See more objects with the color gainsboro darkslategrey darkslategrey grey dimgrey or see all the colors for this object.

Object Timeline

  • We acquired this object.



  • Work on this object began.


  • Work on this object ended.



  • You found it!

Visual Aids For Eye Testing (USA)

This is a Visual aids for eye testing.

This object is not part of the Cooper Hewitt's permanent collection. It was able to spend time at the museum on loan from National Museum of American History as part of Tools: Extending Our Reach.

It is dated ca. 1937. Its medium is paper, cardboard, laminated canvas.

This booklet of simple eye tests from the 1930s captures a host of assumptions about people and their cultural competencies, from card playing and singing to understanding train schedules and shorthand. The first standardized eye chart is believed to have been developed by Dutch ophthalmologist Herman Snellen in 1862. Snellen’s test of visual acuity set a standardized distance from patient to chart of 20 feet in the United States and 6 meters in Europe. This inexpensive and portable chart has eleven lines of symbols, called optotypes, from a single large letter at the top to the smallest letters at the bottom. The letters are carefully shaped so as to balance the amount of white to black space. Similar charts followed, such as the Lea chart designed in Finland in 1976 that uses objects, like a house or a ring, to cater to children and others who are preliterate.

It is credited Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 1986.0705.03.

  • Autofold Cane (USA)
  • rubber, elastic cord, aluminum, iron, reflective tape.
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 306619.10.
  • 14.2012.9
  • Ophthalmoscope And Case (Germany)
  • ophthalmoscope: velvet, metal, wood, optical glass; case: leather, velvet.
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 314016.
  • 14.2012.6

Our curators have highlighted 8 objects that are related to this one. Here are three of them, selected at random:

Its dimensions are

H x W x D (closed): 20.5 x 12 x 1.5 cm (8 1/16 x 4 3/4 x 9/16 in.) H x W x D (open): 20.5 x 24 x 1.5 cm (8 1/16 x 9 7/16 x 9/16 in.)

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Tools: Extending Our Reach.

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use page.

If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Visual Aids For Eye Testing (USA) |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=25 September 2022 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>