Antique & Vintage Photographic Equipment

Junior Box Ensign Camera

Houghton-Butcher Manufacturing Co Ltd.

Name: Junior Box ("J-B") Ensign
Manufacturer: Houghton-Butcher Manufacturing Co Ltd.
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Construction: Wooden bodied box camera, covered in black imitation leather.
Production Period: 1929-1930 (possibly later)
Plate / Film Size: 2B (E20) rollfilm
Lens: Meniscus
Shutter: Simple T & I
Movements: None
Dimensions (w x h x l): 8 x 1`5.5 x 15 cm approx.

Image of J-B Ensign logo

The Junior Box Ensign camera was sold by Houghton-Butcher as part of its range in the early 1930s. It is the first camera listed in an Ensign catalogue for 1932 and is described as a "reliable camera of simple design", and was sold for a very modest price, which was about a third of the cost of the cheapest folding camera in the same catalogue (the Ensign Pocket "Twenty"). The 1932 catalogue also lists a portrait attachment, a case and a tripod attachment as available accessories.

Catalogue entry (1932) for Junior Box Ensign

The Junior Box Ensign camera was also made available through several different premium schemes, where the camera could be acquired in exchanged for some form of coupon or token. The camera often turns up with original postal packaging and sometimes with supporting documentation. A particularly popular scheme was run by John Bull magazine, where of course the initials on the front of the camera conveniently matched that of the magazine.

Date of this Example: c1929
Serial Number: None
Availability:
  • Common [x]
  • Uncommon [ ]
  • Hard to Find [ ]
  • Scarce [ ]
Inventory Number: 463

 

Image of J-B Ensign Box Camera

Description

This example of the Junior Box Ensign camera was supplied as a premium Camera "With the Compliments of John Bull & The People" according to the label on the side of the original postal carton.

The label on the top of the carton shows an addressee in Dulwich, London. The postmark is March 1929. I have another example (see #004 below) that is postmarked in 1930, but no evidence as yet to confirm over what period these cameras were made or distributed.

The camera came in the original orange ENSIGN cardboard carton used to supply the camera from John Bull & The People, which carries the "J-B" Ensign logo. The box is much discoloured but complete and sound, which is quite surprising since it is made of corrugated cardboard.

This example came with the original letter to the readers of the John Bull magazine and The People telling them about their free gift of the "J. B. Ensign" camera and a free roll of Ensign film. This also refers to the "directions enclosed". What came with the camera was a long narrow folded sheet (see below) which advertises the All-Distance Ensign but provides "Helpful Hints" on the lower half of the strip. Interestingly, this is marked as being from Ensign Ltd, which was formed in 1930.

Image of Instructions for J-B Ensign Box Camera Click on the image to open a larger PDF version of the instruction sheet.
Actual size (h x w open): 250 x 64mm
Image of John Bull pamphlet provided with J-B Ensign Box Camera Refer to the similar example under #004 below for a link to the full pamphlet.
Actual size (h x w folded): 163 x 127mm

~ # ~ # ~

Date of this Example: c1929
Serial Number: None
Availability:
  • Common [x]
  • Uncommon [ ]
  • Hard to Find [ ]
  • Scarce [ ]
Inventory Number: 594

 

Image of J-B Ensign Camera Image of J-B Ensign Camera

Description

This example of the J-B Ensign was again provided with the compliments of John Bull & The People" according to the label on the side of the original postal carton.

The box contained two pieces of original paper ephemera relating to the camera. There is a single sheet of paper, "J.B. Ensign" Roll Film Camera - Instructions for Use", which is printed on both sides (approx 8 x 4"). In addition there is a folded pamphlet "Hints and wants for you J.B. Ensign Camera". This has a bright orange front page showing the title. It folds out to something less than A3 sized and is the same content as a corresponding document obtained with an Ensign Greyhound camera.

As with the previous example, the camera came in the original orange ENSIGN cardboard carton used to supply the camera from John Bull & The People, which carries the "J-B" Ensign logo. The box is much discoloured but complete and sound, which is quite surprising since it is made of corrugated cardboard.

Image of Instruction sheet for J-B Ensign Box Camera Click on the image to open a PDF version of the double-sided instruction sheet.
Actual size (h x w): 185 x 108mm
Image of John Bull pamphlet provided with J-B Ensign Box Camera The image shows the front page of the "Hints and wants for your J. B. Ensign camera". Note that this uses "J.B." rather than "J-B" in the title.
Actual size (h x w folded): 219 x 124mm
The pamphlet folds out to a sheet that is approximately A3 in size. Apart from the main title page, the remainder is identical to a sheet received with an Ensign Greyhound camera dating to the same period.

~ # ~ # ~

Date of this Example: c1929
Serial Number: None
Availability:
  • Common [x]
  • Uncommon [ ]
  • Hard to Find [ ]
  • Scarce [ ]
Inventory Number: 004

 

Image of J-B Ensign Box Camera

Description

This example of the J-B Ensign compliments of John Bull according to the label on the side of the original postal carton (and is therefore slightly different to the previous two examples that were for the John Bull and The People). This example carries a postmark date of 1 Jan 1930 on the packaging.

Again, this example came in its original orange ENSIGN cardboard carton used to supply the camera from John Bull, which carries an"J-B" Ensign logo.

This example came with the instruction booklet, and a John Bull subscription form.

Image of Instructions for J-B Ensign Box Camera Click on the image to open a PDF version of the instruction sheet.
Actual size (h x w folded): 102 x 62mm
Actual size (h x w open): 102 x 225mm
Image of Fun of Photography brochure provided with J-B Ensign Box Camera Click on the image to open a PDF version of the Ensign brochure.
Actual size (h x w): 128 x 96mm
Image of John Bull invitation provided with J-B Ensign Box Camera Invitation provided with the J-B Ensign camera.
Actual size (h x w): 83 x 125mm
Image of John Bull pamphlet provided with J-B Ensign Box Camera Click on the image to open a PDF version of the John Bull pamphlet.
Actual size (h x w folded): 163 x 127mm

Notes

This is one of several common box cameras that were made by Houghton-Butcher for use as premium cameras.

Note that the camera is identified in the Ensign catalogue as the Junior Box Ensign camera, but is referred to elsewhere as either the "J-B" Ensign or "J. B." Ensign camera.

It is not uncommon for these box cameras to turn up with their original packaging and even sometimes the original instructions or other paperwork. The simple corrugated cardboard packaging can damage easily though and is quite often in poor condition.

The three examples here show various combinations of packaging and paper ephemera that accompanied the J-B Ensign camera. if you have examples of other variants or premium sources, I would be interested to hear from you.

Refer also to the Ensign E29 Box camera for E29 films, which has a very similar format.