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

New Tourists' Photographic Amateur Outfit (No.'s 610-641)
Amateur Photographic Outfit (No.'s 610-635)
Dry Plate Equipment (No.'s 1-8)


Illustrated Catalogue of General Photographic Supplies, Thos. H. McCollin (Philadelphia, PA), 1882, p. 31-32


Below, a camera which may or may not be an example of Dry Plate Equipment (see notes for discussion).  If it is, it is No. 4, 4x5 vertical (No. 627 above)

Stamp on lens board

Stamp on the rear rail of the base


Manufacturer: American Optical Co. New York, NY factory
Date Introduced:
- ; Years Manufactured: c.1882 - c.1885
Construction: rear focus via push-pull; no or single swing; reversing by two tripod mounts or non-reversing; three-piece lens board
Materials: basswood or mahogany body (see notes); black rubber/fabric non-tapering bellows; brass hardware
Sizes Offered: #1=4x5; #2=5x8; #3=5x8 stereo; #4=4x5 vertical (more accurately 5x5; it had a special 4x5 holder which could be attached either horizontally or vertically without repositioning the camera); #6=5x8 stereo and single combo.; #7=6x8; #8=8x10

     This is a model from the early days of dry plate photography, where the vague name, Dry Plate Equipment, applies to what would have been three different models in later years.

     Dry Plate Equipment No.'s 1-3 are described in catalogs: plain and serviceable (probably basswood).  Since the presence of a folding bed is not mentioned for these numbers, they likely had non-folding beds.

     Dry Plate Equipment No.'s 4-6 are described in catalogs: mahogany with folding bed, single swing and focus screw.

     Dry Plate Equipment No.'s 7 and 8 are described in catalogs: plain (basswood again) and horizontal only, but with folding bed.

     These descriptions are identical to those of the American Optical Tourists' Photographic Amateur Outfits/Amateur Photographic Outfits., which were designated No.610 through No. 641.

     But American Optical/Scovill had another series of mahogany back-focus, non-tapering bellows cameras: AO Apparatus Outfit No.'s 201-203The difference between the mahogany Dry Plate Equipment No.'s  4-6 and the similar design and also mahogany AO Apparatus Outfit No.'s 201-203 is that the #201-203 (#203 being also called The 76 Camera) models had a labor-intensive French polish wood finish, while the Dry Plate Equipment had not, and were merely varnished.  There were probably also differences in wood quality or density, and the presence of brass edge protectors or wear plates.

     Like so many examples from the early years of dry plate photography, the above example camera is close but not exactly as described, lacking a front rise and a focus screw. 

     This model is almost exactly like the Scovill Favorite, except that it has been made of mahogany, whereas the Favorite is made of white wood, sometimes poorly matched.  It may have been dropped due to pressure from the Scovill Favorite about 1885.

The Photographer's Friend, 7th ed, Richard Walsl (Baltimore, MD) Catalog, 1882, p. 51-52 (as Dry Plate Outfits No. 1-8)
Illustrated Catalogue of General Photographic Supplies, Thos. H. McCollin (Philadelphia, PA), 1882, p. 31-32 offers (as New Tourists' Photographic Amateur Outfit): #610=4x5 rigid bed; #612=5x8 rigid bed; #618=5x8 stereo or single rigid bed; #626=4x4 mahogany folding bed rising front; #627= 4x5 mahogany folding bed rising front; #631=4.25x6.5 ebonized; #641=5x8 stereo or single mahogany.
The Photographic Times and American Photographer, Vol. XIV, No. 158, New Series No. 38, Scovill Mfg. Co., February 1884, ads p. 48 (in an ad for Wilson, Hood & Co (as American Optical's 4x5 Dry Plate Outfit).
American Journal of Photography 1884-1885, (as Amateur Photographic Outfits) offers #'s 610, 612, 618, as above, but also: #625=4x5 mahogany rising front folding bed; #630=6.5x8.5 ebonized folding bed w/ focus screw; #633=8x10 ebonized folding bed w/ focus screw; and #635=5x8 mahogany stereo folding bed w/ extra lens board for single
-not in the 1886 American Journal of Photography.

Back to American Optical & Scovill