Workshop of the World

stories of industry in & around Philadelphia

Pasted Graphic
"Joseph Johnson & Co., Morocco Factory" (1886), Hexamer #2034.

Joseph Johnson and Company, Morocco Factory
, 1875
153 West Jefferson Street, Philadelphia PA 19122
(northwest corner of Mascher Street)

Carmen A. Weber, Irving Kosmin, and Muriel Kirkpatrick, Workshop of the World (Oliver Evans Press, 1990).

Built in 1875, first owned by Joseph Hacker, this factory is across the street from what was Delaney's Curled Hair and Glue Works 1 , which would have supplied most of the raw material needed for leather-making. In 1880 Joseph Johnson, the owner in 1886, was listed as working at J. Hacker's. 2 The brick building survives in the form it took in 1886 when it was extended, probably by the addition of the ell on the west side. On the upper stories, casement windows have replaced the original louvers, some of these floors were used for drying the leather by "atmospheric air." 3 The lower windows are arched with six-over-six panes and the building still retains wooden sills.
Morocco leather is made from goatskin, it is tougher than sheep or cow skin, and its denser texture makes it more suitable for being worked into a variety of products. To produce the distinctive red Morocco color, the untanned but cured leather is soaked in a dye made from dried insects.
In the Johnson Morocco factory the lime vats, which loosen the hair and start the curing, were in the yard off Mascher Street, the hides were beamed, or scraped, in the basement of the building facing Jefferson, tanned with sumac and colored in the ell, finished, bevelled, and dried. Sperm oil was used on the stock, probably to curry the skins. This factory employed forty men, twelve boys, and three girls.
Operations in the Johnson factory were much less extensive than in William Schollenberger and Sons Morocco Factory one block north on Mascher. A number of Hexamer surveys for this site showed how it developed from a leather and tallow works.
5 Buildings on earlier surveys had vats for rendering tallow, and Schollenberger worked with sheep and calf skin as well as with goat; he had a bark tannery in addition to sumac. By 1879 6 he was no longer making tallow and had rented space to yarn and weaving manufacturers, as well as to Thomas Dolan, whose mills were to the west and south of him. Perhaps Schollenberger had discovered the profits in producing only Morocco leather.
Atlases from 1888 and 1895 continued to associate Joseph Johnson with the factory at Jefferson and Mascher.
7 The Johnson Lamp Factory was here from 1910 to 1916, 8 but it is not known whether this was the same owner with a change of industry. In 1945 9 a machine shop was marked on the atlas and today it is occupied by Haupt's Funeral Supplies, which began as early as 1943. 10

1   Hexamer General Survey #1088 (1887), "Delaney's Curled Hair and Glue Works."
2   J. Gopsill, Gopsill's Philadelphia Business Directory, (Philadelphia, 1880).
3   Hexamer General Survey #2034 (1886), "Joseph Johnson & Co., Morocco Factory."
4   Charles C. Gillispie, ed., A Diderot Pictorial Encyclopedia of Trades and Industry, Volume 2, Selected from "L'Encyclopedie, ou Dictionnaire Raissonne des Sciences, des Arts, et des Metiers," edited by Charles C. Gillispie, (New York, 1959), Pls. 396, and 339.
5   Hexamer General Survey #349
Hexamer General Survey #520 "William Schollenberger, Morocco Manufactory & Tallow Works."
Hexamer General Survey #1335 (1879), "Wm. Schollenberger & Sons, Morocco Factory."
6   Hexamer General Survey #1335 (1879), "Wm. Schollenberger & Sons, Morocco Factory."
7   Bromley, 1895; and Elvino V. Smith, Atlas of the 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th Wards of the City of Philadelphia, (Philadelphia, 1909).
8   Bromley, 1910; and 1916.
9   Sanborn Map Company, 1945.
10   Chamber of Commerce and Board of Trade 1944, p. 108.

Update May 2007 (by Torben Jenk):
Converted to apartments. Many first-floor window openings have been sealed with concrete block. Windows above have been replaced.