American Optical Company, Scovill & Adams, Proprietors          1891 - 1892



Another example of a Henry Clay sliding-bed design in 5x7, equipped with a Gundlach Optical Company Rapid Rectigraphic 5x8 lens and a Pneumo Shutter that attaches to the front of the lens shade. This particular example may be one of the earliest versions of the Henry Clay Camera, in that it has no tightening lever to secure lateral and swing adjustments to the lens standard, the lens standard's base being fixed. The earliest ads I've found that date to 1892 (1891 copyright) and one estimated to be circa June, 1892, already include the swing capability as standard. The swing capability was shown as an option on the Henry Clay Stereoscopic (sliding-bed design), in an ad from Scovill & Adams' How to Make Photographs, January, 1892, stating that this "Vertical Sliding and Swing Front" feature was offered for an additional $5 over the Henry Clay Stereoscopic's basic price of $75. But, it's yet to be determined if it was ever offered on the Henry Clay Camera in 1891.


Later 1892 and 1893 ads for the Henry Clay Camera (non-stereoscopic) now reflect the swing capability as standard equipment, with both the Henry Clay Stereoscopic and the Henry Clay Camera still being reflected with sliding-bed designs in ad engravings and the swing feature still being offered as an upgrade on the Henry Clay Stereoscopic. It should also be noted that sometimes, ad engravings were not immediately updated to reflect changes in design.


The lens on the example seen here, is accompanied by a set of Waterhouse stops is marked "Gundlach Optical Company, Rochester, N.Y., Rapid Rectigraphic, 5x8". The Pneumo Shutter, designed by Louis Prosch, Jr. of Brooklyn, New York, Patent No. 447,902 dated March 10, 1891, was also sold under the Marvel name. Some surviving examples of this shutter have been found unmarked as to name. Although marketed by C.E. Hopkins, a photographic supplier, it's undetermined whether the shutter was manufactured by Hopkins, by Louis Prosch, Jr., or by someone else entirely.



          The Pneumo Shutter Patent            Source:  Google Patents


This 4" diameter shutter with a 1-7/8" barrel shade diameter mount, is stamped "Pneumo" along with "Pat.Mar.10"91" and a serial number of 749.  Although in contrast to many Henry Clays that were factory-equipped with Wale & Mathein Shutters, and not known to be offered by Scovill & Adams with this lens/shutter combination, the Gundlach Rapid Rectigraphic and Pneumo Shutter were period correct and could have been installed originally. Aside from the Wale & Mathein, a good number of Henry Clays that survive are also seen with Prosch Triplex Shutters.

As seen in the photos, the wooden blocks that attach the camera's bed to the track rails and the ground glass for focusing are missing.  The six plate holders accompanying this camera are all stamped "Scovill and Adams Co. N.Y."   No serial number was found on the camera, other than a #6 (probably an assembly number) stamped on the interior of the side access door. Some, but not all Henry Clays are found with serial numbers, either located on the bed or in area of the bed's hinge on later versions. None of the Henry Clay sliding-bed designs I'm aware of contain serial numbers.

Despite the missing parts, this example is in relatively good condition given that most Henry Clays are found with flaking or missing leather, missing doors, broken or missing handles and in some cases no viewfinders.        


For more information on the Henry Clay sliding-bed design, see another Henry Clay sliding-bed camera featured in the "Antique Cameras" section of this website. 







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