The Scovill & Adams Company, New York                      1892-1894



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


One goal of this website is to challenge the collecting world by profiling the known, but as yet, undiscovered.  Frank McLaughlin's New England Rattler, is just such an item begging to be added to the list of obscure and never before seen cameras such as the Advill, Sunol, Turn-Over, Aladdin or the Bristol Magazine. I say undiscovered to my knowledge, as possibly some of these cameras have turned up in the last thirty years since collectors became aware of them.

Advertised for about three years, The Rattler Camera begins to show up in Scovill & Adams' The American Annual of Photography and Photographic Times Almanac for 1892 , but disappears in their almanacs by 1895.  An 1893 Scovill ad states that The Rattler is a 4x5 camera.  Advertisements also appeared in Life Magazine for September 1892, Volume XX, and in The Century Magazine 1892.   In one Scovill ad shown below, the photographer's growing interest is recognized, with a suggested progression beginning with The Rattler at $5 and ending with the Henry Clay Stereoscopic priced at $75:



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



       From Scovill & Adams' How to Make Photographs, October, 1893



      Ad from Scovill'sThe American Annual of Photography and Photographic Times for 1893



None of the ads shown here feature engravings, and I have yet to see a photo or a physical example. However, based on one of the ad's description of the camera and its operation, The Rattler appears to be a small format, box-styled, entry-level detective camera with a single viewfinder, string-set shutter and pull bar focusing arrangement.

The 4x5 camera shown above has all these characteristics, is simple in construction and its dimensions at 9-7/8" deep x 7-3/16" wide x 6-1/4" tall are in the realm of Scovill & Adams' Empire Camera at 9-1/8" deep x 8" wide x 6-1/2" tall.  The Empire was also simple in construction, although much more refined than the camera shown here. 

Like the Empire which followed The Rattler a few years later, this camera has a sliding box-in-a-box arrangement with a pull bar for focusing. Having graduations of "5", "50" and "100", the pull bar is located at the back left edge, as opposed to the center of the right side body panel as seen on the Empire:


The simple shutter release, like that found on the Empire, is located at the 1 o'clock position, just above the lens opening. The string-set shutter with two settings is also similar to the Empire's, and this one employed a stopper.  With the shutter cocked to the first setting, this allows light to pass through the lens for focusing. It also allows for making a timed exposure by removing and replacing the stopper.  The second setting is achieved by pulling the string to its fullest extension, which places the blade to block the lens opening. The shutter can then be released to make an instantaneous exposure.  Like the Empire, the pull string passes through an opening (slit in this case) in the body at the lower front corner.  The string, pull and stopper are missing on this camera:





Finally, the camera was equipped with a single viewfinder, which is also missing along with its lens.


As much as I'd like to say this is "The Rattler", I can't say for sure. But given some of the similarities between Scovill & Adams' Empire and this camera, it's the closest thing I've seen so far. Maybe we'll get lucky one day finding a new advertisement, an engraving, or the camera will surface with "The Rattler" stamped in gold letters.

Who knows, maybe we'll even find out who Frank McLaughlin was.