Scovill Mfg. Co.

 Ne Plus Ultra (No Letters)

5 x 8, natural finish





6x8, natural finish




Stamp on lens board

Stamp on rear rail


 

 Date Introduced: - ; Years Manufactured: c.1887-c.1896
Construction: back focus via push-pull; single swing; reversing via two tripod mounts; removable or non-removable front, folding or non-folding platform
Materials: white wood body; cherry base; black fabric bellows; brass hardware, varnish finish
Sizes Offered: 4x5; 5x8; 6x8
Notes:
In the early part of the 1880's, the Ne Plus Ultra was Scovill's low-priced entry into amateur photographer's equipment.  It was a simple camera having a rigid bed and no movements, so was rather bulky in large sizes, for which reason it was only made in
6x8 and smaller.  The Ne Plus Ultra designations A-D were Scovill's model number for a camera outfit: camera, lens, one plateholder, a tripod and a wooden case.  Designations AA-DD were for the same outfit, but also including a box of dozen dry plates and a few darkroom items.  Designations AAA-DDD included everything from AA-DD and a complete chemical/darkroom setup.

In Scovill's 1886 catalog, How to Make Photographs and Descriptive Price List, copyright 1886 (distributed by Andrew J. Smith, Providence, RI), the low cost camera is the Favorite.  The only camera using the name Ne Plus Ultra in the catalog is the Ne Plus Ultra Bicycle View, which is unrelated (other than co-opting the name) to the former Ne Plus Ultra , since the bicycle camera is in a size (3x4) in which the former Ne Plus Ultra was never made, and its bed folds, contrary to early Ne Plus Ultra specs.  So it would appear that by the mid 1880's, amateurs demanded a folding bed camera, and therefore, the folding-bed Favorite apparently replaced the rigid bed Ne Plus Ultra as Scovill's low cost, entry level camera.  The Favorite occupies the first few pages of Scovill catalogs, a position occupied by the Ne Plus Ultra in the 1883 catalog.  The Favorite also took the Ne Plus Ultra letter designations, A-D, AA-DD and AAA-DDD, and the letters have the same meanings other than the camera model being different.  So it seems that the Ne Plus Ultra was discontinued in favor of the Favorite.

In Scovill's 1887 catalog, How to Make Photographs and Descriptive Price List, dated April 1887 (distributed by C.H. Codman, Boston, MA), the Favorite occupies the first few pages, as usual.  But the Ne Plus Ultra makes a come-back, immediately following the Favorite.  But it is not the former, rigid-bed Ne Plus Ultra.  It has a folding bed, and single-swing to boot, neither of which were part of the former Ne Plus Ultra design.  The second Ne Plus Ultra type is considerably less expensive than the Favorite in the same size.  It appears that Scovill needed a camera less-expensive than their already low cost Favorite, and resurrected the name Ne Plus Ultra for it.  In 1887, only two sizes, 4x5 and 5x8, were advertised.  By 1889, a 6x8 size was added, and this Ne Plus Ultra incarnation was advertised until at least 1896.  Since the letters now refer to the Favorite, this Ne Plus Ultra was not advertised as and therefore not offered as their former complete kits.

Here, the c.1881-c.1885 version will be designated the Ne Plus Ultra (A-D) and the c.1887-c.1896 version will be designated as Ne Plus Ultra (No Letters).  Both Ne Plus Ultra (A-D) have the rather unusual construction of both the front and rear finger-jointed boxes being the same size and placed on their own solid wood base of the same width, giving the appearance that the finger-joints don't go all the way through. 

The 6x8 camera above has typical Ne Plus Ultra construction (both the front and back standards the same size and sitting on solid blocks), and, since the bed folds, fits the description of the Ne Plus Ultra (No Letters), except it has no swing.

References:
How to Make Pictures, 4th edition, Henry Clay Price, Scovill Mfg. Co., publishers (New York, NY), dated 1887, copyright 1886, p.a4
Photographic Lenses and How to Select Them, James W. Queen & Co. (Philadelphia, PA), 1887, p. 27
How to Make Photographs and Descriptive Price List, Scovill Mfg. Co. (New York, NY), distributed by C.H. Codman & Co. (Boston, MA), April 1887, p. 27
How to Make Photographs and Descriptive Price List, Scovill Mfg. Co. (New York, NY), July 1887, p 27
How to Make Photographs and Descriptive Price List, Scovill Mfg. Co. (New York, NY), undated but about January 1888, p. 25 (4x5, 5x8)
How to Make Photographs and Descriptive Price List, Scovill Mfg. Co., distributed by C.H. Codman & Co. (Boston, MA), September 1888, p 12
How to Make Photographs and Descriptive Price List, Scovill & Adams Co. (New York, NY), January 1889, p. 12
How to Make Photographs and Descriptive Price List, The Scovill & Adams Co. (New York, NY), distributed by Oscar Foss (San Francisco, CA), June 1890, p. 14
How to Make Photographs and Descriptive Price List, The Scovill & Adams Co. (New York, NY), distributed by Sargent & Co. (Cleveland, OH), April 1891, p. 7
How to Make Photographs and Descriptive Price List, The Scovill & Adams Co. (New York, NY), distributed by Horgan, Robey & Co. (Boston, MA), June 1891, p. 4
How to Make Photographs and Descriptive Price List, The Scovill & Adams Co. (New York, NY), January 1892, p. 2
How to Make Photographs and Descriptive Price List, The Scovill & Adams Co. (New York, NY), April 1892, p 4
How to Make Photographs and a Descriptive Price List, The Scovill & Adams Co. (New York, NY), 1896, p. 22

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