Timeline

Click on a number for the book referenced in each particular date in the timeline.

Genesis III, 21

Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins and clothed them

5000-2000 BC

Coloured leather, sandals, bags, and cushion and leather clothing found in Nubian tombs. (6)

2000 BC

Egyptian scroll, the earliest known document written in leather. (6)

1370 BC

Red leather gloves presented to Egyptian official Ay. (6)

900-700 BC

Philistine texts in Jordan on parchment made from camel skin.

800 BC

Sumerian recipe for tanning freshly slaughtered ox hide. "This skin you will take it, then you will drench it in pure pulverised Nisaba flour, in water, beer and first quality wine. With the best fat of a pure ox, the alum of the land of the Hittites and oak galls, you will press it and you cover the bronze kettle drum with it". (6)

399 BC

Socrates died by drinking hemlock, after being found guilty of "impiety". His main accuser was Anytus, who was a tanner.

206 BC - AD 220

(Han Dynasty China) Shoes found in 2002 in the Xuanquanzhi Ruins in Dunhuang, Gangsu Province. Entirely made of pigskin or sheepskin, including the sole. No difference between left and right. Men's, women's, and children's shoes have been found showing shoes were commonplace and durable at that time.

197-159 BC

Parchment (charta pergamena) first made in Pergamum (Asia Minor - Turkey, now known as Bergama). Used to build a library to match that in Alexandria. Ptolemy Philadelphus stopped the export of papyrus from Egypt, necessitating an alternate writing material. The vellum used was much more durable than papyrus and marked a distinct change in book technology. (Part of this is extracted from the Encyclopaedia Britannica)

AD79

Pliny mentions "green gall-nuts of Aleppo" as best suited to the preparation of leather

8th Century

On the arrival of the Moors in Cordoba, in Southern Spain, two great industries are established silver and leather

9th Century

"Well known are the skins that arrive white as snow and then leave here, tanned red, bearing your name, Cordoba" Theodulfi Carmina poem

11th Century

Knowledge of tanning has spread beyond Cordoba and into Europe. Three tanning processes exist A) the oil process or chamoising; B) the mineral (alum) process or tawing; C) the vegetable process or tanning. (2)

1215

The Magna Carta is written in England, on June 15th, a wet Monday afternoon. It sets out a legal framework between King John and his people. It was written on Vellum (parchment from calfskin) and cover one large page in abbreviated Latin. Ink from oak gals was used. 13 copies were written and four remain. One in Salisbury Cathedral, one in Lincoln castle, and two in the British Library. I have seen the one in Salisbury and it is in perfect condition and quite legible. Parts of the Magna Carta were adopted in the American, German and Russian constitutions as well as in those of many Commonwealth countries.

1254-1324

Marco Polo broadcasts the quality of Russian Leather, including noting the aroma from the birch-bark.

1272

The Cordwainers Company of London received Ordinances, and their first Charter in 1439. They worked in Cordoba goatskin leather and later made shoes, leather bottles, and harness. (16)

1272

The Saddlers Company of London received its first Charter, although it is believed to have its origins in earlier Anglo-Saxon times. The Saddlers Company was then incorporated in 1395. (16)

1300

The Curriers Company of London received its first Ordinances. These dealt with price and quality. Further ordinances of 1415 were more general. Curriers dressed, levelled, and greased the tanned leather.

1327

The Skinners Company received their first Charter in 1327. They were derived from two religious brotherhoods founded in the 12th and 13th centuries. The skinners controlled the fur trade and became wealthy because the wearing of furs was restricted to the upper classes as an obvious indication of dignity. (16)

1333

After flood destroys the Ponte Vecchio in Florence tanners are not allowed back on the bridge because of the pollution and smell. They move down river to Santa-Croce sull Arno.

1340

First written details of tanning in Igualada Spain.

1349

The ordinances for the Guild of Glovers in London were made. Joined with the Pursers in 1498 and then in 1502 the Glovers company merged with the Leathersellers, but they separated later and the Glovers Company were granted a Charter (Letters Patent) from King Charles I in 1638. (16, 2).
Apprentices written contracts still preserved in Igualada.

1350

Igualada begins as a tanning centre near Barcelona in Spain. In the 14th century a group of ten tanners called "La Dena" takes the decisions of approving tanners qualifications to work.

1372

The Leathersellers Company of London received its first Ordinances for the dyeing of leather.

1392

The butchers of London ordered to deposit skins and offal in the Bermondsey Leather Market. The industry there made use of the tidal streams and the nearby oak bark. (16)

1395

Nottingham (England) borough records blame tanners for polluting the River Leen by laying their skins in the water "to the great detriment of the whole people aforesaid. (21)

1444

The Worshipful Company of Leathersellers granted Charter of Incorporation in London from Henry VI.

1565

Two strangers, Roger Heuxtenbury and Bartholomew Verberick were granted a seven years' monopoly patent in England for the manufacture of "Spanish or beyond sea leather" on the condition that the patentees should employ one native apprentice for every foreigner in their service. The supervision of this was entrusted to the "Wardens of the Company of Leathersellers in London". From "Leather for Libraries" by Hulme and others, 1905. This is important as it implies that the process was new to England. The tannage being introduced was sumach tanning from Spain, which had been developed in Cordoba. It was also important as later there was a view that oak tanning was the only vegetable tannage used in the UK. See also 1584.

1570

John Shakespeare, the father of William Shakespeare was a "whittaner" - a worker of kid, dog and deerskin. At the family home in Stratford on Avon, a room is dedicated to showing the work he did in it to tan leather and make gloves. Nearby Woodstock was a centre of glove making, on account of the plentiful supply of deerskins. Shakespeare was himself born in 1564. His father who was a tanner and wool merchant was also sometimes money-lender. The year 1570 is memorable as in this year he was charged with money lending at illegally high rates.

1573

The Punchmakers join the Leathersellers Company (16).

1584

Queen Elizabeth of England settled her doctor's bills by granting one of her physicians, a Spanish Jew by the name of Roderigo Lopez, an exclusive license to import sumach and aniseed for ten years. This is revealed in Leather for Libraries by Hulme, Parker, Seymour-Jones, Davenport and Williamson, 1905. Dr Lopez was also a translator for the Portuguese pretender, Don Antonio, when he visited the UK. As a result of some misunderstanding Lopez joined a conspiracy nominally against Antonio but actually directed against the Queen. Consequently Roderigo Lopez was executed at Tyburn in 1594. Shakespeare based the character Shylock on Roderigo Lopez.

1563 and 1604

The Leather Acts. English parliamentary laws were passed which stipulated, amongst other things, that leather intended for the outer soles of shoes should be tanned for at least a year and other shoe leather for at least nine months. By the Act of 1563 curriers were forbidden to buy leather (shoemakers were intended to buy crust from tanners and take it to curriers for processing for them). The shoemakers had first asked for this and obtained legislative support for it in 1548. The Company of Cordwainers and the Company of Curriers lobbied heavily on this issue but the Curriers were unsuccessful, although between 1548 and 1563 five acts alternately allowing and prohibiting curriers from dealing in leather. The shoemakers had the upper hand in 1563 and the curriers were not successful in getting a further change in the act, although a number of them did obtain a license in 1567 allowing them to buy leather. (Discussed in "The Organisation of the English Leather Industry in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries" by L.A.Clarkson) (13).
In the 1604 Charter of the Leathersellers' Company "Spanish leather and other leathers dressed or wrought in sumach or bark" are mentioned.

1623

Experience Miller, a tanner, arrives in New England, USA, town of Plymouth.

1630

Francis Ingalls, from Lincolnshire, England, founds the first tannery in the USA in Lynn, North east of Boston.

1660

The Richardson family begins tanning in Great Ayton, North East England, starting the tannery which would evolve into Edward and James Richardsons of Newcastle.

1664

The Swamp established in Manhattan.
47 distinct tanneries to be found in Nottingham (21).

1664-1665

100,000 people died in London from the Great Plague. Citizens are said to have fled to the Bermondsey Leather Market area believing the smell from the works would protect them. (16) This is also recorded in Nottingham: "in particular it seems that the smell of the tan was believed to be an invaluable defence against the Plague, and whenever this malady made its appearance the wealthier citizens used to take up their residence in the vicinity of Narrow Marsh, in order to avail themselves of its protection.. (21)

1680

William Richardson of Great Ayton, North East Yorkshire started tanning. Based on local sheepskins and hides, this was rather a part-time business linked with farming. In 1701 he moved to Whitby on the North Sea and added tanning of seal-skins brought in by whalers. They continued to expand and moved to Newcastle in 1780. The tannery was eventually to become famous as E&J Richardson.

1693

Igualada's tanners Guild was set up, made up of the tanners, the curriers, the glove and the belt makers.

1697

The Glovers of Worcester (England) stated that their employees were "decrepit and unfit for any other employment" (Commons Journals, XII, 16).

1703

The leather industry in London was granted a Charter by Queen Ann and Bermondsey became the major leather-making centre. The Bermondsey Leather market was a large roofed square piled high with skins in the centre of a large block of buildings. (16)

1727

In 1727 the Irish Parliament presented William Maple, chemist, of Fishamble Street, with £200 "as an encouragement for discovering a new method of tanning leather by a vegetable, the growth of this kingdom;" on which he published in 1729 a pamphlet of 39 pages, under the title of "A Method of Tanning without Bark." The proposed substitute for bark was the root of tormentilla erecta, or septfoil, called [two old Irish words missing. KF] by the native Irish, who appear to have been acquainted with its chemical properties long previous to Maple's era. Maple was subsequently one of the originators of the Dublin Society, to which he acted as Secretary and Registrar till his death in 1762, at the age of 104 years.
Partly from history of Dublin (1766) and partly from J. T. Gilbert, Vol.1. I of his Dublin Chronicles (1854).

1754

The RSA (The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce) was founded in London. "On the formation of this Society, most of the manufactures of the kingdom, which depended upon chemical knowledge, were at a very low ebb in comparison with their present state; and the first attention of the Society was directed towards ….. the tanning of leather, and the invention of substitutes for oak bark in this process; to the preparation of Morocco leather of different colours"
The Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, Vol. 3 article "morocco" describes the process of sumach tanning skins by sewing them up into bottles and allowing the fluid extract to penetrate the fibre by pressure.

1740

The Richardson family of Newcastle upon Tyne, England, build their first tannery in Great Ayton.

1760

Sir William Johnson brought 60 tanners and glovemakers to the Gloversville area of New York State from Perth in Scotland

1768

Dr McBride of Dublin (Phil trans 1778) introduced sulphuric acid for heavy leather tanned with vegetable tannins in place of the organic acids derived from fermenting bran or rye. He argued that it gave more precise control, that the skins were better plumped, thus less susceptible to bacterial damage, and that the whole process could be shortened. After the Dublin tanners adopted this, the Bermondsey (London) tanners soon followed. Sulphuric acid then began to expand into lighter leathers tanned with vegetable and when aniline dyes were introduced about 1870 sulphuric acid was universally used to clear the skins before dyeing.
This was a big issue for book-binders as this acid created a tendency for book bindings to rot. Another problem was the use of catechol tannins (hemlock, larch, gambier) which color red and disintegrates when rubbed - called 'red decay".

1768

British patent 893 from 29th February 1768 is the first patent for a "Tanning drum". From leather manufacture through the ages".

1770

Iron Tannage. J.Johnson, an Englishman, patented a process of tanning, using ferrous sulphate with an acid (sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid, or nitric acid). The pelt was tanned in three operations, in the middle of which a vegetable tannin was used. (12)

1792

Leathermakers Guild of Vic (Barcelona) awarded the professional diploma permitting Colomer Company to begin activities.

1801

29 saddlers and harness makers in Walsall, England.

1805

Discovery of catechu by Humphrey Davy. Davy did not patent his inventions or technology but viewed it as a donation to the benefit of mankind.

1808

Invention of the splitting machine by Samuel Parker. Mr. Parker was from Billerica, MA, USA. The patent date (July 9th) is 1808, but most references take 1809 as the date of invention.

1809

Talmadge Edwards begins manufacture of leather gloves in Johnstown, NY.

1813

Walsall (England) Curriers described as "producing the most beautiful brown and jet black colours…(they) have the pre-eminence in this particular branch of their manufacture"

1820

Sir Humphrey Davy elected President of the Royal Society. Most famous for his invention of the safety lamp for miners, Sir Humphrey (knighted in 1812) also did considerable research in tanning, particularly related to the use of gambier. "A special study of tanning: he found catechu, the extract of a tropical plant, as effective as and cheaper than the usual oak extracts, and his published account was long used as a tanner's guide." (From adventures in Cybersound, Sir Humphrey Davy 1778-1829 www.cinemedia.net). The work of Sir Humphrey was published in 1805 and showed that mimosa, chestnut, and hemlock amongst others could be used in addition to oak. This greatly aided the development and expansion of the American tanning industry.

1823

William Walker and Sons Ltd. Founded in Bolton as tanners and curriers, manufacturing leather belting and leather accessories. They closed in the 1970's after being bought by the Barrow Hepburn Group.

1826

First written records of the Pittard Company in Yeovil, Somerset, UK.

1840

A glove maker from Grenoble, France brought about a revolution in glove making. Xavier Jouvin invented a system which "consisted of the establishment of rational methods adapted to the different sizes of hands, thus enabling the maker to produce exact fitting gloves. The scissors were replaced by the "main de fer" (iron hand), the proportions of which were carefully calculated for each size. From The Leather Trades Review, 11th August 1948. p 287.

1842

Child workers in the UK Leather Industry earn between two and eight shillings per week.

1849

Freudenberg tannery begins in Germany, with the purchase of a tannery in Weinheim by Carl Joann Freudenberg.

1854

The invention of the sewing machine changes the nature of the leather using industries.

1856

William Henry Perkins discovered the first synthetic dye "mauve" and created the basis of dyestuff manufacture from coal tar products. He had actually been trying to synthesize artificial quinine. The dye went on sale in 1857, and started a fashion craze for the colour in France and the UK. His father was a leather merchant. Read: Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World by Simon Garfield.

1858

The action of chromium salts upon hide substance was first studied by Knapp, but his investigations led him to conclude that their application was of no practical value. (12)

1860

Walden (USA) and Alfred Booth (Liverpool, UK) founded company to export light leather from UK to USA.

1861

Dr Frederick Knapp, Professor of the Polytechnic School of Braunschweig, Germany made a thorough investigation of mineral tannages. His British patent 2,716 (1861), through John H. Johnson, covered iron, chrome, manganese, and other metallic salts in combination with fatty acids to form insoluble metallic soaps, so that the iron in the pelt might not be washed out. (12)
Edward and John Turney, brothers, founded the Tannery on the River Trent in Nottingham which flourished to become a limited company, Turney Brothers Limited, in 1881.

1863

Walden becomes incapacitated and Walden and Booth dissolved Alfred Booth and Company, Liverpool and Booth and Company, New York established. (7)
Edward and James Richardson build their Elswick Tannery on the River Tyne in Newcastle. In 1890 Henry R. Procter joined them and worked there until being asked to establish the Chair of Tanning at Leeds University. Richardsons were one of the first to manufacture chrome leather in the UK. They called this Grained Chrome hide, and it was on this basis that Scotch and other important Grained Chrome leathers were patterned.

1874

Vienna Research Institute - the first leather research institute was founded.

1880

Augustus Schultz, chemist, of New York, USA starts development of chrome tannage using bichromate, subsequently patented (two bath process) in 1884.

1881

3492 saddlers and harness makers employed in Walsall (England) plus 430 tanners and curriers

1885

Kopenhagen Leather Research Institute was founded, Also Napoli Leather Research Institute.

1886

Booth and Company purchase Messrs Kent and Stevens In Gloversville, New York, exploiting John Kent's invention of the Dongola tannage on Ceara goatskins (shipped from Brazil by the Booth Line) and kangaroo. Extended details of the tannage are contained in the glossary section.

1889

Henry Richardson Procter establishes his laboratory in Edward and James Richardson Ltd. in Newcastle-on-Tyne, England. (23)

1890

First serious marketing of chrome tanned leather under the brand name "Surpass" by Booth and Company in a joint venture with J.P.Mathieu of Philadelphia USA.

1891

The Leather Industries Department was instituted at the Yorkshire College in Leeds. To become the Procter Department in the University of Leeds
Between 1891 and 1911 BASF set up their leather dyeing laboratories.
Walsall (UK) Tanner E.T.Holden elected as Walsall MP (Member of Parliament).

1893

Martin Dennis patented the "single-bath" chrome tanning process in the USA. In 1999 we had the opportunity to correspond indirectly with Mrs. Van Liew of Long Island who was a tanner's wife (West Winfield Tannery) and whose father in law worked as a partner in the Martin Dennis Company Chrome business. The Martin Dennis Company was based in Newark. They imported the ore from Africa and had twelve ovens making the tanning agent. The Schultz patents were owned by the Tannage Patent Co of Philadelphia who worked a system of licenses and royalties, and the Dennis patents were owned by the Martin Dennis Company who made the material under the brand name "Tanolin" and sold it out right to tanners without royalty.

1897

Dr Gordon Parker becomes a founder member of the International Association of Leather Trades Chemists. Described as a leading commentator on the leather trade he lectured to the British Association in Bristol in 1898, referring to the backwardness in the British Industry compared to both Germany and the United States (14). The other founder members were Prof. H.R.Proctor and Alfred Seymour Jones. At a three day leather industry meeting in London (September 28-30) Procter, Seymour-Jones, Parker, and C.E.Parker also established the UK Society of Leather Trades Chemists (later to be renamed the Society of Leather Technologists and Chemists). Dr Perkins, who discovered synthetic dyes chaired the meeting.
Frieberg Leather Research Institute was founded.
A 15% duty was imposed on hides imported to the USA. Called the Dingley Tariff. (13)

1899

Joseph Turney Wood discovers artificial bates.

1900

R Foerderer and E.L. White perfect the Schultz method of chrome tanning.

1904

Dr Otto Rohm got involved in the replacement of natural bates after getting ill from the tannery smell. Developed "Oropon" (juice) and started Rohm and Haas. Later to be more famous for Plexiglas (polymethylmethacrylate).

1909

The Leathersellers Company of London equipped and built the National Leathersellers College in London. (It had previously organised from 1895 a technical school for leather at Herald's Institute in Bermondsey).

1913

Edmund Stiasny invented the first syntan in Darmstadt, where he was Professor.

1914

Glove cutters strike for more pay in Gloversville, New York.

1920

British Leather Manufacturers Research Association Founded.

1921

Alfred Booth and Company purchase the Pavlova Leather Company of Abingdon, England.

1922

Tanners Council of America established in New York.

1926

The 'Semaine du Cuir' was created in 1926 by an association of leather professionals and it was the origin of the Conseil National du Cuir. Until nearly the end of the 20th century this was by far the most important Leather Fair in the world. As the century ended the APLF in Hong Kong had taken over; while Lineapelle in Bologna twice a year has increased in importan as well.

1930's

The process of homeworking came to an end in the US Glove Industry, after about 100 years. Homework continues in the UK and Germany on a small scale into the 21st century.

1945

Kaiser Wilhelm Institut fur Lederforschung Dresden destroyed by bombs.

1948

After being destroyed in 1945 the Kaiser Wilhelm Institut fur Lederforschung Dresden was reopened as the Max Planck Institute in Regensburg and moved to Munich in 1957.

1950

Westdeutsche Gerberschule in Regensnburg was founded and relocated in Reutlingen in 1954.

1958

Igualada Tanning School opens.

1963

Du Pont launches Corfam to replace shoe leather.
Karl Toosbuy founds ECCO, the Danish casual footwear company.

1969

Pou Chen, one of the largest shoemakers in the world, and important supplier to Nike and Adidas, founded in Taiwan as a maker of PVC sandals and slippers.

1970

Du Pont sells off Corfam plant to Poland.

1971

Edward and James Richardson, Elswick Leather Works, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England closes the door for the last time.

1988

Walsall Leather Museum (UK) Opened by HRH The Princess Royal, in former Lorinery Factory of J.Withers and Sons (opened in 1891).

1998

At an ITC sponsored meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, the Pan-African Leather Industries Association is established.

1999

With 95 leather companies, of which 65 are saddlery manufacturers, Walsall has greatest concentration of saddle makers in the world.

2001

Pearces of Northampton, UK, closed their doors for the last time.
In December 2001 Salz Leather of S.Cruz, California ceased production. They were founded in 1861.

2002

Freudenberg of Germany announces the termination of all their leather manufacturing.
In February 2002 Prime Tanning of US sold its remaining 50% in Prime Asia to Pou Chen, its Taiwanese partner.
ECCO open their new Leather Research and Development Centre in Dongen, alongside the Corle wet blue operation which they bought in 2001, renamed ECCO Tannery Holland and expanded and modernised.

2008

ECCO open their new tannery in Xiamen in China.  State of the art and a wonderful example of what a positive approach can achieve.

2009

Northamptonshirelleather.com website launched demonstrating that the are still has more than 100 companies still involved in the leather trade.

2011

At a celebration in Northampton in June 2011 the Museum of Leathercraft exhibitions in Abington Museum Northampton were opened to the public.  Hopefully the start of getting all the items on show, If i have linked correctly this is a little video about the MoL:  Video