British photographic history

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Research: Geoffrey Gilbert and the Gilbert box camera

I am researching the history of the Gilbert box camera and its designer, Geoffrey Gilbert.  The camera was made in the 1950s and had an unusual steel body covered in artificial lizard skin.  This camera will be familiar to many.

I am trying to establish who made the camera, how many were made and why an apparently well specified, reasonably-priced and attractive camera had such a short life in the middle of the 1950s.  

To help estimate production numbers, I need serial numbers and I hope members may be able to help.

There are two sources of this information.  The first is the aluminium catch which holds the front and back of the camera together (eg 15155 in the photo, below).  The second is the side flap on the top of the box.  The flap has both the camera number and the lens batch (10393 and Batch 2 in the photo, below) both of which are of interest to me.

Any information including serial numbers would be gratefully received and will inform an article to be published in Photographica World at the end of the year.



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Comment by David Gardner on September 2, 2020 at 19:40

Glad to see you spotted the information on the photo memorabilia website.  Some of the information on the Gilbert is from me, and I am hoping to be able to say more about the production numbers as and when collectors provide serial numbers.  

Geoffrey Gilbert was a very well known gardener and his book, "The Lazy Gardeners Guide" is an interesting read.  It demonstrates his in-depth knowledge not only of plants but of the microclimate and soil chemistry which suits particular plants.  He was a man of many interests and talents which went beyond his significant theoretical and practical skills in engineering and photography.  .

Comment by David Gardner on September 2, 2020 at 19:31

You're quite right, the Gilbert was used by the police to record bad driving.  It was pictured in an AP advert in August 1955 and looks quite threatening with two burly policemen looking out from behind the windscreen.  This particular dashcam was certainly ahead of its time.

Comment by David H Davison on September 1, 2020 at 10:35

I remember an an announcement in the British Journal of Photography to the effect that Gilbert cameras were being fitted to police cars to record traffic vioations. I have no recollection of the year, probably between 1956 and 58.

I wonder was this the first dashcam.

Comment by Gordon Christie on September 1, 2020 at 8:13

P.S. I think it may mention rough production numbers.

Comment by Gordon Christie on September 1, 2020 at 8:10

Your request prompted a search as this is a camera that I have often thought of adding to my collection of (mostly odd) cameras. They are now advertised for sale on the well known auction site at £140 having originally cost £3 11s 11d (tax paid)! 

There is a huge article regarding R F Hunter history and connection with Rollei on which, while fascinating, probably doesn’t answer your specific questions on this particular camera. It does mention that Mr Gilbert’s garden was home to over 1,000 species of plants however!

Good luck with your research.

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