|Chris H. Groneman, John L. Feirer & John C. Spry. General Shop. Mc-Graw-Hill Co. of Canada Ltd., 1956.|
The Ohio Leather Company was founded in 1899, based on a patent for a chrome tanning process patented by Joseph Warner Smith. The company grew quickly and prospered until Smith's death in 1903, when it became the Ohio Leather Works. It became the largest employer in Girard, Ohio, with around 600 workers. One major disadvantage of working there, according to a 2015 feature in the Tribune Chronical, was the smell:
"Everybody hated the smell,"Lilleas said. "When you come out of there, people were like, 'God don't you ever wash?' The leather really stunk. If you worked there for a while, you didn't even notice. But when you hung your clothes up at home, everybody noticed."
Beginning in the late 1960's, the company was unsuccessful in competing against lower quality and lower cost items from other sources and the firm closed down in 1971. The factory remained empty for decades, experiencing several fires, first in 1988 and then in 1995 when it was completely destroyed. It had been in the process of being considered for redevelopment as apartments, and there were continuing concerns about contamination on the site. In 2014, the owners of the site were assessed the costs of clean-up.
In 1949 the company published a book: The Story of Leather: A Trip Through a Modern Leather Plant - A Brief Treatise in Picture and Text About the Production of Chrome Upper Leather by The Ohio Leather Company, Girard, Ohio. Originally printed by the Beil & Evans Company, it's still available on amazon.com.
Below, the factory as it was in the 1940's: