Emil Wunsche, the founder of this internationally famous German photographic shop was born in a tiny village near Dresden in 1864. A merchant by trade, Mr. Wunsche eagerly observed the growing photographic industry, and as a natural businessman, understood the market potential of selling photographic plates and equipment.
In 1884 Emil Wunsche began business relationship and eventually acquired three small business operations on his journey to having his own business, they included Louis Lang for cameras and other assets for photography, Dienwiebel & Co., for packing and miscellaneous material and Paul Forster for the manufacturer of cameras.
Emil Wunsche opened his own shop in Dresden in 1887, listed as a manufacturer of photographic equipment and supplies, and soon became the leading area photographic equipment supplier. Soon, he added Richard Huttig & Sohn cameras to his growing inventory, labeling then with his own name.
Mr. Wunsche's success allowed him to grow rapidly enough to compete with other Dresden camera suppliers like Huttig and Heinrich Ernemann, and so he decided to open camera factory in Reick, a small village near Dresden, in 1896. He moved his shop to this location shortly thereafter. The factory was considered a technological marvel for its time, with its machines powered by a 120-horsepower steam engine. In addition, the factory site included a small medical unit, canteen, and fire brigade.
By 1898, the Wunsche Company had 206 employees, and provided communal housing for 27 employee families. Sadly, however, a fire that same year caused severe structural damage. Undeterred, Mr. Wunsche rebuilt his factory, and his business was larger and seemingly more successful than ever. The Wunsche Company grew to employ 350 workers, and although it did not make its own lenses, they were purchased from the finest suppliers of the day - Voigtlander, Zeiss, and Steinheil, among others. The Wunsche factory manufactured a vast selection of cameras, including Ada and Bosco mirror cameras, Afpi and Reicka folding cameras, and Mars Detective and 99 cameras.
In 1902, the Wunsche Company (also known as Emil Wunsche AG) was flourishing as Dresden’s second largest manufacturer of cameras. But shockingly, Emil Wunsche took his own life that year at his home in Reick. Rumors swirled that Mr. Wunsche committed suicide over personal problems and there was speculation that his business had grown too quickly and he overextended himself financially. Happily, however, for the photography medium, the Wunsche Company continued under the watchful eye of Mr. Wunsche's partner Louis Lang.
Under Mr. Lang's leadership, company production diversified to include plate cameras, darkroom equipment, magnifiers, viewfinders, flash units, and roll film for moving pictures. However, local competition remained fierce, and strikes by Dresden camera employee threatened corporate profitability. Therefore, Mr. Lang wisely agreed to a merger, and in 1909, the Wunsche Company became part of Dresden's International Camera Actiengesellschaft (ICA). In 1926, it became part of the Zeiss Ikon conglomerate, which prior to the Second World War, was the leading manufacturer of 8 mm movie cameras. Zeiss Ikon ceased its operations in 1972.
1907 The Amateur Photographer and Photographic News, Vol. XLVI (London: Hazel Watson & Viney Ltd.), p. 284.
1908 The Amateur Photographer and Photographic News, Vol. XLVIII (London: Hazel Watson & Viney Ltd.), p. 88.
2009 Emil Wunsche 1904 (Norderstedt, Germany: Books on Demand).
2008 History Praktica (URL: http://museum.praktica.de/index.php?id=33&L=0).
1902 The Photographic Dealer and D. & P. Trade Review, Vol. XIL, No. 68 (London: Photographic Dealer Ltd.), p. 273.
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