American Optical Company/Scovill & Adams, Proprietors           1892 - 1893




This 5x7 Henry Clay Camera is equipped with the manual release version of Scovill's Instantaneous Lens and Shutter. This shutter was also available with a pneumatic release and unlike the earlier Wale Shutter and most later Mathein Shutters, the lens barrel on this Scovill Instantaneous Lens and Shutter is unmarked.


                                        Manual Release                                                                               Pneumatic Release



With the introduction of the Henry Clay Camera in 1891, the Scovill Instantaneous Lens and Shutter was the first shutter depicted in Scovill's catalogue engravings. Catalogues would continue reflecting this shutter into 1893 (1892 copyright), shown on a Henry Clay sliding-bed model. By 1894 (1893 copyright) the Mathein Shutter is now shown, along with the Henry Clay having a hinged bed with rigid struts (as opposed to hinged or jointed struts), which continues for 1895 (1894 copyright) and 1896 (dated 1896, no copyright).


The nametag is marked "American Optical Company, The Scovill & Adams Co., Prop's, "Manft'd exclusively for Simpkinson & Miller, Cincinnati, Ohio". This is one of the few examples I've seen of a Henry Clay Camera's nametag noting the distributor:




This Henry Clay also has a longer locking knob to secure the rising/falling lensboard, versus the shorter knobs found on most examples:




With the Henry Clay, a recurring question has been the manufacturing dates of the camera itself, and of the shutters they're found equipped with. The camera here is such an example, in that Scovill's Instantaneous Lens and Shutter seems to make its appearance by latter half of 1891 with the introduction of the Henry Clay Sliding Bed model, and disappears from catalogue engravings by 1894 with the introduction of the Mathein Shutter. Yet, here it sits on a Henry Clay serial number 606 with jointed bed struts, this style strut believed to date more towards 1895 or 1896.  If original to the camera, this may suggest Scovill's Instantaneous Lens and Shutter was being manufactured (or was still available) for a considerable time after the introduction of the Mathein. Or, hinged bed struts appeared much earlier than previously thought. Based upon the few examples seen today, along with what's reflected in ad engravings, the general thinking is that the Scovill's Instantaneous was discontinued with the introduction of the Mathein around 1893.

A Henry Clay Camera with Wale Shutter featured elsewhere on this website, is another instance wherein the Wale introduced in 1887, is believed to have been discontinued by 1890. It also sits on a Henry Clay with hinged bed struts, having a serial number of 655. 


Henry Clay Cameras are considered rare cameras, and very few are found today equipped with Scovill's Instantaneous Lens and Shutter.


For more information on other Henry Clay models, the Wale Shutter or the Mathein Shutter, look for them under the "Antique Cameras" and "Shutters" sections of this website.