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Pair of Coin Silver Spectacles by John McAllister, Jr. of Philadelphia

Pair of Coin Silver Spectacles by John McAllister, Jr. of Philadelphia
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Offered is a good pair of American coin silver eyeglasses or spectacles by noted maker John McAllister, Jr., working in Philadelphia in the first half of the 19th Century. See below for more information on this important maker. This pair measures about 4 3/8 inches across the temples and weighs about 24 grams. There are no lenses present, so that is entirely silver weight. This piece is marked with McAllister's maker's mark and city mark, and a star pseudo-hallmark or workman's mark on the opposite arm. There is also a small 5 on the outside of one arm, perhaps for the frame size. This pair of coin silver spectacles is in fair to good condition overall, with one loop at the end of one arm opened (see pictures) and as stated, no lenses, but otherwise free of major issues. One could easily have non-corrective lenses or one's own prescription in for reenactment purposes, and these also make a nice display piece. All in all a fine early pair of coin silver spectacles!

From the Library Company of Philadelphia: The McAllister family was important in Philadelphia for over a century as businessmen, manufacturers, and collectors. There were three generations of distinctly different men named John McAllister, all with antiquarian interests, which has been cause for confusion in the past. The first, John McAllister Sr. (1753-1830), emigrated from Scotland in 1775 and became a successful whip and cane manufacturer in the city. In 1796 he bought a stock of spectacles; from that point, what had been an unusual sideline became the McAllister family’s future as manufacturers and proprietors of optical equipment which, by 1830, had totally eclipsed their earlier specialty. In 1807 his son John McAllister Jr., a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, joined the business, and became a named partner in 1811. The McAllister company remained prominent on Chestnut Street for decades after as it expanded to become nationally known manufacturers and retailers of optical equipment, mathematical instruments, and commercial photographs.

John McAllister Jr. (1786-1877) and his wife Eliza Young (1790-1853), the daughter of the noted Philadelphia printer and bookseller William Young (1755-1829), had ten children, seven of whom lived to adulthood. The eldest, William Y. (1812-1896), worked as a partner with his father from 1830, and took over the McAllister firm upon his retirement in 1835. Of the three daughters—Frances W. (1815-1892), Agnes Y. (1817-1879), and Sarah A. (1819-1870)—two married and Agnes kept house for her father. Thomas H. (1824-1898) became a partner with William as McAllister & Brother from 1853 through 1865 when he moved to New York and established his own optical shop, first at 627 Broadway and then at 49 Nassau Street. The youngest sibling, Wardale G. (1829-1874), had a law career in Philadelphia.

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