The leather business of the United States is very extensive: not less than a million and a half of hides are imported into our country every year, made into leather and used for different purposes. The capital invested in the tanning business has been represented in some statistical tables as amounting to $19,000,-000; there are about 6500 tanneries in the different States, in which no less than 12,000,-000 sides of leather are tanned every year the value of which amourts to $33,000,000. Any business in which such an amount of money is invested, and in which so many persons are engaged as employers and employed, has strong claims upon our attention, in presenting information which may be useful, or even that which may be claimed as useful. The best articles ever published in any paper in our country, on tanning appeared in Vol. 5 Scientific American. They were written by one of the most experienced, and perhaps the most learned tanner in our country. Since that time a very excellent work on the subject by Campbell Morfitt, has been published by H. C. Baird, Philadelphia, and respecting which our readers can become more fully acquainted by perusing the same. He describes no less than twenty-six different tanning processes, some of which are very curious, some ridiculous, some good, others bad. The work contains Hibbard's patent process, but not that of Eaton, which has been patented since, and by which very excellent leather has been made, we Jhave been told, in ten days. The old methods of tanning were exceedingly tedious, and the grand object with tanners, has been to shorten the process and obtain as good leather as by the old plans. We learn by the " London Mechanics' Magazine " that a new patent process, named " Prellers,1' has lately found much favor in London. After the hides or skins are unhair-ed in the usual manner, they undergo a partial drying, and receive a uniform coating of a peculiar paste composed of various vegetable and saline substances. The vegetable substances employed contain a large proportion ot starch, such as barley, rice, or wheat flour, a little gluten, some butter, or oil and grease, some common salt, and some saltpetre. The hides are laid upon tables and smeared on the fleshy side, with the said paste, and in that state are put into the interior of large drums, which receive a rotary motion, and by which the hides are greatly agitated, and the paste (by pegs in the inside of the drums), is forced into the pores ot the hides or skins, or rather they are kneaded along with the paste for two or three hours, after which they are drawn out. They are then found to be in a partial dry state, then hung up and aired for two hours, and again laid upon the table, where they receive another dose of the same paste, and are again returned to the drums a second time, when the same operation as that described is again performed. After this they receive a third smearing with the paste, and are kneaded in the drums, after which they are taken out and hung up to dry, and are then fit for the currying process. The leather thus produced is stated to be much lighter than that produced by oak or other tan barks, but is much stronger and will wear much better. It is asserted that for machinery bands it is twice as strong as oak-tanned leather, and that sheep and goat skins are rendered very tough and durable. It is said that calf skins are tanned by this process in about three hours, and the thickest ox-hide in three days. We are not aware that any such process for tanning is described in any work on the subject, or has beer, practiced in our country. It is our opinion that it may make excellent uppers for boots and shoes, but not so good sole leather as oak bark. It is stated that the brains of animals is also used in the paste, and that the salt and nitre are only employed to preserve the animal and greasy matters from putritaction. The process has some resemblance to that employed by many tribes of our Indians for tanning their skins for moccasins and other purposes. They use the brains of animals, mixed with lye made of the wood ashes of their fires, and knead the skins and rub them with the pasty mass, upon the same principle as that employed in the " Peller process." When the tanning of the skins is completed accordin g to their notions, they are finished by drying them, or rather smoking them, in a pit in the ground, which is covered with bark and some earth. We have seen very good brown leather made by this process. We are not able to give the exact proportions of the paste used by Preller, but this does not make much matter, for some of our tanners can surely make up a paste with flour, ox brains, and oil or grease, c, and give it a fair trial, by kneading a ?kin or two in a tub, with a beetle, so as to test the principle of the process. There is nothing like giving every i thing (unless it is manifestly absurd) which is set torth. as an improvement, a fair trial, and this is the reason why we have presented the foregoing information, in order that it may be tested by some of our tanners to see whether it has any merit or not. A company having a million of capital, is forming at Baltimore, to build a line of English steamers.
This article was originally published with the title "Leather and Its Interests" in Scientific American 8, 38, 301 (June 1853)