You'll Never Believe What was Once Made of Leather

Published on 11/25/2015

  • You'll Never Believe What was Once Made of Leather

Did you know that bicycle tires were first made of steel and wood and writing tablets were once made of clay? Leather also has an interesting history. In light of the fact that leather was one of the earliest invented textiles, it was widely used in almost every way you can imagine.

Golf balls

The original golf balls--those used in the 1400s--were constructed of a smooth leather pouch which was filled with hundreds of compacted feathers before being painted white and hand-molded into a ball-like shape. Called featheries, these hand-sewn golf balls were time consuming and expensive to make, costing as much as five shillings per ball, making them more expensive than a standard set of golf clubs. For this reason, the featherie enjoyed a short stay in the history of golf.

Boat sails

The most powerful group in 56 B.C. were the Veneti, a celtic team that frequently battled the Romans during Julius Caesar's reign. Unlike the Romans, who used ships with traditional wooden rudders and oars, the Veneti had boats that harnessed wind power through the use of leather sails. The durable water-resistant leather was able to withstand strong winds, rain and even hail without ripping or tearing, giving the Veneti the upper hand in their frequent battles.


Tents date as far back as the Iron Age. The Roman Army used leather tents, usually made of goatskin,  as a portable shelter and to shield them from rain, wind, and extreme temperatures.

Water canteen

Canteens, the drinking vessels commonly used today by hikers, backpackers and hunters, have been in existence for thousands of years. Primitive canteens were often made of leather. Those that weren’t--canteens designed from gourds or wood--used leather straps for carrying.

Body armor

Body armor was invented to protect the wearer from harm by shielding organs, bones and muscles from shrapnel, sharp objects and dangerous blows. Primitive warriors used leather hides and helmets because, unlike chain-style armor and metal breast plates--leather offered army members freedom of movement that other materials could not.


Leather wallpaper was a popular and functional design trend in Victorian times, and many historical homes still have the original leather coverings on their walls. The insulating qualities of leather kept rooms at ideal temperatures, in addition to retaining natural beauty without needing much care.

Drinking mugs

Long before tin cups and glass drinking tumblers came into being, leather was used to hold hot and cold beverages. Leather was easy to mold, readily available and supported engraving, which led to many users carving a family emblem or coat of arms into the leather.

Washers for building

Nail heads that are driven with force through wood can often splinter materials, rendering them useless. In the 1870s, workers developed a leather washer that could be placed between nails and wood to absorb this force, thus protecting building materials and the nail itself.


Leather watercrafts, commonly known as coracles, were oval shaped floatation devices large enough for two people. Each coracle was constructed of a wicker basket frame covered in leather skin and pitch, the latter materials added to make the small craft waterproof.


Helmets have been hand-designed out of leather for centuries. Throughout history leather helmets have been worn by firefighters, football players, bicyclists, motorcyclists, airplane pilots,  medieval knights, military members, and many others.


Leather postcards were marketed in the early 1900s, mostly as novelty items for tourists. The short-lived fad was banned by the U.S. post office in 1907 as the thick material jammed up postage-canceling machinery.

Leather was and still is one of the most widely used and readily available materials on earth.


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