The Tanner and Currier

barossa history

The Tanner and Currier

words by
luke rothe
>>1940s kangaroo skin rug made by Cliff Laycock, with a wattle stick table and plantstand c1920s

A receipt from O. E. Juttner dated 1937 declares him a ’Tanner & Currier’. However, this once important trade term has slipped from most people’s vocabulary.

A ‘Tanner’ is someone who uses the ‘tanning’ process to treat the skins and hides of animals to produce leather.

After the tanning process, a ‘Currier’ applies techniques of dressing, finishing and colouring to a tanned hide, making it ready to sell.

O. E. Juttner’s tannery was located at the end of John Street, Tanunda, near the North Para River.

It was commenced by his grandfather, Franz Juttner, in about 1850 and provided over 100 years of loyal service by several generations of the Juttner family.

Initially the tannery would have supplied quality leather to local tradesmen for use in saddlery and shoemaking.

By the 1930’s fashion trends were having an impact. The Advertiser newspaper visited Juttners in 1932 and stated that “water rat furs were in great demand for trimming women’s coats”.

Cliff Laycock of Tanunda had kangaroo skins treated by Juttners in the 1940s which he then cut into diamond shapes and sewed together.

The finished articles were used in the Laycock home as rugs, or bedcovers which had felt backing and edging attached.

The Gawler Bunyip, November 1944, stated “Kangaroo, wallaby, fox and lamb skins are tanned in large numbers for rugs [at Juttner’s tannery]”. Crocodile, snake and iguana skins also got a mention!

>> Juttner ‘Tanner and Currier’ statement, 1937.
>> Barossa leather-trade receipts, and a Juttner advert in German mentioning kangaroo skins 1893.

Around 1885 another tannery commenced in Tanunda on the North-West corner of Elizabeth Street and Langmeil Road.

Owned by W. J. Offe, and with help from some of his sons, it was in business for about 30 years.

Nuriootpa had a tannery on the North-West corner of Old Kapunda Road and Krieg Street.

Carl Krieg started the tannery in the early 1870s, with his oldest son, Carl Krieg (junior) eventually taking over the business, which closed around 1920.

G. Wilhelm Krieg, brother of Carl Krieg (junior), established himself as a Saddler and Harness maker in Nuriootpa’s main street in about 1908, until his death in 1931.

No doubt Wilhelm’s saddlery shop used leather produced at his brother’s tannery.

The Barossa district had two essential ingredients required for tanning hides, water and wattle bark.

The North Para River provided a good water supply, and the tanning process needed the acidic compound ‘tannin’ which is found naturally in local wattle bark.

Wattle timber found in the Barossa Ranges was cut and stripped of its bark.

Wattle bark stripping created a useful supplementary income for some Barossa families, with huge loads of dried bark sold locally or taken to Adelaide.

After being stripped of their bark, some of the thin wattle sticks were crafted into small tables and plant stands.

Advances in manufacturing and technology resulted in the demise of many country leather workers by the mid-1900s, including saddlers, harness makers and shoemakers.

Along with them went the makers of quality leather and hides – the Tanners and Curriers.

>> Krieg’s tannery in Nuriootpa c1900.

Luke Rothe

Local Barossa historian and enthusiast
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