The Fascinating History of Luggage Bags

By | June 17, 2018

Trunks Are Part Of The History of Luggage BagsIsn’t The History of Luggage Bags Fascinating?


The history of luggage bags is long-standing and has an amazing story behind it. Travel luggage or baggage consists of bags, cases and containers we all carry on our trips.

Baggage sizes and shapes have evolved over the years.  Most noticeably, from the nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. A period characterised by advances that took place in travel. In turn, these advances have influenced the design and manufacture of portable luggage. Up to this present day, we visibly see changes in the development of travel luggage.


Who would have thought the bags we now know today, the likes of  Keepall, Bucket, Papillon, Alma, Locket, Noe and Speedy, were known back then by different names. Louis Vuitton’s City Bags were the most coveted and fashionable collection. City Bags were a range of women bags that dates to the early 19th century. 


Jean-Claude Kaufmann (2013), a writer, tells us how they were designed. Originally, the bags were designed for packing inside larger steamer trunks. They became major fashion symbols for the modern woman, the likes of the Bucket Bag.


Women's Bucket Travel Bag

Women’s Bucket Bag

Why The History of Luggage Bags Matters?

History is a subject that fascinates many people. Why would a person want to explore the history of travel luggage? History makes us understand our past. It also plays a central role in the manufacturing of travel luggage. Our past forms a solid foundation, from where manufacturers can launch new products.


So, when we understand the history of travel luggage, we are able to keep abreast with luggage trends. This is so important in this complex and ever-changing world we are living in these days. The history of Travel luggage industry has not been immune to change. Instead, it has evolved and gone through a series of changes worth revisiting.


The History of Luggage Bags – By Then and Now

To understand the journey the Travel Luggage industry has travelled, we need to dig deeper into its past and explore the rich contents of its treasure. By looking back where it all started, we will have a full grasp and a holistic picture of what used to exist in the ancient days.


Types of Luggage Bags

Before delving deeper, to explore the history itself, I will start off by throwing some light on the varying types of luggage. This covers suitcases, tote, bags, carpet bags, trunks, steamers and garment bags.


A trunk is a wooden box which comes in smaller sizes. The larger boxes are called steamers and are used more for storage than travel. A Tote Bag is a small bag, usually worn on the shoulders. Packing Cubes are small rectangular boxes essential for saving space when packing.


Turn of the Nineteenth Century

Surely there must be strong reasons to justify why people preferred to carry ancient forms of travel luggage, like trunks each time they travelled. Considering a trunk was cumbersome equipment to bring along a long and stressful journey.


Trunk Boxes - Travel Luggage

Since the 19th century, we see an amazing transformation that occurred in Travel Luggage Bag industry. The most commonly used luggage in those days were chests or trunks. These were made from wood and other heavy material. Their heavy material made them quite handy.


A trunk was the most practical and most suitable to use for the simple reason that its durable. So, trunks were a perfect solution since they were strong enough to endure any kind of weather. It was also a perfect match to the type of transport prevalent in those old days, which were primarily steamships and coaches. Travellers had no choice and at times endured uncomfortable days in the lumbering coaches.


Just like the situation we have today, where airlines are regulating luggage weights, during the ancient times, a heavy trunk was a prerequisite for every journey.


Over the years, different types of travel luggage have come and gone. Taking a look back unfolds a series of changes that have occurred. During the old days, luggage had no wheels. People used to carry their luggage on their shoulders. Today, we see people all over the world gliding smoothly, pulling and rolling their luggage as they travel by planes, trains and coaches.


(1)  Steamer Trunks 1900 – 1950

A noticeable change in travel change came in the 1990s. People used to carry Card Board Suitcases on their shoulders. In that period, there were no wheeled suitcases.


(2)  The 1960s – Small wheeled trolleys 

Suitcases existed in the 1960s.


(3)  The 1970 invention of Rolling Suitcase

Bernard Sadow, the Vice President of a Massachusetts luggage company, made an invention of a Rolling Suitcase following his application for a patent. It was a four-wheeled suitcase that was pulled by a loose strip. Bernard Shaw said the invention was inspired by air travel.


(4)  1972 Rolling Luggage

These had two wheels and pulled in an upright way using a handle.


(5)  1987 The Rollaboard

The Roll Aboard was devised by Robert Plath, a pilot.
Rollaboard had telescopic handles and was rolled vertically at a dapper tilt.


(6) 2000 – The formation of the Travel Goods Association (TGA)

This is a trade organisation for companies that sell travel luggage including carry-on bags, computer bags and business cases, travel accessories, handbags and more.


Travel Luggage Industry in the 21st Century

After the Second World War, we see a significant shift. Travel luggage manufacturers started making lighter luggage. Just like today’s situation. We now have a complete turnaround in the travel luggage industry-products. To add, people are now travelling more frequently for business and leisure purposes unlike long back.


The new form of travel luggage is designed to keep abreast with Aviation policies. Airlines have put regulations in place and expect passengers to adhere to them. In a way, airlines are now dictating the shapes and sizes of our travel luggage.


We can see that the focus has shifted. More emphasis is now on travelling light. Making lightweight cases more essential for today’s traveller has become a priority.


Restrictions have made shoppers more sensitive to what they buy. Customers can’t afford to buy on impulse anymore and risk throwing their money down the drain. The new era is characterized by a designer travel luggage of high-level brands. What consumers are now looking for worldwide, is well-designed travel luggage. Luggage that is durable and accessible to many.


We now have a market environment where each brand is vying for customers. We also have companies that have set up purely for manufacturing fake design products. Designer Luggage is a subject I have already touched in a separate article. To read more about women design luggage Le’ts Read More…


Hand Luggage

Hand Luggage is a limited number of smaller bags that passengers are allowed to carry on board. The Air Traffic Control Group estimated that 100,000 flights are scheduled every day worldwide. It’s mind-blowing to know that this figure does not include road trips and sea travel.


Away – Cary-On Bag

The Away Bag was founded by Jen ruble and Stephanie Korey. The Away Bag is a sleek and well-designed product.


To conclude, history is inescapable. It will always remain part of us or catch up with us. Our history is not something we can easily shrug off and pretend it doesn’t exist. From the history of Travel Luggage, it all goes to show that in the old days, travel was a preserve of the rich. People only travelled when it was necessary. This is a complete contrast to what travel has evolved to be today. In fact, the invention of the Rolling Luggage encourages people to take more than they need.


I envy those who still have their old travel cases or trunks because they have become lucrative antiques. When you have such antiques, you can easily fetch yourself $2,000 at an auction like eBay. Door-to-door luggage shipping is now the trendy and alternative way of carrying and checking bags.


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If you have any questions related to ‘History of Luggage Bags’ please leave them below. I will be more than happy to come back to you. Also, feel free to leave your comments below. 

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14 thoughts on “The Fascinating History of Luggage Bags

  1. Rina

    I remember still the old trunks that were used for travel luggage and the old rectangle shaped latch down suitcase and even school bags such as shown in the pic.
    Now, as you say, they are antique pieces worth a bit. But thanks for the history lesson, it’s all interesting remembering how it was. Nowadays, I like to also travel light and prefer to use the trolly zip bags now.

    1. Femia Post author

      Hi, Rina, thank you so much for sparing time for me to share your invaluable experiences. Thanks for mentioning Trolly Zip Bags, I hope to include them in my future articles.

  2. manor

    As someone that travels a lot, I completely agree with you. you made some good points there and it was very interesting to read your article to get to know better the history of luggage. however, I want to know what you think will be next? I understood what we had in the past, and what or why we have what we have now. but where are we heading to? what is the next big thing in the industry?

    1. Femia Post author

      Hi, Manor, thanks a lot for leaving a comment. I’m sure future developments will be in the line of lighter luggage. What quickly comes to my mind is the Transparent Suitcase and the World’s First Duffle Suitcase with 19 compartments which are going to make life easy for holidaymakers. I have already covered them in this site.

  3. Jasmine Maki

    Hi there! Thanks for this fascinating read. I have always adored vintage luggage as decor but cannot even begin to imagine lugging a heavy chest on a vacation now. Thank goodness for advancements in luggage, which brought us lightweight, rolling suitcases! I’ll be curious to see what new technology brings to the world of travel luggage!

    1. Femia Post author

      Hi, Jasmine, thank you so much for sparing your time to leave a comment. I can’t wait either to hear about the next innovation in terms of luggage.Travel luggage has come a long way: from the heavy trunks to the lightweight suitcases. Most designs today are targeted at reducing weight. I guess whatever is going to be designed next will guarantee that packing is done within the airline’s weight limit. Once again, many thanks.

  4. Paul

    Thank you very much for this informative article, which I have really thoroughly enjoyed reading it. History is indeed a fascinating subject. The funny part of history is we cant separate it from ourselves.

    I was amazed with the transformation that has occurred in the travel luggage side of life. I read, recently, in the newspaper that a Transparent Suitcase is among the most recent innovations. I wonder what the manufacturer had in mind to have come such kind of a suitcase.

  5. Marvin

    Femia, wow! I was fascinated by your thoroughly researched and well presented article on baggage and its history. I must say, luggage has come a long way – it must have been cumbersome before the turn of the 19th century to lug along those large heavy trunks.

    The advent of the “carry-on” was sure helpful, I know when I fly nowadays, I try and fit everything I need in one check-in bag, one carry-on, and of course my over-the-shoulder laptop bag, LOL.

    1. Femia Post author

      Thanks so much, Marvin, for stopping by and leaving some invaluable comments.
      I am pleased you enjoyed reading this post. I can’t imagine how lucky we are these days. I wonder where the travel luggage industry is going to take us next.
      I also, enjoy traveling light and always on the look-out for the type of Carry-on I can throw in everything at one go.

  6. Taetske

    Good afternoon Femia,

    I enjoyed reading your article on the history of travel luggage. My parents emigrated to Australia in 1949 and had various trunks on board the ship. When they came back 4 years later the same trunks were used. When I started going to different countries my Father bought a Citroen station wagon as he had to transport me with some trunks. I now have quite a collection of trunks, the 2 that went to Australia and the one I used going to boarding school. I also have a collection of suitcases from old to modern. I can tell you my store room is really full. Thank you for this interesting read.

    Regards, Taetske

    1. Femia Post author

      Hello,Taetske, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your fascinating history of trunks that have been passed on to you. I really enjoyed reading reading it. 
      These days antique items such as vintage luggage have gained popularity and worthy a lot of money.
      At times it doesn’t have to be an antique item but something used in the last 60 to 70 which will fetch you a couple of dollars or pounds.
      Its tricky to part with the trunks when you have such a special history behind them. I appreciate that you took your time to leave some comments. All the best for your vintage luggage.

  7. Evette

    Everybody does love history, and fashion. Luggage is definitely a part of fashion. If trunks were used for travel today they would cost a ton in baggage fees because they probably weigh a ton. The lighter luggage we use today makes it easier to transport but the trunks were pretty durable and could probably take a beating which our luggage goes through when flying.

    1. Femia Post author

      Hello, Evette, thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to read my post and leave some brilliant comments!
      I agree that nowadays trunks are no longer the best option  where everyone dreams of travelling light.
      However, trunks are back on demand as antique, vintage items that people buy and keep for decorating their homes. 
      Its amazing how much money you can earn from selling such travel items.
      I’m told it can be anything from £150 to £14000.


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