American Optical Co., Scovill Mfg. Co., props.
Camera Variation 2
(ground glass frame hinges on the sides)
5 x 8" - ground glass frame hinges at the
Stamp on lens board
Stamp on ground glass frame
Stamp next to the rod and piston device
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
Stamp Referring to the
Patent Piston-Type Device to make the Bed/Platform Rigid
American Optical Co. New York, NY factory
- ; Years Manufactured: c. 1896
Sizes Offered: 5x7; 5x8; 6½x8½,
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
Optical Waterbury-Type Camera. The
Leader View Camera has a separate listing.
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
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
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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