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Morocco leather

A fine kind of leather, prepared commonly from goatskin (though an inferior kind is made from sheepskin), and tanned with sumach; said to be so called because first prepared by the Moors. — Webster, 1882

She brought down her little red Morocco pocketbook… -The Long Winter, Chapter 15, “No Trains”

The best Morocco leather was said to be made from the skin of the angora goat, although the common goat was widely used. Traditionally, it came from Morocco, but came to be the name for all high-quality goatskin leathers.

Sumach, which produces a vegetable tannin, was used for tanning the goat skin. In America, Rhus canadense and R. glabrum were often used. Hides were cleaned and soaked in vats of clean water for three to five days, then tanned by sewing the skin into a bag and filling it with the sumach solution and forcing it gently through the pores of the skin, a process taking several hours. Skins were then washed and hung to dry, then either stained or pebbled (textured). The inside was stained (usually black), then the leather was softened and glazed or oiled. Of course, the actual procedure was much more involved!

Morocco leather was quite soft and pliable; during the Little House era, it was used for the uppers of women’s and children’s fine shoes, and for the binding of costly leather books, and carrying cases, including small traveling bags and pocketbooks. It was also used to cover fine carriage seats and chair covers. Wisconsin was one of the main states producing items of Morocco leather, and Caroline Ingalls’ pocketbook with mother-of-pearl sides and red Morocco leather insides may have been made there. Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Delaware were main producers of Morocco leather items in the 1880s.


morocco leather (TLW 15), see also mother-of-pearl, pocketbook