According to the Bible Simon the Tanner was plying his trade as long ago as 2000 years ago. But before this, the first leather was created almost by accident by Neanderthal man. As the early hunter gatherers prepared their prey, the first part of the preparation was to skin the animal.
They soon discarded the skin and not long after noticed that skins left in moist areas when combined with the foliage from leaves had exhibited certain characteristics. They lasted longer before they began to decay and retained their features longer than other skins. The plant extracts eventually became known as vegetable tanning and is still practiced today in a similar form.
Leather making advanced slowly over the ages, with more modern refinement of chemicals slowly improving the quality of the leather produced by the early tanners.
But it wasn’t until the 19th century that more dramatic changes were introduced. In the mid 1850’s, Frederick Knapp presented his ideas on tanning with chromium sulfate. Chromium sulfate with its higher hydrothermal stability soon became a favourite of leather makers across the globe and is today the most popular product used in the tanning process.
Today, the advances in organic chemistry utliised in the chemical industry has seen much more rapid advances in the technology used in the leather making process, leading to much more advanced leather products.