasses contracted by the US military in 1935. Note the USAC badge over the hinged bridge.

To quote US Army Air Force (1) by Robert Pitta, Jeff Fannell and Gordon L Rottman: “The American Optical Co. D-1 flying goggle assembly, standardized on 13 August 1935, was actually a pair of sun glasses with a rigid frame and plastic insulated arms. It was superseded by the more comfortable flying sun glasses (comfort cable) in November 1941.”

Note the plate between the lenses that reads USAC (for U.S. Air Corps). It covers a hinged bridge, which traces its roots back to 1891. We discussed the design precedents in previous posts which can be found HERE and HERE.

Of course 1935 was before Ray Ban even existed. And Bausch & Lomb (which isn’t Ray Ban, by the way) wasn’t even the contractor.

So I guess Ray Ban didn’t “invent” aviator sunglasses after all?

But… Perhaps they “invented” the aviator sunglasses made famous in WWII?

We’ll look into that next week.

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For more installments of this series click the links below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 5

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10 Responses

  1. Barry Santini says:

    Looks just like the ol’ Porsche design folding 5622!

  2. Moss Lipow says:

    That which has been is what will be,
    That which is done is what will be done,
    And there is nothing new under the sun.
    🙂

    Ecclesiastes 1:9

  3. Rettas Done says:

    What is the value on a pair of these

    • Moss Lipow says:

      The value of anything is what someone’s willing to pay and what someone is willing to sell the item for. For vintage eBay is basically wholesale. A pair of D-1’s in nice condition with original case might be baseline $300 to $500, but they seldom come up so it’s a bit of a seller’s market. There are collectors who will buy them whenever they’re available and few fall through the cracks.

      Plus a pair in really great condition will probably fetch a premium since there aren’t very many circulating.

  4. Kosmik says:

    I would really love your sources because I want to cite them for friends who insist on RayBan being inventors of aviators. Thanks!

    • Moss Lipow says:

      The sources are the actual items shown in the post. The information about the D1 is public record, since it was produced under military contract.

  1. May 20, 2014

    […] Part 4 […]

  2. June 4, 2014

    […] Part 4 […]

  3. September 21, 2016

    […] Force, or Army Air Corp as it was known in WWI, can take partial credit. The iconic glasses were first designed for fighter pilots and bomber crews whose lives depended on being able to spot an enemy plane […]

  4. May 10, 2017

    […] It’s arguable who invented Aviator Sunglasses. Many attribute them to the company Ray Ban (part of a company called Bausch and Lomb) who made “Ray-Ban Aviators” in 1937 but it’s believed that a company called American optical made them for the Air Force in 1935-a few years prior. http://theeyewearblog.com/the-first-aviator-sunglasses-revealed-were-they-ray-bans-part-four/ […]

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