The Lang Tanning Company was one of several tanneries in the Waterloo region, and at one time was known as the largest tannery in the British Empire. At its peak between the two World Wars, the company employed around 600 people.
Reinhold Lang, the founder of The Lang Tanning Company Limited, came to Berlin (now Kitchener) from a small village in the German Rhineland with his eldest son George, and established a small tannery in 1849.
The tannery was located on Foundry (now Ontario) Street in Berlin, and was moved to an area between Wilmot (now Victoria) and Francis Streets after fire destroyed the original plant. This area was chosen because there was a natural spring there that could be used as water supply for the tannery.The Lang Tanning Company then went on to become the largest sole leather producer in the British Empire, and Reinhold Lang, who was also a member of the Berlin Council in 1859, became a prominent local citizen.
During the First World War, Lang Tanning produced huge amounts of saddle material, and in the Second World War it supplied sole leather and leather linings for aircraft gasoline tanks. The company purchased cattle hides from local packing plants as well as from South America and New Zealand. Hemlock bark from northern Ontario was used for tanning the leather, and Reinhold Lang also bought hardwood from the US, South America, India and Africa for this purpose.
The company discontinued operations as a tannery in 1954 due to competition from synthetic materials, but kept its five-acre downtown site and complex of 35 buildings until 1974, when the property was sold to Ball Brothers Limited, a Kitchener contracting firm.
The tannery complex, bounded by Victoria, Charles, Francis, and Joseph streets, is now owned by Toronto developer Cadan Inc. and houses numerous businesses.
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