Top of page

Free to Use and Reuse: Glasses

Share this post:

We are all about glasses in this month’s edition of the Library’s Free to Use and Reuse sets of copyright-free pictures, prints, graphics, maps and so on. You can use these any way you like — blow them up like posters, pass them along to friends, make them your online avatar.

Teddy Roosevelt as photographed by Baker’s Art Gallery in 1918. 

Let’s start with Mr. Bully himself, Theodore Roosevelt. The 26th president was by all accounts a remarkable fellow. The illustrated fable he wrote and sent to his three-year-old son on July 11, 1890 — while he was working in Washington but the family was summering in Oyster Bay, New York — is in the Library’s Manuscript Division. It’s a delight. His refusal to shoot a shackled bear while hunting in Mississippi in 1902 soon became the inspiration for stuffed animals known as “teddy bears.”

And of course, everyone remembers him for the iconic pince nez glasses he always wore. It’s that squint behind them, the piercing look that he gave the camera when photographed, that helped capture his boundless energy. And those glasses — or, rather, their case, in his jacket pocket — helped slow an assassin’s bullet in 1912. Roosevelt, with the bullet lodged against one of his ribs (where it would remain for the rest of his life) gave the speech anyway, bleeding through his shirt all the while.

Bully, Teddy!

Soldier peering out from a tank, Fort Knox, Kentucky, during World War II.

Next, you’d be forgiven for thinking this goggle-wearing Captain America-type hero is straight from the latest comic turned movie franchise. Check the lighting — that glow from under the chin! The darkened eyes! That headgear in shadow! And that composition, the vulnerable man trapped inside a death-dealing contraption of steel!

If it were from a movie, it might be worthy of an Oscar…but it’s a photograph of an unnamed American soldier in June, 1942, during World War II, in a tank at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Photographer Alfred T. Palmer did a masterful job of making him appear both frightening and vulnerable.

And, lastly, this doozy, also from World War II.

World War II sunglasses for troops made from used photo negatives.

What the heck, you say? The Union of South Africa, as it was then known, had come up with a way to make inexpensive “eye shields” for soldiers battling in desert conditions. They took used photograph negatives and washed off the emulsion. Then the negatives were cut and placed in a frame. Bingo! Cheap sunglasses, way before ZZ Top had the idea. More than a million were made for United Nation’s troops. (Margaret Bucci of Washington, D.C., demonstrates them in this publicity still.)

Here’s the cool thing: The original photograph imprinted on the negative can be seen when you turn them upside down. Here, we did it for you:

The glasses, turned upside down, reveal the original image on the negative: a group of men, perhaps military officers, facing the camera.

See those two rows of men, caps on, looking at you, kid?

Mind. Blown. You’re welcome.

Subscribe to the blog— it’s free! — and the largest library in world history will send cool stories straight to your inbox.


  1. sheesh …. I was expecting glassware …

    why didn’t the email say EYE glasses?

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.