The company was founded in 1933 in Tokyo as the Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory. In 1934, it released its first prototype, a 35mm focal plane shutter model named Kwanon.
Kwanon or Kwannon is the Japanese name for Guanyin, a Buddhist deity commonly referred to as the Goddess of Mercy in English.
The prototype is followed up by a production model, known as the Hansa Canon. It wasn’t until 1947, after World War II, that the company changed its name to Canon.
Source: Canon official history via Internet Archive.
Header image: Canon lens cap by Tanner White on Flickr.