Historical Leather from Friedrichstadt – The story behind the oldest leather-find of Germany

Like in a time capsule: The  historical leather of Friedrichstadt

Please find below the story of the oldest leather-find of Germany 

Christmas 1813: Friedrichstadt, at this time under Danish control, is occupied by Russian soldiers. Citizens, Farmer and craftsmen were forced to provide them with food, firewood, clothing, leather and other resources.

At this place in 1813 Andreas Friedrichs, son of a tanner, and his family owned a tannery for more than forty years.

Friedrichstadt was famous for its leather production and had even its own bark- mill.

The story in short: In 1805, 64 years old Andreas Friedrichs died and left two sons, three girls and his second wife behind. In 1813, all craftsmen and citizens of Friedrichstadt had to endure terrible losses. The Russian soldiers, also known as “Cossacks”, and the local government forced them to deliver all their products. The consequences of this winter were terrible: The population and even the Danish Throne were bankrupt. More than 40 000 people in the region “Schleswig-Hostein” died in or because of this war. The Danish Crown had to manage a major crisis.

All banks and money got closed down and the emitted a new paper money. To cover the worth of the new currency, all citizens of Schleswig had to pay a special tax: 6 percent of the their property in silver. In these chaotic times many citizens were not able to pay. But the danish crown was brutal: They even forced them to sell their ground. Bu the economy broke down anyway. The widow of Andreas Friedrichs and its children could not stand this economic crisis so they filled the leather gerber barrel with earth and left the town, leaving the precious skins, and all their belongings, behind.


Real money lost its worth and was replaced by paper money. And the citizens had to pay a special tax in silver, to garanty that the paper was a really worth. 

Like a time capsule 

200 years later, Andreas Grzybowski made an amazing discovery: During his grounding works he found the barrel wich was left behind so many years ago! With the help of archaeologist they could save the 200 year old tanned skins. The research in the archives of Friedrichstadt allowed us to understand, why this “treasure” was left behind.

That the skins after 200 years are still in such a good condition, can be explained by the geographical situation of the tannery. Located direct at the sewer of Friedrichstadt, he skins were covered with ground-water and therefore preserved.

200 years old skins?  What can we do with it?

We found two traditional tanners in Germany. They took the task to finish the skins. Helmuth Naujoks and Hartmut Beuleke are highly specialized on very “special leather” cleaned the skins and stabilized the leather.