Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/356

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342
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ing and similar manipulation. Ten days later this same manufacturer was in Peabody, Mass., in one of the most complete of modern tanneries, and, though the space of time intervening was only a little more than a week, yet in it he had traversed the whole gamut of the art.

In order of development after these crude methods came the discovery that certain astringent barks and vegetable substances possessed the property of condensing and arresting the septic tendency of animal membranes. This discovery must have been made very early, however, as the knowledge of it appears among many of the ancient nations. But, whatever the time, from it PSM V41 D356 Tanner beam and knives.jpgFig. 3.—Tanner's Beam and Knives. The hide was thrown over this beam after the hair had been loosened, and with the working-knives (a and c) and the fleshing-knife (b) was scraped free of both hair and refuse. Machinery has very largely superseded these now. dates the beginning of the tannery. The Egyptians were probably among the first to become proficient in this process of preparing what had come to be such an important article of personal economy. Among the tapestries and sculptures that remain to us from them are several which picture the operations of currying, working, and stretching leather. One in viewing them might almost imagine himself in a small country tannery. Figures are seen using the familiar awl, polishing-stone, and the semicircular currier's knife, while the processes depicted are very suggestive of the present day. But the Egyptians are by no means to be given all the credit for this progress. They undoubtedly obtained many of their most valuable suggestions from the Arabs. Those roving Bedouins were by no means botanists in the modern sense of the word, but they had a thorough knowledge of all the peculiarities of such plants and shrubs as marked the desert, one of the most common of which was the acacia. That this knowledge was a practical one is proved by the fact that they were acquainted with the tanning properties of the pods of this plant. They were experts, too, in the methods of depilation, so that the Egyptians, by making a short excursion, had at