140 glorious years

20 August 2007

One of the saddest things about re-reading the various issues of the magazine is seeing how many well-known names have slipped from our grasp. Of course, some are still around under different guises: Bayer as LANXESS, for example. Other long-term survivors include BASF (1865), Clayton of Chesterfield (1840), Eagle Ottawa (1865), Heusch (1850), Münzing (1830), Colomer (18th century), Andrew Muirhead & Son (1883), Pittards (1826) and Smit & Zoon (1821). During my time I have witnessed the demise of the Semaine International du Cuir, Paris, in its heyday probably the biggest leather trades show ever, competing in size with the automotive shows. Pielespaña, Barcelona, also closed its doors and the PanAmerican Leather fair came and went in Miami Beach: three gorgeous venues to attract the visitors. Our actual birthday was in September 1867 when we had the snappy title of the Leather Trades' Circular and Review of the Hide, Skin, Tallow, Bark and Wool Markets. And this was not the end of it. Later the words & Shoe Reporter were added but for practical purposes we were generally known as the Leather Trades Circular. The First World War was a boom time for the leather industry as armies marched on their feet and needed to be shod. The magazine continued to be published with no discernible change in appearance during the war years. It was a different case with the second war. When WWII broke out in 1939, hides and skins became officially controlled. Strict censorship regulations prevented the magazine from being sent abroad, except by the publisher who had to take full responsibility. During WWII and until the mid fifties (1941-55) the Leather Trades' Review (incorporating Saddlery and Harness) was reduced in size due to rationing and paper shortages. It was almost pocket sized but was published weekly, in black and white, and was stuffed with advertisements, one of which read: Wanted! Cow Tail Hair - highest prices quoted wet on stump (C F Sachs & Co Ltd, Glasgow). There was ZT23 zirconian tannage for white leather from F W Berk & Co Ltd, London, sulphonated mineral oil Drumoleum 'M' from Bowmans Chemicals Ltd, Yorkshire, and 100% protection for hides and skins from Atlas Preservative Co Ltd, Kent. By this time we had dropped the word Circular from the title and owing to the paper shortage it was not uncommon for an issue to contain only twelve pages. We did not resume 'normal' A4 size until 1956. Although we both shed and added a number of words over the years, it was a great relief when we took the decision in January 1964 to call the magazine simply Leather. By this time it also incorporated Leather Goods Manufacturer along with Leather Trades Review. Since change is a way of life, we later added a subtitle, becoming Leather, International Journal of the Industry. This was later contracted to Leather International, the name we are still known by. International coverage We published our centenary edition in September 1967 when Edwin Haydon was editor. The following year, in October, there was a sea change. We were still being published weekly but on October 11 we sported the title: Leather International Journal of the Industry for the first time. However, it was not until Robert Higham joined the magazine as technical editor in 1973 that the magazine expanded into truly international coverage. The October 11 edition also included a separate supplement called: Leather Wear. Whether or not this was the first edition of the supplement is not clear but it continued for a number of years before being absorbed into the by then monthly magazine as a fashion section. At this point we also slightly increased in size from A4 trimmed to full A4 but this was hardly noticeable. Paper stock was also improved. Haydon served as editor from 1961 until his retirement in January 1976 when he was ably succeeded by Robert Higham. When I joined as features editor in 1974, Bob Higham had already been appointed associate editor. He was with Leather for a number or years before leaving publishing to enter the church. The Reverend Robert Higham is now officially retired but is still very active in the church. This year he is undertaking a long trek in the British Isles and has so far raised £10,000 for the India Ministries Fellowship. He was succeeded by Iain Howie, previously editor of Satra's Bulletin. His first issue of Leather was in November 1980 and he stayed until 1987 when he left to join Shoe Trades Publishing who had just launched World Footwear. I took over, making this my thirtieth year as editor. Agents Some of our agents have also been with us for a very long time. The subscription agency L V Paramesh was started by LV Paramesh in India in 1937 and while Mr Paramesh died at the age of 90 in 1997, he was succeeded by our current agent in India, T S Subramanian who joined the firm in 1975. The agency has been working for Leather for more than 50 years.  Abdul Rauf Siddiqi joined Leather International about 30 to 35 years ago when he was introduced to the then editor by a common friend. Mr Siddiqi represents the magazine in Pakistan and in more recent years has extended his territory to cover Saudi Arabia. He says: 'I think that at that time the editor was Robert Higham who later joined the Priesthood. I am proud to say that Leather International had a prominent part in introducing the Pakistan leather industry to the international leather world. The leather industry at that time was in its infancy, exporting raw skins and producing mostly wet-blue and all the tanneries were in Rangiwara leather zone. Now this industry is one of the biggest industries, ranking as number four.' Mauricio Herzovich has also represented us for many years. 'I have worked for Leather since 1955 and I am one of its most veteran representatives. The leather industry in South America is very important. However, certain changes in the market occurred during the last few years that have led to significant changes, to the merging of companies and to a drop of their investments in advertising. During a few years, we have also worked with Curtido y Calzado, a Leather magazine in Spanish for Latin America. We have experienced better times and do not discard the possibility for them to come back.' Matters of size Over the years we have changed size many times. In recent history we expanded from A4 to our current size but this has by no means been the biggest. In 1890 we literally doubled our size and our largest ever can be seen against our current size in the photographs we have of the various issues of the magazine. Archives of our magazine are held in various places but in this instance we are grateful to the Northampton Museum who allowed us access the Leather Museum which is housed in their basement. Leather processing in 1897 The leather process was described as: 'Embryo leather was allowed to rest in the womb of the tan for a year and a day.' The tannage was based almost exclusively on vegetable sources with the resultant leather being hand stuffed using waxes; this process being followed by rolling. There was very little dyeing. Perkins had only just discovered the use of aniline dyes and Proctor records that they were fashionable for only a short period of time. Other dyes were based on natural dyewoods which gave a certain colour depending on the striker used, eg tin, iron and copper. Chrome tanning was still an invention by Knapp, a 'mere novelty that could not possibly replace the rich, full nature of vegetable tannages'. In fact, it was not until 17 years after Leather was first published that the two-bath tannage of August Schultz went into commercial production. By 1892 Proctor reported that around 36,000 pieces of chrome-tanned leather were being produced by one American tanner per day. The influences of Proctor, Wilson and Dr C Parker were not yet widespread and leather processing technology misunderstood. Although sodium sulfide was used, arsenic sulfide was considered to be the best depilitating agent. It was noted, however, that the mixing should be done in the open air if possible as the fumes of sulphurated hydrogen given off are 'intensely disagreeable even to the hardened heroes of the purer tub!' Following the liming, bating was described as 'a most disagreeable and nauseous process'. Bating at that time involved the use of animal excrement; dog dung being favoured followed by pigeon droppings. It was not until the work of Roehm, Wood et al in the late 1890s that commercial enzyme preparations became available to the industry. When the International Association of Leather Trades Chemists (the forerunner of IULTCS) first met in 1897, one of its aims was to find a standard determination for vegetable tannins. Our special centenary issue in 1967 suggested that green fleshing would become commonplace with a standard liming process; that there would be automation through to tanning, possibly fatliquoring, and that the leather industry would become smaller but stronger. A replacement for common salt for preservation was high on the agenda and despite the introduction of alternatives such as chilling and biocides, the salt (TDS) in tannery effluent is still a proving to be a problem today.

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