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June 16, 2023

Leatherman, the Mystery Man Who Walked Along the Same Path for 30 Years From the Mid-1850s

The Leatherman (ca. 1839–1889; aged 49–50) was a vagabond famous for his handmade leather suit of clothes who traveled through the northeastern United States on a regular circuit between the Connecticut River and the Hudson River from roughly 1857 to 1889.

Of unknown origin, he was thought to be French-Canadian because of his fluency in the French language, his “broken English,” and the French-language prayer book found on his person after his death. His identity remains unknown, and controversial. He walked a repeating 365-mile (587 km) route year after year, which took him through certain towns in western Connecticut and eastern New York, returning to each town every 34–36 days.

Living in rock shelters and leatherman caves, as they are now locally known, the Leatherman stopped at towns along his 365-mile (587 km) loop about every five weeks for food and supplies. He was dubbed the “Leatherman” as his adornment of hat, scarf, clothes, and shoes were handmade from leather.

An early article in the Burlington Free Press dating to April 7, 1870, refers to him as the “Leather-Clad Man”. It also states that he spoke rarely and when addressed would simply speak in monosyllables. According to contemporary rumors, he hailed from Picardy, France.

Fluent in French, he communicated mostly with grunts and gestures, rarely using his broken English. When asked about his background, he would abruptly end the conversation. Upon his death, a French prayer book was found among his possessions. He declined meat on Fridays, giving rise to speculation that he was Roman Catholic.

It is unknown how he earned money. One store kept a record of an 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.”

The Leatherman was well known in Connecticut. He was reliable in his rounds, and people would have 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. Indeed, while his face was reported to be frostbitten at times during the winter, by the time of his death he had not lost any fingers, unlike other tramps of the time and area.

The Connecticut Humane Society had him arrested and hospitalized in 1888, which resulted in a diagnosis of “sane except for an emotional affliction,” after which he was released, as he had money and desired freedom. He ultimately died from cancer of the mouth due to tobacco use. His body was found on March 24, 1889, in his Saw Mill Woods cave on the farm of George Dell in the town of Mount Pleasant, New York, near Ossining.

After he perished, so many people visited the Leatherman’s roadside grave that the local historical society decided to move it farther inland to avoid potential accidents. When the body was exhumed for reburial in 2011, many thought DNA testing might help solve the mystery of who he was.

However, those hopes were dashed when they opened the casket to find that the remains were missing. Now, the Leatherman is shrouded in even more mystery: no one knows who he was or where he is.


  1. The Leatherman's story is a fascinating part of American folklore and regional history.

  2. Looking for advice on effective home workout routines.

  3. The Leatherman was a mysterious figure known for his handmade leather suit and his repetitive 365-mile route through the northeastern United States.




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