I'm doing research for a novel and I have a question about the equipment and techniques that would have been available to a professional photographer in the early 1920s in Europe.

In order to create prints, would they have had access to an enlarger or a projector? What would be the process of creating prints once the negatives have been developed.

My character would be using a Vest Pocket Kodak (VPK) popular with soldiers during the First World War. They used 127 film.

Would they have been able to create enlarged images?

Any suggestions or thoughts, greatly appreciated.



  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your help everyone. Any suggestions of websites or resources on dark rooms and developing from this period 1919/1920 would be hugely appreciated! \$\endgroup\$ Dec 18, 2019 at 11:46

3 Answers 3


The answer to your question is yes, a pro photog in 1920's Europe would definitely have had access to a darkroom enlarger. In fact, some enlargers available in the early 1920s were amazingly sophisticated, auto-focus models. I am attaching a description of one that just happens to be American, circa 1920.

However, if your 1920's photog was located in Europe then he or she would have likely used a domestic model from darkroom equipment suppliers like C.P. Goerz in Berlin. Leitz enlargers specifically for small-format negatives went on the market in 1925, but there were plenty of prior options.

1920 Elwood Pattern Works Auto-Focus Enlarger

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you so much Phil. That is brilliant. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 19, 2019 at 13:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Let us know when the book comes out! \$\endgroup\$ Dec 19, 2019 at 21:07

According to this page the first enlarger working with electric light was created in 1861. At the turn of the century, amateurs would still use a "solar camera" (an enlarger that uses the natural sunlight), but this means that professionals had access to regular enlargers.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for your answer. That is very helpful. It is quite hard to find information on what a typical set up for a dark room would have been in the early 1920s. The vest pocket Kodak (or the soldier's camera) was so widely used but I presume most amateurs where sending their film in to be developed and the standard size of the prints would have been quite small, correct? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 18, 2019 at 11:44

Previously, enlargers were in common use that used the sun as a light source. These solar enlargers remained on the market, made by Griffin and Sons, until the turn of the century.

Photo papers then available had sufficient paper speed to allow exposure by an electric light source. Louis Duboscq (1817 – 1886) made such enlarger.This apparatus was first shown to the Paris Photographic Society in 1861.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ What did that use, an arc lamp? Given the lightbulb wasn't invented then.... \$\endgroup\$ Dec 17, 2019 at 18:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ I assume "turn of the century" is turn of the 19th to the 20th? Do you have any details about the 1920s specifically? I assume things were pretty different from 1861 to 1921! \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Dec 18, 2019 at 3:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you, yes. I am looking specifically at the post war period and early 1920s. Dark rooms then would have had electric light but I was curious about what techniques would have been available to create larger prints than would be standard as I assumed commercial printers would only be creating smaller sized prints. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 18, 2019 at 11:45
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ By the 1920's contract printers and enlargers were in common usage. These devices were quite similar to what we have today for the handling of black & white materials. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 18, 2019 at 14:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ You mean contact printer, or contract printer, or a contract printer using a contact printer under a printed printing contract printing contact prints? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 18, 2019 at 21:12

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