American Optical Company, Scovill & Adams, Proprietors, New York     1889-Early 1890



Original model of the Waterbury Detective Camera in the 5x7 format with leather covering.


This 5x7 example, having the October 16, 1888 patent date stamping, the Scovill & Adams operational warning sticker and being leather-covered (all Waterbury Detective Cameras were leather-covered beginning March,1890, with the introduction of the Improved Waterbury Detective) indicates this camera was probably manufactured between 1889 and early1890. The camera's dimensions are 9-1/4" deep, 9-1/2" wide and 8-1/2" tall.


According to The Photographic Times and American Photographer for August 23, 1889, Volume XIX, No. 414, the Scovill & Adams Co. exhibited "an improved form of their universally popular 'Waterbury' detective camera".  This is presumed to be the introduction of the Improved Waterbury Detective Camera, so named because of the focusing lever at the bottom which was now relocated to the top, the lens cap now being attached by a steel band rather than a string and all Waterbury Detectives now being leather-covered.


It's interesting, in that this 5x7 is equipped with two viewfinders instead of the single viewfinder seen on both the earlier 4x5 and 5x7 ebonized versions and the later 4x5 leather-covered models. Also, this 5x7 camera would have used a lens cap attached by a string, as this example never had a spring-held lens cap. All of these factors point to this possibly being a transitional camera from the original model to the new Improved Waterbury Detective Camera.


Most Waterbury Detective Cameras are found in 4x5 today, a compact format that was exceedingly popular in the 1890's. Despite being offered in 5x7 over the course of the Waterbury Detective's history, it was initially priced at 60% more than the 4x5 ($40 versus $25).

The added bulk of this larger camera along with its price differential, no doubt doomed the 5x7 format and relatively few 5x7's were ever made.  This is reflected in the handful of leather-covered or ebonized examples that have been seen by collectors over the past thirty years.