Mrs. Sidney Mason's 1830 opera glasses

This is a brass instrument with cylindrical barrels, a shiny black handle, and a black center focus. The objective lenses are 25 mm in diameter. The length is 4.5 cm closed. One eyecup is marked “BAUTAIN BRÉVETÉ / A PARIS.” One eye tube is marked “Mrs. Sidney Mason” and the other “Porto Rico 1830.”
This example came to the Smithsonian in 1922, in the large bequest of Cassie Mason Myers Julian James. They belonged to her grandmother, the wife of the merchant who, in 1829, became the first U.S. Consul to Puerto Rico.
The form resembles that shown in the 1827 French patent for “binocles à tirage simultané” (binocular glasses that can be focused simultaneously) that was issued to Charles-Toussaint Bautain, an optician who began in business in Paris in 1816. Bautain probably knew about the introduction of binocular opera glasses in Vienna in 1823, and protested when Jacques-Philippe Lemière, also of Paris, received a French patent for a similar object in 1825.
Currently not on view
Object Name
opera glasses
Object Type
opera glasses
date made
Physical Description
glass (lenses material)
metal stone (stick material)
wood (handle material)
flower (barrel style)
leaf (barrel style)
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Clothing & Accessories
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Costume
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Bequest of Mrs. Julian James

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