While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


LEATHER INDUSTRY. Interest in the leather industry has long been widespread in Texas because of the emphasis given to cattle. The hide and tallow trade flourished along the Gulf Coast from 1840 to 1880; lack of refrigeration facilities made it nearly impossible to ship meat, but hides and tallow were sold until choice beef became too valuable to kill for these byproducts alone. Texas, for many years the nation's largest producer of hides, sent most of its products to New England, where the necessary raw materials needed for tanning were obtained from forests. Subsequently, however, with mineral and chemical tanning, manufacturers of leather products established their plants nearer the hide supply. From four leather and leather-products establishments in Texas in 1939 the number increased by 1947 to fifty-one. The number of workers in the industry jumped from 637 in 1939 to 1,470 in 1947. To a great extent the Texas industry was still in 1950 largely devoted to making consumer goods from leather shipped from other states. There were eight tanneries in the state, the most notable of which was at Yoakum. Texas early developed as a boot, saddle, and harness state, with notable centers at Dallas, Nocona, and later Fort Worth. In 1950 there was a sharp increase in the domestic demand for hides.

By 1963 Texas had eighty-four leather and leather-products plants, only twenty-seven of them employing twenty or more persons. Most of the larger plants were engaged in the making of boots and shoes, a branch of the industry that employed 1,784 workers and turned out shipments with a total value for the year of $16,584,000. The largest leather-products center was Yoakum, where seven leather plants operated in 1967, two of them among the largest in the state. These two produced casual footwear, saddlery, belts, gloves, and other products. Another of the state's largest leather plants, at Gainesville, turned out women's shoes and moccasins. Other leading fabricating centers were at El Paso, San Antonio, Dallas, Nocona, San Angelo, and Fort Worth. All these cities had leather plants that employed 100 or more persons in 1963, and most of them had smaller leather plants as well. But in spite of the hides and leather goods in the Texas past, the state ranked low in leather production. The leather industry failed to keep pace with the American economy in general, and, nationwide, employed no more workers in the 1960s than in the early days of the twentieth century. With centralization and mechanization the number of leather and leather-products plants declined nationally, and there was a rapid shift toward the use of synthetics and other leather substitutes. Nevertheless, in 1990 there were 148 leather and leather-product plants in the state, employing approximately 7,600 people.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, "LEATHER INDUSTRY," accessed July 13, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/drl01.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...