Not since the early 1900s have hides been tanned in Circleville. Once they were the providers of leather for saddlers, harness makers and cobblers.
Hides were brought in from the slaughter house, complete with hair and perhaps some of the flesh. They were then soaked in lime and water to soften them and loosen the hair. The next step was scraping the hide to remove hair and flesh.
Certain tree barks contain a substance called tannin. Oak, chestnut and hemlock were the trees of choice. In a pit, the tanbark was spread then a layer of hide and then water, and so on until the pit was full. This process would take approximately a year’s time.
Robert Hayes was Circleville’s first tanner. His yard was located on the east side of North Scioto Street. Another tannery was operated by Andrew Cradlebaugh on West High Street. James Bell, James Long, John Hayes, Howard and Jackson, George Metzger and George and William Roth were also tanners. The Roths ceased operation of their West Main Street tannery about 1894. The decline of the canal was a major factor in the closing of this industry as it provided cheap transportation for leather and for tanbark.
The photo shows the Roth Brothers Tannery around 1880. Workers are using draw knives to remove hair and flesh from the hides.