Antique & Vintage Photographic Equipment

May Fair (Portrait) Box Camera

Houghton-Butcher Manufacturing Co Ltd.

Name / Model: May Fair (Portrait) Box Camera
Manufacturer: Houghton-Butcher Manufacturing Co Ltd.
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Construction: Metal bodied box camera, finished in black imitation leather on the sides but with a black 'crackle' paint finish on the front and rear face. The back is hinged on the bottom edge; the internal assembly has to be removed from the camera to load and unload film.
Production Period:  
Plate / Film Size: E20 rollfilm (3 x 2)
Lens: Unknown; 2 aperture sizes on slider
Shutter: Single speed T & I shutter
Movements: None
Dimensions (w x h x l): 7.5 x 10.5 x 14 cm

There are two distinct variants of the May Fair portrait box camera, as shown in the photograph below.

Image of May Fair portrait box cameras

Image of May Fair portrait box cameras

Model / Variant: Early version with sports finder
Date of this Example: c1931
Serial Number: None
Availability:
  • Common [x]
  • Uncommon [ ]
  • Hard to Find [ ]
  • Scarce [ ]
Inventory Number: 202

Description

This May Fair (Portrait) box camera is clearly marked with the manufacturer's name on the underside of the camera body. The body is metal finished in a black 'crackle' finish on the front and rear; the remainder of the body is covered in black imitation leather. This example still has original portrait attachment, held in side recess hidden behind a sprung door. The sports viewfinder is in good condition. It retains its original black leather handle, with 'May Fair' impressed into the surface.

Image of May Fair portrait box camera (early model)

Instructions relate to both this metal bodied box camera and the more common of the folding cameras of the same name. The instructions are labelled as the "Ardath Tobacco Co Ltd, London". It is known that "May Fair" was a cigarette brand name, marketed by Ardath, and this camera was given away as a premium item in return for cigarette coupons. The May Fair name is marked as a Trademark on the cover of the instructions and on the label on the camera itself.

May Fair camera instruction booklet

~ # ~ # ~

Model / Variant: Later version without sports finder
Date of this Example: c1933
Serial Number: None
Availability:
  • Common [ ]
  • Uncommon [x]
  • Hard to Find [ ]
  • Scarce [ ]
Inventory Number: 609

Description

This is another variant of the May Fair (Portrait) box camera, which is of a slightly simpler design than the earlier example in that it is missing the sports finder (pull out wire frame on the camera front and retractable finder on the camera back) but otherwise is essentially the same.

Image of May Fair portrait box camera (late model)

This later version does not declare the manufacturer's name on the underside of the camera body. As with the earlier example, the body is metal finished in a black 'crackle' finish on the front and rear; the remainder of the body is covered in black imitation leather. This example also has its original portrait attachment. It retains its original black leather handle, with 'May Fair' impressed into the surface.

Notes

This May Fair variant is shown in a 1933 Ardath premium gift catalogue that I have, as does the equally common May Fair folding camera. There are two other folding cameras that also appear in this catalogue: a basic model that is based on the Ensign Pocket 20 and a superior model (Super May Fair).

An earlier version of the Ardath catalogue only lists the May Fair box camera and the common May Fair folding model, suggesting that these may have been available for rather longer than the other two (less common) models.

The earlier Ardath gift catalogue shows the box camera with the sports finder, while the later catalogue shows the variant without the sports finder.

It is interesting to note that the portrait attachment is also listed as a separate item in the catalogue. The camera could be acquired without the portrait lens.

Image of May Fair portrait box camera (late model)

This May Fair box camera is very much more common than the E29 May Fair box camera.

Further information about the group of cameras that were available through the Ardath Tobacco Company premium scheme and the premium scheme itself can be found on the page dedicated to the May Fair premium scheme.