Monday, September 12, 2016

Kodak and Dr. Nagel

The German Connection that Led Kodak to 35mm Cameras

By Heidi Lux

The autumn auction catalogs are piling up. As much as I love thumbing through all of their colorful pages, I must confess I always do a little dance when the Auction Team Breker Photographica & Film catalog is thrown through my door. It is a camera freak’s dream come true: stereo cameras, spy cameras, folding plate cameras, professional Leica and Hasselblad equipment…let’s just say I want one of everything.

And this month what a nice surprise – 24 lots of Kodak cameras! The section (lots 158 through 178) is mysteriously titled “Kodak (Dr. Nagel).” As a Rochester girl, I would have expected any selection of Kodaks to be titled “Kodak (George Eastman),” but after a bit of digging I discovered that Dr. August Nagel was the person in charge of Mr. Eastman’s German division in Stuttgart from 1932 until he died in 1943. Actually, to be fair, he owned the camera production plant, Dr. Nagel-Werke, before George Eastman bought him out, and remained on as its director.

If you go to you can check out the range of Kodaks being offered. Highlights include early 1900s Kodak Brownie and Hawkeye stereo cameras; two stylish 1928 “Vest Pocket” Kodak Vanity cameras in blue and green leather cases; an awkward looking 1937 Kodak projector; a 1930s Danish advertising poster featuring the Kodak Girl; and even some very early Kodak photographs of Cornwall, England, 1888. 

But be sure to have a look at Dr. Nagel’s special contribution, the Kodak Retina, the company’s first 35mm camera which introduced the 35mm film cartridge some of us still use today. Lot 172 consists of 9 pre-WWII Retina cameras with a starting bid of 200 Euro ($225). To be sure, some of us won’t be bidding in the Sept. 23-24 auction. But it doesn’t cost anything to look. Just don’t drool on your keyboard.

In honor of the occasion, I’ve put up a 1973 postcard of the Kodak Rochester, N.Y. camera works and headquarters on LuxPostcardsEtc. Anyone who grew up in Rochester remembers Kodak as “the Great Yellow Father,” the largest employer of the area. Visitors to Rochester will find George Eastman’s generous legacy everywhere: The Eastman Theater, the Eastman School of Music, the George Eastman House Museum of Photography and Film, and so much more. For more information on Rochester go to

Here is a link to the postcard: