The Leatherman (ca. 1839 – 1889) was a vagabond famous for his handmade leather suit of clothes who traveled a circuit between the Connecticut and Hudson Rivers from about 1856-1889. Although sometimes identified as Jules Bourglay, his identity remains unknown.
Residing in rock shelters and "leatherman caves" as they are locally now known, he stopped at towns along his 365 mile loop once every 34 days for food and supplies. He was dubbed the "Leatherman" as his entire adornment, from hat, scarf, clothes to shoes were handmade of leather.
Fluent in French, he communicated mostly with grunts and gestures, rarely using his broken English. When asked of his background, he would abruptly end the conversation. Upon his death, among his possessions was found a French prayerbook.
It is unknown how he earned money, although one store kept a record of his order: "one loaf of bread, a can of sardines, one-pound of fancy crackers, a pie, two quarts of coffee, one gill of brandy and a bottle of beer".
Leatherman was quite popular in Connecticut. Reliable in his rounds, people would have extra food ready for him, which he often ate on their doorsteps. Ten towns along the Leatherman's route passed ordinances exempting him from the state "tramp law" passed in 1879.
The Leatherman survived blizzards and other foul weather by heating his rock shelters with fire. The Connecticut Humane Society
had him arrested and hospitalized in 1888, which resulted in a diagnosis of "sane except for an emotional affliction" and release, as he had money and desired freedom. His ultimate demise was from cancer
of the mouth due to tobacco use. His body was found in March of 1889 in his Saw Mill Woods cave, Sing Sing, NY
His grave is located at the Sparta Cemetery, Route 9
, Scarborough, New York
. His burial was paid for by an Englishman named Sampson Fisher-King Bennetts who claimed to have spent time with Jules in Nineveh, Ur and Paris.
FINAL RESTING PLACE OF
OF LYONS, FRANCE
"THE LEATHER MAN"
who regularly walked a 365 mile route
through Westchester and Connecticut from
the Connecticut River to the Hudson
living in caves in the years
The Leatherman's tombstone reads, "Final resting place of Jules Bourglay of Lyons, France, 'The Leather Man'…", and he is identified with that name in many accounts. However, according to researchers, including Dan W. DeLuca, his identity remains unknown. This name first appeared in a story published in the Waterbury Daily American
, August 16
, but was later retracted March 25
, 26 and 27, 1889 and also in The Meriden Daily Journal
, March 29
Geocaching and letterboxing
Many of the locations on Leatherman's route in Connecticut and New York have geocaches
as well as letterboxes