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2 Tannerie HAAS
4 Tannerie HAAS
5A family saga Know-how Leather
6 Tannerie HAAS
7Hide and seek
From hide to leather
Art and material
In the wings
Currying Workshop Page 54
8 Tannerie HAAS
The heritage of a traditionSince 1842, six generations have successively run Tanneries Haas. A family saga, is has crossed the decades making the most beautiful calf leather in its workshops. The heir to prestigious craftsmanship, the company perpetuates the taste for beautiful goods. Luxury, leather and voluptuousness...
9The heritage of a tradition
10 Tannerie HAAS
The history of leather goes back to the dawn of humanity. From garment to habitat, our ancestors used the hides of the animals they hunted to protect their bodies and cover their shelters as the discovery of tools (knives, scrapers) dating back to 10,000 years before our era shows. Saving your skin is one thing. The art of immortalizing a foul-smelling material carrying the death taboo in a civilized material is another, and just as difficult. It was the Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Hittites and Carthaginians who developed this know-how. To equip their armies with armour, cover the hulls of boats, write on parchment, conserve grain, f lour and transport wine, water, oil...
Tan and timeThe first tanning recipe to come down to us appeared moreover on a tablet from the Sargon period (ca. 700-705 BC): You will take the a cowhide and you will soak it in water
containing flour, pure nisaba, beer and wine. You will next immerse it in pure bull fat to which is added aromas extracted from the pith of plants, you will treat it with wheat flour, bitqa flour, kurru flour, then you will put it in oak gall and in stone from the land of the Hittites.
This process has constantly evolved over time but the principle has always remained the same: the hide must first be purified of the elements that soil it, then treated with fat to give in body. Next, tannins are added that after absorption and drying, will breathe new life into it, even giving it a certain kind of immortality. According to the tanners of Marrakesh, through this ordeal the hide undergoes, it then recovers the animals life force. It is the alchemy of transformation, a dark and mysterious power that throughout the ages has given the tannery the image of a secret place.
Time plays an essential role in leather production. If it only takes a week to produce goat and sheep hides, to tan large
Hide and seek
The greatness of a craft is firstly in how it brings comradeship to men ; there is no hope or joy except in human relations.
(Antoine de Saint-Exupry)
T h e t a n n e r s tools
Plate of sketches done by the naturalist painter Bernard Direxit, taken from the Diderot & dAlembert encyclopaedia, Art du Cuir, Bibliothque de lImage.
Preceding pages : Alfred Haas and two employees. Tanning workshop in the 1930s
The heritage of a tradition
12 Tannerie HAAS
5,000 Francs for the factory
Alose Haas transformed a spinning mill into
a slipper manufacture to which he added a tannery
for making leather on 3 April 1843.
hides to the core, several months are needed, hence the tanners motto: to obtain good leathers, you must have tan and time.
Alsace, land of the tannersTannery, tanner, tanning: the origin of these words is the Gallic tan (or tann) which means oak, the king of trees, a sacred emblem, a symbol of power and durability. It brownish red bark peels off like skin. Reduced to powder, it is transformed into an exceptional tanning agent.
Alsace has large forests of oaks and trees that provide tan like the chestnut, as well as an abundance of flocks and high-quality flowing water, optimal conditions for leather work and for the hide trade to prosper. As of the early 17th century, a genuine industry developed in all the regions cities. The many houses, districts and streets of tanners that still exist in Colmar, Mulhouse, Erstein, Pfaf fenhofen, Haguenau, Selestat, Wasselone and Kaysersberg bear witness to this activity today. At the time, leather was present in every aspect of life: shoes, saddlery, furniture, tools, accessories, bindings, clothing, industry Each hide is unique, each one has a specif ic use.
Lambskin, renowned for its f ineness, is the best adapted to making clothing. Cowhide, which is thicker, lends itself more to producing soles, straps, harnesses, luggage. Goat or sheep leather is reserved for small objects...
At the end of the 19th century, tanning was the second largest industry in France. The Napoleonic wars heavily contributed to its expansion. A land of tanners, Alsace was particularly solicited to produce the leather indispensable to the army at the time. At this period, there were over 300 tanneries in the region. Located 35 km from Strasbourg, the commune of Barr became one of the major production centres, famous for its leathers far beyond its borders. Thirty family f irms in Barr made products that were exported as far as America.
It is a secret world, we might say, a world governed by the spirit of the trade guild officially founded in 1264 and a craft that is handed down in and by the family, because it is a question above all of keeping the secrets of creating the beautiful leathers that are produced. The formulas and preparations, the fruit of know-how and experience acquired by physical effort, are part of a jealously guarded capital.
The heritage of a tradition
At the end of the 19th century, the leather and hide sector
was Frances second largest industry
14 Tannerie HAAS
A line of tanners
Cultivating the spirit of a firm on a human scale, favouring simplicity, but also a sense of responsibility and respect for quality are values that have been transmitted from generation
to generation, permitting the Haas family to perpetuate and enrich a unique expertise.
15The heritage of a tradition
Alfred Haas (1877-1950) Jacques Alfred Haas (1909-1989)
Alose Haas (1800-1868) mile Haas (1840-1904)
16 Tannerie HAAS
Arriving in Barr in 1827, Alose Haas (1800-1868) was born in Schramberg, in Bade-Wurtemberg (Germany). A widower, he married his second wife Sophie Mummel, who came from an old well-to-do Barr family, and three years later, in 1842, bought a knitting firm that he transformed into a slipper manufacture. He quickly added a small tannery to it to make soles.
Although he was new to the trade, Alose Haas, had the soul of an entrepreneur and had the stuff to invent and create. He notably built a by-channel on the Andlau river that still supplies the tannery today through a waterfall. It was a visionary act, because water is to the tanner what f ire is to the blacksmith or potter: an indispensable raw material, all the tanning operations requiring a regular water supply. In 1868, mile A. Haas (1840-1904) took over for
The Belle poque
Postcard dated 1924. The factory had 150 employees at the time.
Opposite: detail of he faade of the offices built by mile Haas in 1891.
his father. He abandoned the production of slippers and just kept the tannery. The Industrial Revolution was underway and trade to America was rapidly expanding. The German invasion in 1870 and the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine, however, brought about an upheaval that forced the firm to find new outlets in Eastern Europe. mile A. Haas replaced sole leathers by upper leathers, the famous white calves produced with tannins based on
oak and chestnut bark. This article, a regional speciality, contributed to the f irms growth. He
built a mill downstream of the tannery, which he turned over to his son mile. However, after some dissension, his son left the family firm to set up shop in Val de Vill, then in the Oise. mile A. then turned to his second son Alfred (1877-1950), who had the soul of a poet and artist, whom he sent to learn the tanning trade in England.
the f ingers of the spinners of yesteryear. This item required rigour and precision and was one of the firms specialities until the late 1970s. With the massive arrival of synthetic materials, leather gradually lost its dominant place. Nonetheless, Tanneries Haas continued its growth by refocusing on their main activity: shoes, which have remained faithful to leather. Alfred Haass eldest son, Jacques Alfred (1909-1989) joined the company in 1932 after having completed his studies at the cole Franaise de Tannerie in Lyon and taking part in training programs, notably in Nantes. His enthusiasm was dampened by World War II. The return of German troops to Alsace forced the management to withdraw beyond the blue line of the Vosges, to pinal. The mobilization of the staff, the fire at the factory on 11 April 1942 and Jacques A. Haas internment as a political prisoner in the Schirmeck camp for his pro-French stance slowed down production.
In 1900, the f irm underwent a genuine revolution with the arrival of a new, rapid and modern tanning method. The use of chromium instead of plant tannins shortened the treatment time for hides from several months to just a few days! This new process forced the tannery to totally transform itself. It had to adapt or disappear. With the arrival of the industrial era, Alfred Haas invested to considerably improve the productivity of