American Optical Company / Scovill Manufacturing Company, New York               1889-1891



By January, 1889, the second model of Scovill's Detective featured a single viewfinder, capable of being rotated 90 degrees to accommodate the desired format.

This example is equipped with what is believed to be a Prosch Triplex Detective Shutter, having an extension to the standard linkage that would allow it to be mechanically released.  It is equipped with an iris diaphragm in lieu of the rotary (wheel) stops or Waterhouse stops typically found.  Prosch's Triplex Detective was available for use in hand cameras as early as 1889, but was discontinued by 1891.  With Prosch's introduction of the Diaplane I and Diaplane II shutters in late 1902/early 1903, Prosch announced that all their shutters would now be equipped with iris diaphragms.  This is the only Triplex I have ever seen with an iris diaphragm, suggesting it to be the last of the Triplex line.  However, if this is a Prosch Triplex Detective Shutter from about 1890, it would have been retrofitted with the iris diaphragm some ten years later.  


This is the only example of a Scovill Detective I've seen, with black pleated bellows (versus a red truncated cone) and equipped with an external-style shutter (versus the standard board-mounted rotary shutter).  I have seen this model with identical red pleated bellows. The black bellows could be replacements, but their installation appears original.  The Prosch Triplex Detective Shutter is also linked internally to release manually, or could have been released pneumatically via a nipple connection located at the bottom of the camera.  A clamp also located at the bottom could possibly have held the tubing for the squeeze bulb in place.


What's interesting to note, is that in early advertisements for the Scovill Detective, reference is made to using them with a pneumatic release.  Scovill's later ads don't note the pneumatic feature, yet here it is, in what is probably the last production version.


The rectangular rear door is a hinged and sectioned arrangement, versus the large round opening seen on the first model. The aforementioned model above with the red pleated bellows also had a rectangular rear opening.  Gone is the carry handle from the first model with the flap-end covering the viewfinder, replaced by a conventional handle.  The camera also has an external focusing scale located beside the lid lock, that's been seen on other surviving examples. The lid lock is marked "PAT. OCT.71".  There is also an additional square hole at the top where a fixed viewfinder would have been located.  When opened, it reveals an L-shaped spirit level balance.  All in all, these features appear to be factory in origin.  If they aren't, they were professionally done.  Advertisements have also noted a lens interchangeability feature, permitting different lenses to be mounted quickly without having to reinstall a different flange mount. This would require the typical rotary shutter/lens board arrangement, and this camera doesn't appear to ever have been equipped as such. 


Scovill's Detective continued to be advertised in 1891, by the James W. Queen & Company as the Peerless Detective Camera.  Queen's ad used the same engraving as Scovill.  By April 1891, the camera was now known as "Scovill's Hand Camera", and it still appeared in Scovill's How to Make Photographs, January, 1892.



Research may help to confirm these assumptions and to clarify other design differences between the two Scovill Detective models.  But unfortunately, so few of these cameras exist to make comparisons with.  Adding to this, as has been experienced with other cameras of this period, sometimes no two are identical.



















































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