HENRY CLAY CAMERA
HINGED-BED DESIGN WITH SET-SCREW
American Optical Company, Scovill & Adams, Proprietors 1891? - 1893
The Henry Clay Camera's second design incorporated a hinged-bed, and would be produced in at least two versions.
This first version, utilizing a disc-shaped lock to secure the track, appears to have been made for a relatively short period based on the number of surviving cameras equipped with it. This style is found in Henry Clay advertisements, referred to as a "set-screw". In operation, the extension track would be pulled forward, stopping at a factory-set brass detent on the folding bed. The disc was then rotated, engaging a slot in the bed to secure the track extension:
Set-screw with locking slot on bed
Although the set-screw design appears in Scovill's engravings as late as 1896 in Scovill's How to Make Photographs, 1896, Scovill no doubt failed to update their ad engravings with the new thumb screw design.
Early catalogue engravings for the Henry Clay Camera sliding-bed design, depict the viewfinder mounted to the body, and most surviving examples show the viewfinder mounted on top of the lens standard. In general, by the inception of the hinged-bed design, viewfinders were now mounted to the lens board top where they would remain thereafter. However, at least one Henry Clay hinged-bed example has been seen with an inner side wall mounted viewfinder indicating there was a transition period. The maker's ivoroid tag was now affixed to the folding bed's interior.
For a Henry Clay Camera, the example shown here is rather exceptional, having very nice leather covering, beautiful bellows and a very rare pneumatic version of Scovill's Instantaneous Lens and Shutter:
Pneumatic valve connection is visible at the shutter's base
On the whole, surviving Henry Clay Cameras have generally poor leather and are most often found with a Prosch Triplex Shutter or a Mathein (or Wale & Mathein) Shutter. While Prosch shutters are seen infrequently and the Mathein is rare in itself, Scovill's Instantaneous Lens and Shutter in either manual or pneumatic forms, is almost never seen. The pneumatic version of the Instantaneous was offered as an option beginning in 1893 for an additional $5 over the $50 cost of a 5x7 Henry Clay Camera equipped with their "plain" (or manual version) shutter. By 1894, neither version of the Instantaneous was offered, having been replaced by the Mathein in catalogue engravings.
The Henry Clay Camera featured here has some provenance, having been owned by Maude Gamble, granddaughter of James Gamble, co-founder of Proctor & Gamble and the daughter of James Norris Gamble, Vice-President of Proctor & Gamble and credited with creating the formula for Ivory Soap. Her initials "M.G." are stamped into the leather at top, along with the number "1891". Relatively little is known of her life or her photographic pursuits.
The "1891" stamped next to Maud Gamble's initials is speculated to be the date she acquired the camera. If so, it may suggest the advancement of production timelines for both the Henry Clay Camera and Scovill's Instantaneous Lens and Shutter. If the date is accurate for this camera, then production of the previous Henry Clay Camera sliding-bed design may not have extended into 1892. We know that the manual release version of Scovill's Instantaneous Lens and Shutter was introduced by early 1892, appearing in Scovill's How to Make Photographs, January, 1892, and that Washington Irving Adams' patent for the shutter's design was filed on August 7, 1891:
Patent for Scovill's Instantaneous Lens and Shutter Source: Google Patents
As seen many times, production has occurred prior to the issuance of a patent. Appearing in their catalogue engravings by 1892, Scovill's Instantaneous Lens and Shutter was being produced well in advance of the issuance of the patent on March 26, 1895 and could conceivably have been made even prior to the patent's filing on August 7, 1891.
There's also the possibility the shutter was added later to this camera. However, the lens board has a unique cylindrical wooden mount extension which provides more space between the shutter and the lens board to better accommodate the pneumatic release valve. This mount appears factory and purpose-built for this requirement, especially when comparing it to the Henry Clay Camera sliding-bed design that's profiled in the book 500 Cameras, 170 Years of Photographic Innovation by Todd Gustavson. The book's example from the George Eastman Museum's Technology Collection, is equipped with a manual version of Scovill's Instantaneous Lens and Shutter. This manual shutter having no pneumatic mechanism on the casing's rear, is flush-mounted to a flat lens board as no extension was needed. This, together with no evidence of tampering or makeshift construction, strongly suggests that the shutter and its lens board extension are original to the camera featured here:
Cylindrical wooden mount extension
Pneumatic valve located behind the shutter
Ad from W.P. Buchanan's 1893 Catalogue Source: The Internet Archive
This example is slightly larger than the standard Henry Clay Camera to accommodate the use of a roll holder. These versions are easy to identify, having two openings at the bottom to access the roll holder's controls:
Openings to access roll holder controls (this camera doesn't have a roll holder, and stored plate holders are visible)
The camera's dimensions are 8-1/4" in height, 7-3/4" in depth and 10-1/16" in width, versus the typical standard model's dimensions being 8-3/8" in height, 6-1/4" in depth and 9-15/16" in width. It should be noted that variations in body dimensions and other features have been found among surviving Henry Clay's, and I'll endeavor to provide this information for other examples featured on this website.
Fleur-de-lis tooling on the leather covering