American Optical Co./Scovill & Adams Co.
St. Louis Camera,
Front Focus Cone Camera, Variation 3
Reversible Back Camera, Variation 3
Date Introduced: - ; Years
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 lensboard
Materials: mahogany body; cherry base; black fabric bellows;
Sizes Offered: 4x5; 4¼x5½; 5x7; 6½x8½; 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
St. Louis cameras
by Scovill may have had lesser quality wood selection and finish, hardware
This model is similar, except for its
reversing rather than revolving back, to the American Optical Flammang's Revolving Back Front Focus Camera.
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
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.
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)
American Annual of Photography and Photographic Times Almanac for 1897,
The Scovill & Adams Co. (New York, NY), 1896, ads p. lxi
(bargain page - no engraving, but probably has the low
profile back at this late date)
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