One of the questions I get asked most often is how do I know the age of an item, especially if it is not a fashion item with all sorts of clues. The short answer to that question is that I do a lot of research in the manner of studying catalogs and magazines from the past. So many times it just comes down to good luck in spotting an item for which I have been searching.
One thing I’ve had on my list of things to buy was a pair of motoring goggles. Back before cars had enclosed seating, the driver, and sometimes even passengers, wore goggles to protect the eyes from the dust and dirt of the road. Sometimes even dogs wore them.
These belonged to Bud, who accompanied Nelson Jackson and Sewall Crocker in 1903 on the first auto trek across the US.
Since seeing Bud’s goggles at the National Museum of American History several years ago, I’ve wanted to add a pair to my collection. The problem has been with identification. I’ve looked at hundreds of pairs online, but mainly what is being sold as motoring goggles are actually industrial goggles. Starting out I did not know the difference myself, and it has been only through careful study of period photographs and drawings that I knew what I was actually looking at.
Still, when I ran across this pair recently, I wasn’t sure. I left them in the flea market stall where I spotted them, and then came to my senses, went back for them, and got lucky that they were still there. Still, I had doubts. They looked so flimsy, almost as if they were a toy version of goggles. But they were adult sized, so I took a chance on them.
They are made from a leather piece with glass lenses set into aluminum frames. The outside of the leather is made sturdy by a wire encased in the binding. An elastic string holds the goggles on the face.
It wasn’t until after I took these photos that I decided to get out any catalogs that might have motoring goggles. I got lucky on the first place I consulted, a 1910 Abercrombie & Fitch catalog.
Here are two of the ten styles of goggles Abercrombie & Fitch offered in the catalog. And while I did not find an exact match for my goggles, you can see how mine are a sort of cross between two of the styles in the catalog. They are close enough that I have satisfied my own curiosity about these.