Tanning Buckskins.

Scientific American 47, 9.8.1851

We present the following simple process for preparing buckskins, as a useful accompanyment to the foregoing interesting letter. During the war of 1836-7, in Florida, the officers and soldiers while encamped on the Withlacoochee river, were frequently not in the beet of circumstances respecting good coverings for their understandings. The Indians have long been distinguished for making an exceedingly good and durable buckskin, and it so happened that a number of them, with their squaws, were kept kind of prisoners at the camp of our army. One day a friend of ours in the army, (one of the beet practical tanners and leather dressers in the United States) watched with great earnestness, the mode by which the squaws dressed their deer skins. He observed that they used the brains of the deer mixed along with lye made of wood ashes forming a kind of soap. This solution was rubbed on the skins, allowing them to dry at each operation — two or three times, until the skins were completely saturated with the solution. After this, the thins were smoked, the same as hams, in a pit dug in the ground. After the Indians had left the camp, the officers could not even get moccasins. The idea suggested itself to our friend, that there was no use of wanting shoes when there were plenty of deer killed; but from a distance in the woods they could not, and were not accustomed to bring the brains of the animal; but a remedy was at hand; he knew that soap was the same composition, as that used by the Indian in tanning, and he had plenty of that. The blacksmith made him an old sharing knife, and he got his post up between two trees, while be kept an anxious eye to his skins soaking in the river, for the aligators were not very respectful of the right of property. After the skins were properly prepared, a strong solution of warm yellow soap was made up, in which they were handled until cold; they were then dried and went through the same process until the practical tradesman saw that they were made into leather; when they were afterwards smoked in the manner of the Indians. From these operations an excellent buckskin was made, which through the drenching of rains and the frequent immersions in the swamps and everglades, retained its pristine softness and qualities. Thus, in the wilds of Florida, a scientific tradesman applied his knowledge and art, in manner for which many s gallant soldier had reason to be thankful. In each situations the mechanic rises far above the philosopher.

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