In America, we like our substitutes. We like sugar substitutes, meat substitutes, and in the 1920′s, we apparently liked glass substitutes. In 1927, Time Magazine published a short article promoting the practicality of newfangled glass substitutes: “Children and animals that live in glassed houses are cheated of that ultraviolet part of the sun’s light which helps the bones ossify. The glass blocks the ultraviolet rays; the children and animals become rickety. Therefore glass substitutes have recently appeared for sale.”
One such wundermaterial was Cel-O-Glass. It was produced by a company out of New York City and promised all the qualities of glass with added medicinal value. Cel-O-Glass was marketed as a new glass-like product particularly useful for constructing a kind of closed-in porch. And, bonus: Cel-O-Glass, which was was “approved by the authorities,” let in the “vitalizing ultra-violet rays of the sun. These are the health rays which produce a healthy coat of tan in the summer. In winter, you can get these rays indoors through Cel-O-Glass.”
For the first three decades of the twentiesth century, sun rays were thought to prevent and cure tuberculosis and rickets (which is partially caused by a vitamin D deficiency, so I guess they were on to something there). According to “The Beach: The History of Paradise on Earth,” sunlight was also an important element of the eugenics movement, thought to be “nature’s universal disinfectant, as well as a stimulant and tonic.” That sun-kissed look, which used to be associated with field work and peasantry, became the height of fashion and health–a tribute to the sculpted and bronzed bodies of ancient Rome and a marker of one’s abundant leisure time spent soaking up the sun on the beach. But come summer, what was a decoloring sun worshiper to do? Thanks to Cel-O-Glass, winter never had to get between you and those “vitalizing” ultra violet rays again.