Canon started out life as Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory in Toyko Japan, 1933. Founded by Goro Yoshida (and a couple other people). The first camera he designed, in 1934, was a 35mm interchangeable lens Leica rangefinder copy called the Kwanon, though it never went into production. Yoshida later stated that the reason why he made a Leica copy was it made him angry (after he took one apart) to find out that there was nothing special in its design to warrant its high price.
Yoshida left the company in the fall of 1934 … sadly I cannot find any information about what he did after this time.
The first production model was the Hansa, which used Nippon Kogaku Kogyo (Nikon, which at the time was not making cameras) lenses, introduced in 1936. They only started making their own lenses in 1939.
The company changed its name to Precision Optical Industry, Co, Ltd. In 1937, and to Canon Camera Co. in 1947.