American Optical Company/Scovill & Adams Company, New York          1890-1894


                                                               Source:  Antony Manthos


Manufactured by American Optical Company for Scovill & Adams, the Advill Camera was introduced by June,1890, in Scovill's How to Make Photographs.  It was offered that year, alongside Scovill's Detective Camera and their Improved Waterbury Detective Camera.


Patent No. 436,347 was granted September 16, 1890 to Willard H. Fuller of Passaic, New Jersey for the Advill's design, and assigned to the Scovill & Adams Company of New York. Fuller was granted at least fourteen patents between 1887 and 1892, for cameras and other photographic apparatus, all of which were assigned to either the Scovill Manufacturing Company or to Scovill & Adams. Fuller, an employee of Scovill & Adams, died on January 14, 1892 at the age of 37 after an illness of about ten days.



                                 Source:  U.S. Patent and Trademark Office


This magazine-style detective camera was available only in 4x5. As reflected in their advertisements, three models were designated based upon their film or glass plate capacity.  As seen in the photos, American Optical's lineage is evident, as the Advill incorporates the same rack-and-pinion focusing mechanism, lens and aperture style, shutter charging handle and spring-tensioned lens cap as seen on their series of Waterbury Detective cameras.

The camera was designated "The Advill Camera" in most advertisements between 1890 and 1894, one exception being Scovill's How to Make Photographs, January, 1892, where the camera falls under the heading "Magazine Cameras for cut films" with no mention of the Advill name. The Advill seems to make its last appearance Scovill's American Annual of Photography and Photographic Times Almanac for 1894, now offered only in the No. 1 (for 12 4x5 cut films) and No. 3 (for 12 4x5 glass plates) models.


Although having been advertised for about five years, the camera apparently proved unpopular and no doubt, very few were ever built. Along with some other very obscure models of the same period by other makers, the Advill has attained a "mythical" status.  To my knowledge, no examples were known to exist, that is until now.

The Advill is one of those great, "holy grail" cameras for collectors of early Scovill detectives, and I'm ecstatic to see an example finally surface. It's an exciting discovery like this, that keeps us passionate about the hobby and the possibility that other such unseen cameras may one day come to light.  

My Sincere Thanks to Antony Manthos for sharing this extremely rare camera from his collection.


                                                     Source:  Antony Manthos


                                                 Source:  Antony Manthos




          From Scovill's American Annual of Photography and Photographic Times Almanac for 1891



          From Scovill's American Annual of Photography and Photographic Times Almanac for 1894