American Optical Co./Scovill & Adams Co., props

Front Focus Cone Camera Variation 3
Front Focus Reversible Back Camera Variation 3
St. Louis Camera Variation 3

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Manufacturer: American Optical Co. New York, NY factory
Date Introduced:
- ; Years Manufactured: c.1889
Construction: front focus via rack and pinion (single gear track on top of middle base rail); 0/1/2 swings; reversing by removable back; three-piece lens board
Materials: mahogany body; cherry base; black fabric bellows; brass hardware
Sizes Offered: 4x5; 4x5; 5x7; 6x8; 8x10
     When advertised, engravings for this camera usually carry a "Scovill" identification (as above) rather than an "American Optical" identification.  Yet cameras exist, such as the 8x10 version above, that are stamped American Optical or have a silver label marked American Optical.  Such AO-marked cameras have the usual high quality construction and finish associated with the AO factory.   This is apparently another example (see AO Waterbury-type) where a model appears to have been made both by Scovill and American Optical (even though Scovill owned American Optical).  American Optical St. Louis cameras have smoother finishes in both wood and brass, and seem to always have a silver American Optical label.   St. Louis cameras by Scovill may have had lesser quality wood selection and finish, hardware finish, etc.

     This model is similar, except for its reversing rather than revolving back, to the American Optical Flammang's Revolving Back Front Focus Camera.

     At least three variations of the St. Louis exist.  The St. Louis, Variation 1 has a swing back hinged at the bottom.  The St. Louis, Variation 2 is as Variation 1, except that the swing back has a center pivot rather than a bottom hinge.  The St. Louis, Variation 3 has the bottom hinge, but also has a low profile spring back, and double, locking knurled focusing knobs.  These details indicate that Variation 3 is probably a later version of Variation 1.  A strange detail is that Variations 1 and 2 have the patent bed locking device going from the front to back, while Variation 3 has its patent bed locking device going from back to front.

     Between the Scovill & Adams March 1889 catalog and the Scovill & Adams March 1890 catalog, the St. Louis model was discontinued while the American Optical Star View Camera was introduced.  The Star is essentially a St. Louis, except with metal rods as a front standard rather than wood.

Catalog P, Photographic Material, J. W. Queen & Co. (Philadelphia, PA), 1886, p. 73 (As Reversible Back Cone View Camera, but no engraving to check construction)
Not in the Scovill & Adams March 1890 catalog

American Annual of Photography and Photographic Times Almanac for 1897, The Scovill & Adams Co. (New York, NY), 1896, ads p. 61 ("Bargain Page" only, i.e., leftovers - no engraving, but probably has the low profile back at this late date)
American Annual of Photography and Photographic Times Almanac for 1898, The Scovill & Adams Co. (New York, NY), 1897, ads p. 115 ("Bargain Page" only, i.e., leftovers - no engraving)

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