Scovill Mfg. Co.
Ne Plus Ultra (No Letters)
8, natural finish
6½x8½, natural finish
Stamp on lens board
Stamp on rear rail
Date Introduced: - ; Years Manufactured:
In Scovill's 1886 catalog, How to Make Photographs and Descriptive Price List, copyright 1886 (distributed by Andrew J. Smith, Providence, RI), the low cost camera is the Favorite. The only camera using the name Ne Plus Ultra in the catalog is the Ne Plus Ultra Bicycle View, which is unrelated (other than co-opting the name) to the former Ne Plus Ultra , since the bicycle camera is in a size (3¼x4¼) in which the former Ne Plus Ultra was never made, and its bed folds, contrary to early Ne Plus Ultra specs. So it would appear that by the mid 1880's, amateurs demanded a folding bed camera, and therefore, the folding-bed Favorite apparently replaced the rigid bed Ne Plus Ultra as Scovill's low cost, entry level camera. The Favorite occupies the first few pages of Scovill catalogs, a position occupied by the Ne Plus Ultra in the 1883 catalog. The Favorite also took the Ne Plus Ultra letter designations, A-D, AA-DD and AAA-DDD, and the letters have the same meanings other than the camera model being different. So it seems that the Ne Plus Ultra was discontinued in favor of the Favorite.
In Scovill's 1887 catalog, How to Make Photographs and Descriptive Price List, dated April 1887 (distributed by C.H. Codman, Boston, MA), the Favorite occupies the first few pages, as usual. But the Ne Plus Ultra makes a come-back, immediately following the Favorite. But it is not the former, rigid-bed Ne Plus Ultra. It has a folding bed, and single-swing to boot, neither of which were part of the former Ne Plus Ultra design. The second Ne Plus Ultra type is considerably less expensive than the Favorite in the same size. It appears that Scovill needed a camera less-expensive than their already low cost Favorite, and resurrected the name Ne Plus Ultra for it. In 1887, only two sizes, 4x5 and 5x8, were advertised. By 1889, a 6½x8½ size was added, and this Ne Plus Ultra incarnation was advertised until at least 1896. Since the letters now refer to the Favorite, this Ne Plus Ultra was not advertised as and therefore not offered as their former complete kits.
Here, the c.1881-c.1885 version will be designated the Ne Plus Ultra (A-D) and the c.1887-c.1896 version will be designated as Ne Plus Ultra (No Letters). Both Ne Plus Ultra (A-D) have the rather unusual construction of both the front and rear finger-jointed boxes being the same size and placed on their own solid wood base of the same width, giving the appearance that the finger-joints don't go all the way through.
The 6½x8½ camera above has typical Ne Plus Ultra construction (both the front and back standards the same size and sitting on solid blocks), and, since the bed folds, fits the description of the Ne Plus Ultra (No Letters), except it has no swing.
Back to Scovill Mfg. Co