The Moser Leather Company manufactured high-grade leather for harnesses and collar manufacturers before expanding into wholesale leather.
At the height of operations, Moser was one of five tanneries in New Albany, Indiana, attracted to the area in part due to the abundance of native chestnut trees.3 Chestnut trees produce a natural tannin in the tree bark and nuts that are used in all-natural vegetative tanning processes.
The company continues to operate out of Hamilton, Ohio.
The Moser Leather Company was founded in 1878 by George Moser, a German immigrant born in 18504 who came to New Albany1 2 in 1867.4 Staying with a brother who ran a tailoring business, Moser went to work for August Barth who owned Barth’s Tannery on East 10th Street, which was established in 1864. After working for Barth for ten years, Moser had saved enough money to expand out on his own business, purchasing the Lockwood Brothers tannery at 272-278 East 8th Street in 1878.
Moser invested in new equipment and expanded the Lockwood tannery, and began to specialize in high-grade leather for harnesses and collar manufacturers, marketing as Hemlock Collar Leather.1 2 4 In 1891, John M. Moser, nephew of George Moser, became a partner in the company, and the company name was changed to George Moser & Company. By 1902, the tannery employed 35 employees and sold jobblers across the nation, handling nearly 15,000 medium weight hides per year.
Charles E. Moser had assumed his brother John’s interest in the company in 1900.1 2 John M. Moser opened the Indiana Leather Company on Silver Street adjacent to the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1905.1 2
In 1914, a fire destroyed the tannery on East 8th Street; George Moser also passed away within the yewar.1 2 His heirs renamed the Indiana Leather Company the George Moser Leather Company, and George’s sons, George Jr., Julius, and Karl joined the family business. Charles assumed the presidency of the company.
By 1936, the George Moser Leather Company had expanded to cover eight acres, employing approximately 100.1 2 The company had transitioned to selling wholesale leather, tanning hides purchased in bulk and converting them into leather for saddles and consumer products, such as shoes and belts.
In 1985, the renamed Moser Leather Company purchased Caldwell Leather Company of Auburn, Kentucky, which was founded in 1863 by George Washington Caldwell.1 8 Caldwell Leather, then owned by the Brown Group of St. Louis, had just closed prior to the purchase by Moser Leather. After the acquisition, the company became known as the Caldwell/Moser Leather Company.2
Caldwell/Moser Leather continued to tan leather in an old-fashioned manner, and from start to finish, the operation took four weeks.2 The hide would be treated to a solution of water and tree bark from South America, resulting in higher quality, leather that lasted longer and a process that was not environmentally damaging due to the vegetative tanning process. Water from the tanning operation was discharged into an adjoining wetland that led to the development of the 47-acre Loop Island Wetlands.3
By 1998,Caldwell/Moser Leather employed 70 and had sales of $12 million, with wares being utilized in Bass shoes, Harley-Davidson motorcycle apparel, and other products. In 2002, the Caldwell/Moser Leather ceased operations.3 At the time of its closure, it was the third-to-last vegetative tannery in the United States. Soon after the closure, Al Goodman, an environmental consultant with Moser since 1986, purchased the property the tannery resided on and the land for the Loop Island wetlands.6 In a separate action, James Cox purchased the Moser trademark and relocated some manufacturing equipment to Hamilton, Ohio, continuing to operate the Moser Leather Company.
In January 2005, snow and ice contributed to a partial roof collapse at the Moser Tannery.7
The Tannery Commons Senior Apartments, a development of 30 one- and two-bedroom apartments, was proposed in late 2009 for the former Moser Leather Company site by Goodman.5 The cost of construction was estimated at $4.5 million and would include renovating the historic Moser Tannery building at Silver and East Main Streets. The senior housing project received tax credits from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA), along with $279,000 of HOME funds in March 2010.5 Equity investment for the project was raised through the sale of the credits.