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

View Camera Boxes, Number 1 (Best) (Model No.'s 1-7)


A Descriptive Catalogue of the American Optical Co.'s Photographic Apparatus (abridged), Scovill Mfg. Co. (New York, NY), 1871, p.1


6 x 8" Folding Platform Camera.  It has a stamp on its front standard that reads: "Am. Optical Co. Manufacturer, New York". This would appear to be, in the 1871 Scovill catalog pages, a No. 2 (2nd Quality) Camera Box for 6x8", without brass camera guides ($15.00).  Most of the back is not original, though.

Stamp on front standard: "Am. Optical Co.  Manufacturer  New York", and another stamp, the stamped assembly number: "2"



Manufacturer: American Optical Co. New York, NY factory
Date Introduced:
1870 ; Years Manufactured: 1871-c.1882
Construction: rear focus via push-pull with fine focusing screw; 0/1/2 swing; non-reversing; three-piece lens board
Materials: mahogany body; cherry base; black fabric bellows; brass hardware
Sizes Offered: #1=3x 4; #2=4x5; #3=6x8; #4=8x10;#4=10x12; #5=11x14; #6=14x17; #7=17x20.

     In their 1871 catalog, the American Optical Co. offered three very closely related models, all having non-tapering bellows (from least expensive to most expensive):

-1.  Number 2 View Camera Boxes, Model No.'s 40-50 & No. 130:  These are described as "good, well made, true and reliable, not so highly finished as the No. 1 goods, and without the patent brass guides.  These had a folding platform, no swing, and no vertical sliding front; no mention of wood types - as simple a camera as would take a photograph. 

-2.  View Camera Boxes, Model No.'s 21-28:  These had a folding platform, single or double swing, vertical sliding front, but not the patent brass guides and no mention of wood types.

-3.  Number 1 View Camera Boxes, Model No.'s 1-7 (their best model):   had solid or folding platform, patent (John Stock's patent Aug. 4, 1863) brass guides along the rails of the platform, a fine focusing screw, and made in mahogany or walnut finely finished using the French Polish method.   In the example above, I am guessing that the patent brass guides referred to in the catalog are the brass plates on which this camera slides, which slide with more ease than the wood on wood sliding of models 21-28 and 40-50.

     Later, American Optical introduced the Improved View Camera Boxes, which had tapering bellows, which allow the camera to be much more compactly folded.    

     An engraving was used for American Optical View Camera Boxes in 1871 , and re-used for the Model Stereo Camera Box in 1878 (lowermost engraving).  It is therefore possible that the Model Stereo simply represents the wider, stereo version and the View Box the general version of the same type camera.

A Descriptive Catalogue of the American Optical Co.'s Photographic Apparatus (abridged), Scovill Mfg. Co. (New York, NY), 1871, p.1
Photographic Times Vol. 1
, Scovill Mfg. Co. (New York, NY), 1871, p. 15
How to Make Photographs and Descriptive Price List, Scovill Mfg. Co., distributed by Wilson, Hood & Co. (Philadelphia, PA), 1873, p. 34-35
Asher & Adams Railroad Atlas, 1876
American Optical catalog, 1878, p. 14-15
Illustrated Catalogue of General Photographic Supplies, Thos. H. McCollin (Philadelphia, PA), 1882, p. 11, 14

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