Chattanooga was once known as the "saddle capital of the world."
At the center of this designation was the Scholze Tannery, a Scenic City institution that operated for more than 100 years, bridging three centuries (1873-2001).
This January 1968 photograph shows workers at the tannery near South Broad Street treating hides to supply the nation's leather trade.
A classified ad in Chattanooga's newspapers that year offered entry-level jobs at the tannery for $1.60 an hour. Interestingly, when adjusted for inflation, that 1968 wage would equal about $12 an hour today, which made it the highest effective minimum wage in U.S. history, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The photo was among company archives preserved by a former tannery executive, Gene Carter, who shared it with ChattanoogaHistory.com, a local history website that partners with the Times Free Press in this series. The photo is stamped by Roy Tulley Photos, a photography business active here in the 1950s and 1960s.
Carter, who worked at the tannery for over 45 years starting in 1962, said that during his time there it was known as the second oldest operating business in Chattanooga.
Scholze Tannery was named for Robert Scholze, a German-born immigrant who came to Chattanooga to be part of the post-Civil War industrialization of the area.
Launched by history enthusiast Sam Hall in 2014, ChattanoogaHistory.com is maintained to present historical images in the highest resolution available.
If you have photo negatives, glass plate negatives, or original non-digital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.
According to newspaper accounts, Scholze bought the Chattanooga Leather Manufacturing Co. here in the early 1870s and added a companion business called Southern Saddlery to manufacture horse riding products in 1876.
Scholze was killed in a carriage accident on April 7, 1907. Members of his family continued to own and operate the tannery well into the 1960s when it had as many as 200 employees, according to newspaper files.
Changes in the leather market, including cheaper imported hides and a drop-off in sales of equestrian goods, led to the closing of the tanning operation and the layoff of 60 employees in 1987, although the company continued as a leather goods distribution center into the early 21st century.
During the era this photo was made, the 1960s, the company was in talks with state regulators about cleaning up wastewater dumped into Chattanooga Creek as part of the tanning process. The Chattanooga Times reported that the tannery released 180,000 gallons of water a day into the creek, which flows into the Tennessee River.
In recent years, the old tannery site has been transformed into 60 new townhomes in the 100 South Broad Street development, according to newspaper reports.
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Remember When is published on Saturdays. Contact Mark Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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