Ful-Vue frames were a major development in the eyeglass industry starting in 1930, and continuing for the rest of the 20th century.
Until the early 1930's, the temples or arms of almost all metal eyeglasses joined the frame at the "centerline", half-way between the top and bottom of the frame, like in the example below. This had been more or less true for hundreds of years, long before glasses came within the reach of the average person. Ful-Vue frames changed all that.
Enter Ful-Vue Frames
In the late 1920's, the American Optical Company(AO), the largest manufacturer of eyewear and prescription lenses in the world, filed very, very strong patents on their new "Ful-Vue" design. The Ful-Vue idea was to raise the point where the arms joined the frame, taking them up and out of the way of the wearer's side vision. Remember, this is at the same time many Americans were driving cars for the first time, so they were also using rear view mirrors for the first time. The frames were introduced in 1930.
American Optical was convinced that Americans would be safer wearing Ful-Vue frames, as there would be no temple blocking the wearer's view of the rear view mirror. They also thought that America could be convinced they would be more attractive wearing Ful-Vue styles, with no "line drawn across the face" by the arms.
Marketing the Ful-Vue Line
Armed with a very strong patent and deep advertising pockets, they set out to make Ful-Vue a household word. They took out big ads everywhere for years, shouting out the virtues of this frame design. Did you want to protect your family when driving, and be a better, safer citizen with the superior peripheral vision Ful-Vue frames allowed? Or did you want to be a danger on the road?
By 1940, if you lived in the U.S, and wanted to be thought of as a responsible citizen and an attractive person, you wore Ful-Vue frames.
The ad campaigns for this frame type were so common and repetitive, sarcastic parody ads and cartoons soon appeared in print. Below is a "spoof" Ful-Vue ad that appeared in print in the 1940's.
By the mid-'30's, Ful-Vue frames were so popular, that other companies began having trouble selling their old-fashioned "centerline" designs. ArtCraft, Bausch & Lomb, Continental Optical, ShurOn, and others were soon paying American Optical royalties to make their own versions of the growing Ful-Vue line of frames.
The Ful-Vue campaign helped American Optical remain the largest eyeglass manufacturer on Earth. Frame sales doubled from 1930-1940.
How To Identify Ful-Vue Frames
Lucky for us, American Optical was very strict about licensing the right to produce this patented line of frames to other companies. Every major piece of every frame had to bear the manufacturer, the name Ful-Vue, and the official size. Under the eye wires of Ful-Vue frames you will find these impossibly small stamps. Here are a few examples. These are among the easiest frames to identify in the vintage frame world.
Sizes & Fitting
People were a little smaller than today when most of the Ful-Vue frames were made, and the frames were styled to be smaller on the face. The range of lens widths, in 2mm steps, was 38mm-46mm. Later in production, 48mm lenses were added. Nose bridges ran from 18mm-26mm, with this measurement being the distance between the lenses.
Temple arms were 6", 6 1/4", or 6 1/2" as standard lengths, with very short temples down to 5 1/2", and very long ones up to 7" being available on more of a custom order basis.
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