American Optical 4x5 Dry Plate Camera


This American Optical Company camera was made by Scovill Manufacturing Company, New York, circa 1884. It is a wooden bellows 4 x 5” plate view camera for use on a camera stand or field tripod. Photographers used the wet-plate collodion process to prepare glass plates, inserting each into a plate holder before attaching to the camera back. Once the image was exposed through the lens to the glass plate, photographers needed to quickly develop and fix the photograph in the darkroom, readying for making paper prints.

From its invention in 1839, the camera has evolved to fit many needs, from aerial to underwater photography and everything in between. Cameras allow both amateur and professional photographers to capture the world around us. The Smithsonian’s historic camera collection includes rare and unique examples of equipment, and popular models, related to the history of the science, technology, and art of photography.

Date Made: 1884

Maker: American Optical Company

See more items in: Work and Industry: Photographic History, Photography, Artifact Walls exhibit


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of James R. Burton

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: PG.004626AAccession Number: 183884Catalog Number: 4626A

Object Name: camera, view

Physical Description: wood (overall material)metal (overall material)glass (overall material)Measurements: overall: 17 cm x 16 cm x 25 cm; 6 11/16 in x 6 5/16 in x 9 13/16 in


Record Id: nmah_1154123

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