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.