American Optical Company, Scovill & Adams, Proprietors  1898-1899


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This last version of the Henry Clay Camera is believed to have been introduced by late 1897, as it makes its first appearance in Scovill & Adams' advertising in1898 (copyright 1897).  If the catalogue engraving and description are accurate, it represents a slight downsizing and departure from the previous Henry Clay Camera.  Scovill & Adams' advertisement states that the camera "has been remodeled, so as to conform to the popular idea of lightness and compactness, yet preserving the essential features that have maintained for the Henry Clay Camera the claim of superiority above all others in the market, this, not-withstanding the fact that it is the pioneer folding camera."  By the late 1890's, cycle cameras were in vogue and anything the size of the earlier Henry Clays would have been considered unwieldy.

The dimensions of this last model, stated in Scovill & Adams' The American Annual of Photography and Photographic Times Almanac for 1899, copyrighted 1898, are 7-1/2" in height, 5-1/2" in depth and 9" in width.  These are in comparison to the previous model's dimensions being 8-3/8" in height, 6-1/4" in depth and 9-5/8" in width.

Gone were the square-cornered bellows, replaced by angled corners and a viewfinder that looked to be smaller than the hallmark viewfinder the Henry Clay was known for. 

The Solograph, another Scovill & Adams camera that was introduced in 1898, trended toward smaller body dimensions (7" in height, 5-1/2" in depth and 9-3/8" in width) like this more compact Henry Clay.  The Solograph also appears to have shared some of the Henry Clay's hardware in an effort to reduce production costs.  Lens standard posts, post clamps, bellows and carry handle all appear identical or very similar.  The Solograph was marketed at $5 cheaper alongside the Henry Clay, and would continue to be offered for a few years beyond the Henry Clay's end in 1899, by the newly formed successor company Anthony & Scovill.


We have never encountered an example of this last Henry Clay.  As is sometimes the case, the first and last versions of some cameras tend to be the rarest and hardest to locate.  This seems to be the case with the Henry Clay, as well, and we would be interested in hearing from anyone that has an example of this last model or more information.


Scovill & Adams Solograph Camera 5x7

Equipped with a Scovill & Adams name tag and a Rauber & Wollensak Automatic Shutter, indicates that the Solograph above was manufactured in 1899.  That was just one year after the Solograph was introduced.  By 1902, the Rauber name would be dropped, the company now being known solely as the Wollensak Optical Company.