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

Acme Reversible Back View Camera Variation 1
Reversible Back View Camera
Back Focus Cone View Camera

Acme View Camera (W. D. Gatchel Catalog, 1888, p. 32)
scovillacme11x14a022.jpg (47921 bytes)


6 x 8
scovillacme11x14a022.jpg (47921 bytes)
scovillacme11x14b022.jpg (25557 bytes)scovillacme11x14c022.jpg (21787 bytes)
scovillacme11x14d022.jpg (25319 bytes)scovillacme11x14e022.jpg (18687 bytes)


Manufacturer: American Optical Co. New York, NY factory
Date Introduced:
- ; Years Manufactured: c.1878-1888
Construction: back focus via push-pull; single or double swing; reversing by removable back; French polish finish
Materials: mahogany body; cherry base; black rubber bellows; brass hardware
Sizes Offered: 4x5; 6x8; 8x10; 10x12; 11x14; 14x17; 17x20; 20x24

     This simple, robust, back focus camera with tapering (cone) bellows was popular both with professional photographers as well as amateurs.  It was referred to as one of a number of names: Back Focus Cone View Camera, Acme View Camera, Reversible Back View Camera, and similar.

 There are three variations (variations in the spring back):

1)  The Acme Reversible Back View Camera Variation 1 is the camera as shown in the advertising, including a ~2" thick removable, reversible back.  To take a photograph, the back's ground glass frame is slid out and replaced by the plate holder.

2)  The Acme Reversible Back View Camera Variation 2 also has a removable, reversible back.  But it has an interior ground glass frame that is released via a lever.  Presumably, the plate holder would then be inserted into the hole vacated by the ground glass frame.  This variation is assumed to be c.1885, since this same back is pictured in 1885 advertising for the American Optical Ripley. Camera.

3)  The Acme Reversible Back View Camera Variation 3, has yet a third variation of removable, reversible back, which, in this case, has a complex spring that can be set open, allowing the plate holder to be easily slid under it, then released to tightly hold the plate holder in place.  This type of back is seen in high end American Optical cameras of the Scovill & Adams Co. era (1889-1901).

     There is a fourth camera, which could be considered a variation in the Acme spring back, except that it was advertised after a gap in production, and was given the name:

4)   The Landscape View., which has a the simple, two spring, spring back arrangement still used on cameras all through the 20th century.

     The Landscape and the Acme were never advertised at the same time, and, oddly, they were never advertised in the same type of publication.  Acme ads appear c.1878 - c.1888 in Scovill and Scovill & Adams catalogs.  They universally use the engraving showing the thick profile (~2" thick) replaceable back that is the Acme Variation 1The Landscape Camera ads  appear c.1896 - c.1899 in the American Annual of Photography and Photographic Times Almanac.  They always show the thinner and modern style (~" thick) replaceable back.  Neither the Acme nor the Landscape view cameras were advertised in the Scovill & Adams catalogs for January 1889, March 1889, March 1890, June 1890, April 1891, June 1891, and January 1892 (but no examples of catalogs from late 1892 through early 1895 have been observed as yet) and the almanacs for 1892, 1893, 1894 and 1895.  However, it is also entirely possible that Acme-type cameras were still being manufactured 1892-1894, despite the lack of visible advertising.


Descriptive Catalogue and Price List of the Photographic Apparatus Manufactured by the American Optical Co., Scovill Mfg. Co., proprietors and managers (New York, NY), Sept. 1884, p.52
Catalog P, Photographic Material, J. W. Queen & Co. (Philadelphia, PA), 1886, p. 72 (As Reversible Back Cone View Camera)
Catalogue Illustrated, W.D. Gatchel (Louisville, KY), 1888, p. 32 (as New Reversible Back Acme View Box)

scovillacme11x14a022.jpg (47921 bytes)
scovillacme11x14b022.jpg (25557 bytes)
scovillacme11x14b022.jpg (25557 bytes)scovillacme11x14c022.jpg (21787 bytes)
scovillacme11x14d022.jpg (25319 bytes)scovillacme11x14e022.jpg (18687 bytes)

Stamps on rear base "The Scovill & Adams Co. N.Y." and "17"
scovillacme11x14e022.jpg (18687 bytes)


Back to American Optical & Scovill