The Scovill & Adams Company made a wide spectrum of interesting cameras, almost
all of which are relatively uncommon today. In addition to traditionally styled view
cameras, the company offered apparatus built in the English compact style - view
cameras that fold into a very compact "footprint."
The Compact View is an American interpretation of the classic English compact veiw
camera pattern. Believed to be in production from 1882 to 1898, it is constructed of
polished mahogany featuring a cone bellows, brass trim, interchangeable lensboard,
and patent reversible swing-back. The American Optical Company (an S&A
subsidiary) also offered the same camera with a higher grade finish.
In an age of boxy straight lined apparatus, the Compact View is a rare and unusual
camera, distinguished by its sculptured front standard mounted on a pair of solid
brass posts with beautifully milled "pineapple" decorations.
The concave quarter-round shapes, notches and rounded edges on the front
standard are purely ornamental and not found on any other camera in the Scovill &
The design was certainly a radical departure from traditional square shaped front
standards, especially on the more conservative English compact designs. Looking at
the front standard, I wonder what inspired this exotic look? From a manufacturing
perspective, the front standard must have been expensive to fabricate and finish
yet the result is esthetically pleasing.
The 5x7 Scovill Compact view sold for $20 in 1892, which is about $379 in year 2000 dollars.
Compact View, c.1892
Scovill & Adams Co., NY
Copyright ©2000 - 2014 by Rob Niederman - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Ironically, the camera's rarity is possibly due to the elaborate front standard. Using the camera is a complicated affair because the brass posts must be unscrewed from the bed
when closing the camera, and screwed to the bed when opening the camera. No matter how a photographer used the camera, the brass posts were always being removed or
changed. I believe these actions eventually led to a number of damaged cameras, especially the bellows and front standard mounts.
In comparison to other cameras available at the time, the overall design appears to be very impractical considering the potential for damage; which may explain why there are only a
few examples extant of this earlier style. Realizing the problem, Scovill & Adams may have changed the design to a traditional (square) front standard sometime after 1892, however
the exact date is unknown.
The 5x7 inch Scovill & Adams Compact View with
rare Goerz Choroskop II landscape lens and shutter.
This particular camera is a 5x7 inch format
with Goerz Choroskop II landscape lens and
shutter. A tripod turntable and brass focusing
knob are located underneath the bed. "Scovill
& Adams, Company, NY" markings are found
on the leather strap and maker's label on the
back; implying a manufacturing date between
1889 and 1898. (Note: the Scovill & Adams,
Company, NY naming terminology was in use
However the ground glass back provides
additional clues to help pinpoint a specific
manufacturing year. The rear assembly on
this camera does not match the English
compact style back shown in the 1892
catalogue entry, but is representative of a
pattern found on the St. Louis Reversible
Back Camera made from 1885-1889. Since the
back has matching build/lot numbers (#23)
with the rest of the body, it is considered
original to the camera.
Left: Profile view showing St. Louis pattern
ground glass assembly.
Right: Detail of brass post top. Reminiscent
of a "pineapple" bed post, the milled section
is a functional decoration that provides a
convenient nonslip grip when tightening or
loosening the support posts.