once upon a time in Canada

Leitz Canada Summicron

Toronto. A few years after the second world war ended, Ernst Leitz established a factory in Midland, Ontario. At this subsidiary factory cameras were assembled from Wetzlar parts, manufactured, and lenses were assembled, manufactured and designed.

In our journal, issue 13-2, the son of the Canadian distributor of Leica and Minox cameras and accessories, David Carveth, wrote an article on the creation of the ELC (Ernst Leitz, Canada) factory. Initially, assembly of Wetzlar parts was done in Midland. Later cameras and lenses were also manufactured there. Few cameras were signed as Leitz Midland. It was necessary to use the serial number to tell whether a camera was assembled in Midland or Wetzlar. From the beginning of manufacture at Leitz, batches of serial numbers were assigned to different models and locales (after multiple factories were in operation) each year.

The head of ELC, Walter Kluck, brought over the equipment to make the M4 camera line when it was discontinued in Wetzlar after the CL and  M5 models arrived. The Canadian versions were the Leica M4-2 and M4-P. Doctor Walter Mandler moved to Midland to help set up the factory and stayed in Canada. His lens designs, such as the summicron 35mm f/2 shown at left, became world famous. Mandler retired in 1990. By the time the M6 was designed, manufacture and design of cameras and lenses had moved back to Germany.

In time, the majority of work and profit at ELC stemmed from American Military contracts such as those for Hughes Aircraft. Leitz discontinued retail equipment manufacture in Midland and in 1990 the Canadian factory was sold to Hughes in Los Angeles ending the storied manufacture of high end cameras and lenses here.

NB. The title is a riff on a movie, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood“, and a line from the poem, “The Daring Froggie”  which I learned as child many decades ago in grade two and used to recite to my kids to their delight.

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