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Do you know that Woburn was once a significant American tannery location? The first tannery in Woburn was a small tan-yard started by the Wyman brothers in 1666 in the Central Square area.

Tanneries in Woburn

As the nation grew so did the demand for leather which was essential in making shoes, boots, belts, saddles, harnesses, gloves, etc. Many shops opened in Woburn selling these products. From 1840-1865 Woburn was a major center for leather production in the country with 26 tanneries flourishing in the town.

Tanneries needed workers and immigrants from Ireland were the first group to come to America and Woburn specifically to fill the many jobs available. Soon thereafter came Italians, Greeks, and Swedes changing Woburn forever. New immigrants arrived throughout the 19th century enhancing the ethnic mix of the town.

As labor costs increased and demand for leather decreased and because many leather products were replaced by plastic, the tannery industry slowly but surely closed in Woburn. The last tannery in Woburn, the John J. Riley Company on Salem Street, closed in 1988.


Home of

Woburn Historical Society

7 Mishawum Road

PO Box 91

Woburn, MA  01801


[email protected]

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Mondays and Wednesdays

10 am to 2 pm


10 am to 12 pm

Bill and ​Joyce Cummings

The Society is extremely grateful to be a recipient of a Cummings Foundation Grant.

Thank you to these Woburn businesses for their generous support!


George's Auto Body

Lynch-Cantillon Funeral Home

McLaughlin-Dello Russo Funeral Service

Mooney Dental, Kevin Mooney

J. Sallese & Sons, Inc.


Kiwanis Club of Woburn

Lawton Real Estate, Inc.

Lennon Insurance


Little Folks Day School

Tocci Building Corporation