Albert Flesch left his native Hungary to
come to Chicago alone when he was 13. Albert carried not only much of his family's hopes,
but he also carried a small red diary with him on the trip. In his diary, he tells of
buying a new winter coat and visiting relatives on the day of his departure. He describes
the life on board ship and his arrival in Chicago, where he went to live with an uncle.
later, Albert Flesch started his work career in the camera department of Siegel-Cooper,
one of the large downtown department stores of its day.
With this initiation to photography, he opened Central Camera in a storefront at 31 E.
Adams St. in 1899.
The 1893 Columbian Exposition put Chicago on the map as an international city. By 1899,
downtown Chicago already had staked its growth on vertical construction with the first
generation of skyscrapers such as architect Louis Sullivan's Auditorium Theatre Building
at 430 S. Michigan Ave; and the Elevated tracks already defined the "LOOP".
But the Gay '90s had their downside, too. They brought severe depression to the country
and the city. The labor dispute that resulted in the bitter Pullman Strike in Chicago
halted the trains nationwide, and President Grover Cleveland sent the U.S. Cavalry to
escort trains from the city.
The year of Central Camera's founding marked the 60th anniversary of the invention of
photography. George Eastman had revolutionized the market with easy-to-operate Kodak box
cameras, first introduced in 1888.
Albert Flesch offered the innovative service of commercial developing and print
processing at his store in 1900 and also introduced a mail-order catalogue.
Central Camera prospered and, after a move to another location on Wabash Avenue,
settled in 1929 at its present location, in what had been a piano store.