Chicago’s Last Tannery
December 31, 2014 2:40 PM   Subscribe

The Distance has a pretty fascinating read about Chicago's Horween Leather Company [wiki], the city's last tannery and "one of the world’s last remaining producers of shell cordovan, a durable leather derived from horse rumps" as well as a near-exclusive provider of leather for Chicago-based Wilson Sporting Goods Co., which, since 1941, has been the manufacturer of the NFL's official ball ("The Duke").

Founded in 1905, Horween is still family-owned, with vice-president Nick Horween representing the fifth generation of Horweens at the firm.

Video: Watch them produce shell cordovan, or tour their factory with some of the manufacturers who buy their leather, like Libero Ferrero, Trunk Club, Tanner Goods, Vans, or Filson.

(Others have visited the tannery, too.)
posted by orthicon halo (18 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
In 2015 woe is the provider of artisanal products for manly men. For they must fear the mockery of the fearsome "the toast" as they rake in the monies from their leather goods and face competition from other people who have also learned how to use the vimeo - "because its like much more authentic than youtube, I don't even." In 2015! Hark me metafilter!
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 3:08 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Learning that cordovan leather is made from horse butts will make me giggle inside whenever I hear the term. Probably for the rest of my life.

But that really is an interesting look at craftsmen who pay attention to detail and take pride in their work. Something a lot of companies would do well to emulate (especially all those automakers swamped by recalls in the past year).
posted by TedW at 3:19 PM on December 31, 2014


I have some Wolverine 1000 Mile Addison boots made with Horween Leather. They're really great quality and incredibly comfortable. I can't delve into all of the links just yet, but I look forward to learning more about my boots!
posted by HermitDog at 3:43 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


I lucked out and got an ancient, but still in great condition, horse shell leather strop a couple years back at at estate sale.

The quality of cordovan vs regular leather is astonishing.
posted by Ferreous at 3:55 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Can you get artisanal cars?
posted by reiichiroh at 4:09 PM on December 31, 2014


I did not know that cordovan was made of horse butts.

Now I will go out and explain to my horse that if he is a butt, his butt will be a shoe.
That will make him behave.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:16 PM on December 31, 2014 [6 favorites]


Love this.
posted by oceanjesse at 4:28 PM on December 31, 2014


Boy, the days when the wind carries the smell from Horween into Bucktown are not nearly as nice as the days when it's the Blommer Chocolate Company.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:40 PM on December 31, 2014 [7 favorites]


Has to be made while they're still young, before they get their cutie mark.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:48 PM on December 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


Can you get artisanal cars?

Yes, but you had better have a big artisanal wallet to hold all the money you will need -- like hipster pickles, this is not the frugal option.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:01 PM on December 31, 2014


Smearing the Cordovan Butts is a great album title.
posted by chavenet at 5:02 PM on December 31, 2014


Has to be made while they're still young, before they get their cutie mark.

Man, that episode was dark.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:21 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


I like what they've done to my horse's rump.
posted by MikeMc at 5:48 PM on December 31, 2014


My last comment was intended to be read in the voice of Ricardo Montalban but apparently RicardoMontalban is not valid HTML.
posted by MikeMc at 5:54 PM on December 31, 2014


There has to be a company out there still making Corinthian Leather using the old ways.
posted by billyfleetwood at 6:45 PM on December 31, 2014 [5 favorites]


There has to be a company out there still making Corinthian Leather using the old ways.

I was going to make a joke about Corinthians being endangered, but got curious and looked it up: "Corinthian leather is a term coined by the advertising agency Bozell to describe the upholstery used in certain Chrysler luxury vehicles. The term first appeared in advertising in 1974.[1] Although the term suggests that the product has a relationship to or origination from Corinth, there is no relationship; the term is merely a marketing concept."

I really like the idea of creating a line of artisanal products out of twentieth century materials that are known primarily for their advertising like Corinthian Leather and Naugahyde.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:53 PM on December 31, 2014


I was going to make a joke about Corinthians being endangered, but got curious and looked it up

Welp, that's another fond memory of childhood destroyed. First I discover that there's no such animal as a Nauga and now I find out Mr. Roarke was full of shit. I don't like what you've done to my Chrysler Dip Flash.
posted by MikeMc at 8:09 PM on December 31, 2014


You mean there's no such thing as Elmer's Purity Glue?
posted by oceanjesse at 6:58 AM on January 1, 2015


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