Tanning used easily obtainable raw materials (animal skins and tree bark), was one of New Zealand’s early industries. By 1867 leather was produced in sufficient quantities to supply local and export markets. This 1892 drawing shows the benching room at Sargood, Son and Ewen’s Tannery, a combined tannery and boot factory. In the benching room boots were hammered and pegged, usually by skilled men trained in the trade. Other parts of boot-making were already automated.
The 1903 Cyclopaedia of New Zealand (Canterbury District) described the process: 'The half-manufactured article passes from one operator to another, down the whole length of the building, and is then sent back again similarly on the other side. Only the most modern and up-to-date machinery is used, and a small portion of the work is done by each machine.'
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