American Optical Company / Scovill Manufacturing Company, New York               1885-1888




The Scovill Detective Camera makes it first appearance as early as 1883, in Scovill's The Photographic Amateur, Second Edition.  The advertisement's wording was similar to that which would appear in subsequent year's ads, and the engraving featured was most often not highly detailed.  Early Scovill advertisements for this camera intentionally showed little detail in an effort to preserve its "detective" identity. Some advertisements describe the camera as having a canvas covering, and indeed, some examples encountered today have been found with a canvas outer case.  The camera was also available with a roll holder, being designated in advertising as "Scovill's Roll Holder Detective Camera".


This first model of the Scovill Detective featured red truncated bellows, and was built with a rotary shutter and two separate viewfinders, for use in a vertical or horizontal format.  This version with two viewfinders would be manufactured 1885-1888.  Although the camera has no maker's tag, both plate holders accompanying the camera are stamped "Amer. Optical Co., Scovill Mfg. Co., N.Y."  Its leather handle contained a flap end, concealing the viewfinder window at top.  The side viewfinder window had a sliding flap cover. Controls for focusing, cocking and setting the shutter speed were located within the camera's recessed base. 

This example is equipped with its original R. & J. Beck 4x5 Rectilinear Lens with a 7-inch focus and a set of R&J Beck Waterhouse stops.  For the Scovill Detective, the Beck lens was a more expensive option over the Optimus lens, and was found on the larger formats (4-1/4 x 6-1/2 and 5x7). 




































Ad from Scovill's How to Make Photographs for March, 1889