The owner of the successful Scovill & Adams photographic manufacturing company was born on March 25, 1832 in New York City, and is a direct descendant of Presidents John and John Quincy Adams. Little is known about his childhood or his family life except that he married the former Marion L. Briggs, and together they had a son they named Washington Irving Lincoln Adams who would later follow in his father's footsteps. The senior Adams became an accomplished daguerreotypist and applied his skill to secure a sales position at Scovill Manufacturing Company in 1858, when he was 26. Through hard work and dogged determination, Mr. Adams became successful Scovill agent and later named company director. Well respected by his peers for his knowledge of photographic equipment, Mr. Adams was named President of S. Peck & Company, a New Haven-based manufacturer of photographic implements that was under the Scovill corporate umbrella.
Washington Irving Adams was responsible for organizing the American Optical Company in hopes of providing photographers with the finest quality lenses and camera equipment. Mr. Adams strongly believed that superior photographs could only be produced by the best available equipment. He was the founder of the company’s publication Photographic Times, which became required reading for industry insiders. Mr. Adams' professional stature continued to grow when he became the Centennial Photographic Company's First Vice-President in 1876. During this period, he also served as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Photographic Association of America.
Scovill Manufacturing launched its own photographic division in 1889 under the name of Scovill & Adams, with Mr. Adams serving as both President and Treasurer. Because of his expert leadership, Scovill & Adams became one of the most prosperous and influential global photographic equipment enterprises. Because of Scovill & Adams' meteoric corporate rise, a rivalry developed with E. & H.T. Anthony & Company, which at the time was the largest photographic supplier in the United States. Mr. Adams understood the power of advertising, and both Photographic Times and the Philadelphia Photographer were peppered with Scovill & Adams' impressive array of tripods, lanterns, developers, trays, and rollers. Mr. Adams' tenacity was credited with Scovill becoming the lone distributor of Carbutt dry plates, which further fueled its competition with the Anthony Company.
After an attack of apoplexy (cerebral hemorrhage) in 1895, Mr. Adams' partially recovered, but health was significantly compromised. Washington Irving Adams passed away quietly in Montclair, NJ on January 2, 1896. His son Washington Irving Lincoln Adams remained active in the photographic industry as editor of Scovill's Photographic Times. The Amateur Photographer authored important textbooks including Photographing in Old England, In Nature's Image, Sunlight and Shadow, Woodland and Meadow, among others. He died in 1946. The immeasurable contributions of this father-and-son team are reflected in their innovative business practices and in their efforts to educate others about photography and the artistic importance of utilizing the highest quality equipment.
1893 Anthony's Photographic Bulletin, Vol. XXIV (New York: E. & H. T. Anthony & Co.), p. 288.
1896 Anthony's Photographic Bulletin, Vol. XXVII (New York: E. & H. T. Anthony & Co.), p. 64.
2008 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), p. 1259.
1896 The Photogram, Vol. III (London: Dawbarn & Ward, Ltd.), p. 96.
1896 Wilson's Photographic Magazine, Vol. XXXIII (New York: Edward L. Wilson), pp. 63-72.
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