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The story of camera manufacturer Hermann Josef Hubert Mackenstein is inextricably linked to the wars between France and Germany. Mackenstein was born in Doveren, Westphalia (present-day Germany) on 17 December 18461. He learned the trade of carpentry and left for Paris in 1867 to improve his skills. At the end of 1868, he was called up to serve in the Prussian army. He was serving in the army as a bugler when the Franco-Prussian War broke out on 19 July 1870. Mackenstein was present during the siege of his former residence in Paris2.

Mackenstein was demobilised in 1872 and returned to Paris. He started a workshop as a carpenter. At the end of the 1870s, he began manufacturing cameras, and his workshop moved to 15, Rue des Carmes around 19003. His company was named H. Mackenstein. In 1902, the firm Établissements Mackenstein was founded4 and a store was opened at 7, Avenue de l’Opéra. Mackenstein’s company became a leading manufacturer of cameras in Paris. Mackenstein manufactured conventional cameras, stereo cameras, photography accessories and stereoscopes. He launched the photographic magazine Arc en Ciel in 1897, which was published until 1915.

Mackenstein continuously had to emphasise that his company was French, because anti-German sentiments were strong in France at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1914, the international situation deteriorated, leading to the outbreak of the First World War. After the German declaration of war on France, Mackenstein’s factory had to be guarded by the police because he was seen as a German spy. The company was renamed to Francia in 19155, a name that had already been used for a line of cameras. However, in the same year, Mackenstein’s possessions were seized, and a year later he fled to the neutral Netherlands6. The business activities of the company were continued by the remaining management in Paris.

After the war, Mackenstein got his possessions back after a lengthy trial, and he returned to Paris in 1922. He died on 24 March 1924. The company was continued by two of his employees, Henri Suffize and Léon Molitor, and was renamed to Suffize & Molitor7.


  1. Princelle, J.L. and Scheiba, D. (2013) Mackenstein – Suffize & Molitor, p. 2. ↩︎
  2. Ibid, p. 3. ↩︎
  3. L’Amateur photographe (1890). Via: ↩︎
  4. L’Information photographique (1902). Via: ↩︎
  5. Cover of Photo-Revue (September 1915) ↩︎
  6. Princelle, J.L. and Scheiba, D. (2013) Mackenstein – Suffize & Molitor, p. 6. ↩︎
  7. Ibid, p.7. ↩︎