A Brief History of Leather

June 25, 2016

A Brief History of Leather

The relationship between man and leather has been but a long and prosperous one. Predating cotton and just about every other known fabric used today, leather has played the most important role in the development of civilizations since man first walk the earth. Dating back to prehistoric times, man has been using animal skins for various applications, most of which were for shelter and safety.

After the discovery of leather, man has used hides to make clothing, shelter, carpets and even fashionable decorative attire. In recorded history, pieces of leather dating back to 1200 B.C. have been found in Egypt, primitive societies in Europe, Asia and North America. in 1200 B.C. The Greeks were using leather garments which then later spread throughout the Roman Empire. During the Middle-Ages, the Chinese knew the art of making leather. Indians of North America also had developed great skills in leather work well before the coming of the European Settlers. All of which developed the technique of turning animal skins into leather goods independently of one another.

Although at some point in time, by accident or by trial and error, man discovered methods and techniques for preserving and softening leather. They treated animal skins with things such as smoke, pig fat and even tree bark. History has it that the art of tanning leather using the bark of trees originated among the Hebrews in primitive societies where the art was a closely guarded secret passed down from father to son.

As civilization developed in Europe, tanners and leather workers united in the trade. Royal charters or licenses were issued permitting people to practice leather tanning.

In the nineteenth century, vegetable tanning animal skins using the extracts from the bark of certain kinds of trees, was slowly replaced by chrome tanning which uses chemicals instead of tree bark extracts. Today chrome tanning is the preferred method for tanning leather and accounts for about eighty to ninety percent of all tanning done.

Today leather isn’t what it used to be. Leather isn’t used for protection from the elements or for building shelter. Leather is regarded as the king of fabrics, the mark of luxury and high class. The commercial leather industry of today has grown, and animal hides have become more and more abundant and more in demand.

Hides have become the by-product of a growing population, fascinated by its vintage luxury appeal.






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