The Liberty Lens, Manufactured by the Macbeth-Evans Glass Company

It never ceases to amaze me how many glass headlight lenses have managed to survive the rough-and-tumble of the last one hundred years or so. We purchased a large box of such lenses the other day, and two of them were marked “Liberty Lens” with patent dates of 1914 and 1920.

They were manufactured by Macbeth-Evans, a glass company that formed in 1899 when three separate companies combined. That move gave the new entity control of the five largest “lamp chimney” factories in the United States. Like all manufacturers, Macbeth-Evans had to adjust with the changing times, and that included the manufacturing of lenses for automobiles.

States were enacting laws in the teens and twenties regarding headlight glare and acceptable lenses, and Macbeth-Evans wasn’t afraid to use fear of law enforcement as a marketing tool. The advertisement below declares, “State Highway patrols will accost all motorists whose lights do not comply with the new law. Everybody violating the new law will be subject to arrest, a $25 fine, or 5 days’ imprisonment.”

The Liberty lenses were flat with “seven horizontal and six vertical prisms” that controlled and distributed the light, free from glare.

These lenses were available for any motorist to purchase, but, according to these advertisements, they also came as standard equipment on some makes. This ad from 1923 specifically mentions Studebaker:

This advertisement from 1920 enumerates the many different makes that utilized Liberty lenses as standard equipment, including Packard and Nash, so you might keep an eye out for a pair if you own one of the automobiles on this list:

1918 Case Six with a Liberty Lens on the passenger side. This car is located at Pioneer Village in Minden, Nebraska.