Here at Story Supply Co. we work with a number of suppliers to create the best products possible. From pens to paper, and ink to leather, the best materials going in means the best possible products coming out. Today, we’re introducing you to Horween Leather Company from Chicago, IL. Founded in 1905, Horween is a multigenerational family-owned company that uses old-world tanning techniques updated to modern environmental safety standards for an authentic, yet ethically-manufactured product. They’re also one of the last producers of Shell Cordovan—a high-quality horse leather that’s hard to make but lasts decades—in America. In fact, they’re also the last tannery in Chicago according to Gear Patrol and The Distance.
Isadore Horween was the founder of the company and a master tanner. He immigrated from Ukraine and, since then, the company has been five generations of strong family commitment to quality. A natural American success story built on quality.
“We should take the best of everything; the best hides, the best oils, the best dyes and finishes —then we do whatever it takes to make that leather the best. The price goes on last, and if we cannot sell it for what it is worth, we should not make that leather”—Isidore Horween, 1905 - 1948
Horween Leather Company’s reputation is unparalleled when it comes to quality leather production. The company doesn’t rely on that reputation alone, however. Horween has its own website with a blog, a Twitter account, and an Instagram feed where products are shown directly to the consumer. Nick Horween, the youngest of the family and current vice president, said in an interview with Gear Patrol “Perhaps the best thing to come out of the current economy is the informed consumer. People are more conscious of what they’re buying, and that works well for companies that offer something that has the right balance of quality to aesthetic to price.”
Horween Leather has also made large strides in respecting the environment, while still relying on traditional manufacturing techniques. The company operates its own water treatment plant. Machines that operated for Nick’s great grandfather are still in use.
The quality of Horween Leather is so consistent that many new independent companies are thrilled to work with them. “The quality immediately comes through,” Bock [who is the head of Shinola, another business Horween supplies] said of the leather. “There’s a softness and certainly a durability… This is a 100-year-old company that has really built a tremendous amount of expertise over that period of time,” (Wong, The Distance).
Horween is widely known for it’s shoe leather, among other goods, but that’s just a portion of the company’s manufacturing. “In the 1940’s my great grandfather developed our business with Wilson for the NFL,” Nick Horween elaborates upon during the Gear Patrol interview. NFL footballs are made of cowhide, not pigskin, which is more durable and of a higher quality. Horween also makes baseball gloves; a pretty big jump for a company that started out only making razor straps.
Story Supply Co. uses Horween leather in the Plot Line collection of handbound journals and is proud to support such a tight-knit, family-run American company.