Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/358

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344
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

hand a considerable foundation upon which to begin the development of their art. But, once known, its extension could not be hindered. Herodotus states that the Libyans wore leather clothing, and that the Phœnicians, whose home was a barren stretch of shore, depended largely upon it in the construction of their

PSM V41 D358 Dash wheel.jpg
Fig. 5.—Dash-wheel.

ships. Persian and Babylonian leather was long celebrated, and as early as the beginning of the Christian era the Russians were famous as skilled tanners. Hungary, too, acquired an early name for its leather, having learned a peculiar process for making it from Senegal. Boucher carried the art into France; while Colbert, the enthusiastic patron of all the industries, did all that he could in the way of personal and public effort to extend it. Thus it was that leather became more and more an article of general use, and thus it was that by the time Columbus started on his hazardous voyages there had already grown up a considerable industry in England, France, Spain, Germany, and Russia.

But despite all this growth the processes involved in the operation of tanning were not really understood until the close of the eighteenth century, when they became objects of scientific study. Before that time the art was purely an empirical one. The immediate successors of Columbus brought with them to America such crude knowledge of it as was current at the time. Leather being a prime necessity, tanneries were started soon after the settlement of each community, either by the men of that craft or by the large farmers for their own convenience. Leather formed at that time no small part of people's clothing; indeed, leather breeches appeared clear into the eighteenth century, though the wearing of them was largely confined to servants and laborers.