American Optical Co., Scovill Mfg. Co., props.

Waterbury Type Camera Variation 2
(ground glass frame hinges on the sides)


5 x 8" - ground glass frame hinges at the sides


Stamp on lens board

Stamp on ground glass frame

Stamp next to the rod and piston device



Another 5 x 8" Example with Ground Glass Frame Hinges at the Sides

Stamp on Lens Board

Stamp on the Top of the Ground Glass Frame

Stamps on the Rear of the Bed/Platform

Stamp Referring to the Patent Piston-Type Device to make the Bed/Platform Rigid




Manufacturer: American Optical Co. New York, NY factory
Date Introduced:
- ; Years Manufactured: c. 1896
Sizes Offered: 5x7; 5x8; 6x8, 8x10

Tentative identification of this model as the Leader View Camera was wrong!     When I first saw this type of camera, not being able to match it to one of the Scovill or American Optical engravings or descriptions, I called it the American Optical Waterbury-Type Camera ("Waterbury-Type" for its resemblance to the Scovill Waterbury Camera Variation 2).  Then, I thought that maybe this camera was The Leader View Camera, advertised, but not described other than being one of  "First quality American Optical's Cameras", on the "Bargain Page" only of the American Annual of Photography and Photographic Times Almanac for 1896-1898.  Finally, though, I saw a description of The Leader View Camera in the Internet Archive (Buchanan's Complete Illustrated Catalogue of Photographic Supplies, W. P. Buchanan (Philadelphia, PA), 1893, p. 39) that indicated that the Leader was front focus only and had nickel-plated hardware.
      I have therefore unfortunately had to reverse myself, and call this camera, once again, the American Optical Waterbury-Type Camera.  The Leader View Camera has a separate listing.

Description:     The American Optical Waterbury-Type Camera appears to be an American Optical version of the popular and common Scovill Waterbury View.  As is usual, the American Optical version is a superior quality camera.  Specifically, it has 1) better quality mahogany than the Scovill Waterbury, 2) dark-colored French polish lacquer finish (on the body; the base is varnished), rather than the light-colored, single-coat varnish used on the Waterbury, 3) sometimes, but not always, has two patent rod and cylinder devices which are also more tightly made to make the bed rigid, rather than the one rather loose type found on the Scovill Waterbury, 4) larger bellows and body than the Scovill Waterbury for the same sized ground glass, 5) a different swing mechanism.  Below are comparison photos, the American Optical on the left and the Scovill Waterbury on the right. 

Variations:     I have divided the American Optical Waterbury-Type Cameras into two variations; their only difference is in the location and type of hinges that fasten the ground glass frame to the rear standard:

American Optical Waterbury-Type Camera Variation 1:  Two butterfly-type hinges are used at the bottom of the ground glass frame, just like the Scovill Waterbury View has.

American Optical Waterbury-Type Camera Variation 2:  Two brass strip hinges are found on the sides of the ground glass frame, held only the rear standard by one screw each side that is not completely tightened - the screw itself acts as the axis or pivot point.



Comparison of American Optical manufacture (left) to Scovill manufacture (right).  Note the width of the ground glass frames that make the American Optical version a much bulkier camera.


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