American Optical Company, Scovill & Adams, Proprietors       1895-1896


The Henry Clay Stereoscopic in 5x8 format, was available as a special order item in 1895 at least, appearing on Scovill & Adams' bargain list in their The American Annual of Photography and Photographic Times Almanac for 1896 (copyright 1895).  Many factory advertisements over the years stated that Henry Clays could be made to order in sizes other than 4x5 and 5x7.


This heavier 5x8 version differs from the Henry Clay Stereoscopic 5x7, being notably larger in size with an elevated base at the rear, an L-shaped side access door as seen on earlier Henry Clays (as opposed to a flat panel door on the Henry Clay Stereoscopic 5x7), a wider lens standard track and some revised lens standard hardware.  Here are their respective dimensions for comparison:


Henry Clay Stereoscopic 5x7

   Height   7-5/16"

   Width    9-1/8"

   Depth    5-9/16

   Track Width (outside of rails)   3-15/16"


Henry Clay Stereoscopic Special Order 5x8

   Height   8-5/16"

   Width    10-1/2"

   Depth    6-1/8"

   Track Width (outside of rails)   4-11/16"


Note that the bed struts are hinged on this example of the Special Order, versus solid struts seen on the standard Stereoscopic shown below, and elsewhere on this website:


The hinged struts also appear on a known 4x5 example of the Henry Clay Regular from 1896, and on at least one example of Folmer & Schwing's Improved Henry Clay (another example has solid struts), also believed to have been built by the American Optical Company.  This may suggest that American Optical was either using or experimenting with hinged struts during this time.  However, most of the previous and subsequent models of the Henry Clay have been found with solid struts.

This example has no swing or tilt adjustments and is equipped with a Rochester Optical Company-badged Bausch & Lomb Stereo Automatic Shutter:


                             Bausch & Lomb Automatic Shutter ("Automat")


This "Automat" shutter wasn't standard issue for the camera, having been introduced about 1904 and later installed on the camera.  Henry Clay Stereoscopics from this era would have come from the factory with Double Rectilinear lenses fitted in a Bausch & Lomb Stereoscopic Shutter, or equipped with a Unicum Triplicate Shutter, a stereo version of the Unicum:

                                         Bausch & Lomb Stereoscopic Shutter



                                         Bausch & Lomb Unicum Triplicate Shutter


For more information on these shutters, see the "Shutters" section of this website.


This Stereoscopic Special Order example is missing its lens standard-mounted viewfinder (screw holes evident at top), carry handle and handle mounting straps.   An ivoroid label tacked to the folding bed reads "American Optical Company, New York, Scovill & Adams, Prop."


Today, all models of the Henry Clay Camera are considered rare.  The Stereoscopic Special Order, or any other special order Henry Clays, are especially hard to find.  Very few were made and in all likelihood even fewer survive.






                          Henry Clay Stereoscopic 5x7                                              Henry Clay Stereoscopic Special Order 5x8




          Henry Clay bargain list from Scovill's The American Annual of Photography and Photographic Times Almanac for 1896