Toronto, February 2, 2014. Thanks to George Dunbar for reminding me with this article from The Guardian in the UK that the industry changing Leica was born 100 years ago last month on January 21, 1914.
When Oskar Barnack first constructed his camera photographers used much larger machines and contact printed their negatives. Barnack used the little camera around Wetzlar, Germany (home of the Leitz Optical House) to take pictures of his boss, town floods, and soldiers on the eve of WWI wearing their bayonet style helmets. The grandson of Ernst Leitz used an UR Leica to take street scenes in New York City during a vacation visit the summer of 1914 while the rumbles of the great war in Europe were growing ever louder (my books are buried at the moment so I cannot show the photographs which are generally common to various Leica manuals and references).
Barnack continued to refine his little camera and when a heavy post-war recession hit Germany, a decision was made to build the camera in hopes that people at Leitz could remain working. The Leica emerged in the 1925 German spring fair at Leipzig. After promoting the concept of “small negative, big picture” the camera took off revolutionizing photographic history.
Back in 2009 I reviewed an excellent CD (now out of print) by Irwin Puts. The CD covered Leica History from 1925 to 1965 using scans of brochures and manuals held by Leitz Wetzlar archives in Solms, Germany. Happy Anniversary little guy!