American Optical was acquired by the Scovill company in 1867 and
acted as primary camera maker for Scovill. American Optical and
Scovill offered many similar cameras. While Scovill cameras were less
expensive and made for a growing amateur market, American
Optical's apparatus was more costly, being constructed of finer
woods with a higher quality finish.
This particular view camera is a 5 x 7 format and identical to Scovill's
St. Louis Reversible Back Camera (refer to the St. Louis Reversible
Back Camera Reference page). It is a front focusing, cone bellows
design that incorporates Flammang's patent hinges and single swing
back. As a note, the revolving back version of this camera was
available as Flammang's Patent Revolving Back Camera. The
American Optical Company may have updated and renamed the St.
Louis camera as the Star View Camera in 1890.
A scarce Steinheil Group Antiplanet lens is mounted; an asymmetrical
formula patented in 1881 by H.A. Steinheil to fix a specific aberration
characteristic of symmetrical designs. The lens bears US Patent No.
241437 (May 10th '81) indicating that is was manufactured for
export to the United States.