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Tanneries of Wheeling, 1886

- from The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, September 14, 1886.


The Tanneries of Wheeling — Their Character and Capacity

As long ago as 1849 Mr. John G. Hoffman, sr., entered into the business of manufacturing leather, and to-day he is the senior member of a firm of Wheeling leather manufacturers whose tannery rivals many of the most extensive concerns of its character in the largest cities of the country. Berger & Hoffman commenced business on the Island in 1849 with ten vats. By 1852 their business had so increased that the number of vats had grown to 78. The flood of 1852 demolished their buildings, but they rebuilt and again entered on a prosperous career. Mr. Hoffman's practical knowledge of dressing and tanning hides, pulling wool and the like, availed the firm a great deal.

In 1857 the present large buildings occupied by J. G. Hoffmann & Son, owners of the Centre Wheeling Tannery, and located on the corner of Water and Twenty-third streets were erected. These buildings are substantial and well arranged, built of brick, and occupy an area of ground 192 feet by 122. An equal space is covered by the bark yards, etc., the whole premises extending the full length of the square from Water to Main street. The firm is composed of Messrs. John G. Hoffmann, Sr., John G. Hoffmann, Jr., and Frank C. Hoffmann. Its market extends all over the country, the leather of the Centre Wheeling Tannery having a good reputation in every section of the country, and being handled by all the leading jobbing houses.

The establishment has a capacity for turning out from 1,000 to 1,200 sides of leather per week, to produce which requires the labor of from 80 to 100 men. At present their annual product is one of the most important sources of Wheeling's prosperity and fame. The hides are bought all over the western country, but the larger proportion are furnished by the Chicago packers. The firm makes a specialty of the Star oak harness leather, and their sole care is to keep their product up to the high standard of excellence for which it has acquired a reputation, and as a consequence their leather is in great demand by large manufacturers of the best grades of harness. The Star Oak leather is as widely and favorably known as any article of Wheeling manufacture, and that is saying much.

The firm has considerable advantage in the way of cheap fuel, as it burns in its furnaces the exhausted bark. Nevertheless, so great are the advantages of natural gas that is will be introduced into the tannery. The tannery consumes about 5,000 cords of tan bark per annum, the supply being drawn principally from the forests of this State. The facilities for securing the raw materials are good, and the shipping advantages of the house unsurpassed anywhere, the tannery being located on both the Baltimore & Ohio and Pennsylvania railroad systems, and just opposite the river terminus of the C., L & W. railroad.

In addition to this leading tannery the Horkheimer Bros. are engaged in the tanning of sheep skin; S. Horkheimer & Sons manufacture sheepskin morocco on a large scale, George Lobenstein and John Vockler have tanneries of good capacity on the South Side, and Louis Roth carries on the business at Fulton.

The facilities offered by this locality for the manufacture of leather of all grades and varieties are as good as those enjoyed by other branches of industry, and the business promises to assume larger proportions.

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