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The tannery industry is one of the oldest in town, dating back to the late 18th century when Norwood was a sparsly-settled area known as South Dedham. Over the course of the next 150 years, the industry was transformed from a small, family-run business employing just a few highly-skilled tanners to a large corporation with two factory locations and one of the largest employers in town. Many of the changes were brought about both by business reorganization and advances in technology implemented in the factories.

In 1870, John E. Smith and Charles L. Smith of South Dedham filed an application and recieved patent number 108,060 from the U.S. Patent Office for their invention of a mechanism to improve the tanning of leather in their Railroad Avenue tannery. Their invention was a wheel at the bottom of the tanning vats that, when turned, would circulate the tannins through the vats where the hides were suspended, thus more uniformly coating and tanning the leather. Their patent application describes their design, with drawings.

Collection: Mss.5 Winslow Bros. & Smith Company (b.1, f.4)
Date: 7 October 1870
Location: Washington, D.C.
Item type: patent document
Author: United States Patent Office
MA History/
Social Studies Frameworks:
USII.1, USII.2, E.3.8, E.5.3

Return to Norwood industries.

This project is supported by a grant from the Norwood Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.


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