Eskimo Goggles on East 75th
Inside the massive antique eyeglasses collection tucked into Ruth Pollack’s two-bedroom apartment.
When I was a kid, my mother used to tell me about her lifelong friend Ruth Pollack, whom she met on the first day of their freshman year at Forest Hills High School, in 1945.
Years ago, my mother and I visited Pollack in her home on the Upper East Side. She gave me a tour of her treasures—over one thousand pairs of antique eyeglasses. Pollack told me about how the first corrective, wearable eyeglasses were likely invented in Italy in the thirteenth century; how the Chinese were the first to figure out how to hang weights on the frames of glasses so that they would stay in place on the wearer’s face. I never forgot the two-thousand-year-old whalebone “Eskimo goggles” she showed me, a very early prototype of sunglasses.
Pollack’s cozy, two-bedroom apartment on East 75th Street—which I visited again this summer with photographer and multimedia journalist Elizabeth Herman—is a temple to her passion. Posters of eyeglasses and eyes line the walls, and all manner of glasses are on display just…