The growth of  the Leitz Werke from a humble optical workshop in 1869 (the year when Ernst Leitz bought the Kellner firm) to a major manufacturer of  optical instruments in 1933 occurred during a period in which the industrial revolution and modernization alternated with two serious economic depressions. In less than half  a century the German industry evolved from a collage of  small workshops to the most powerful conglomerate of  modern manufacture in Europe. The age from 1848 to 1933 has been called the German Age because German science, industry and culture dominated the European scene. The optical industry became one of  the spearheads of  modernization, starting from a handful of  artisanal workshops around 1850. At the turn of  the century Germany had more than 300 optical companies.

The evolution and success of  the Leitz Company is easier to understand against this background. The invention and development of  the Leica camera took place in the period from about 1905 to 1925 and this period is pivotal for the Leitz company and for the subsequent development of  photography.

A sketch of  this crucial period, sometimes referred to as the Vertigo Years, introduces the artistic and cultural forces that helped the acceptance and later dominance of  the Leica camera.