A Brief History of the Suitcase

by Akhil Kalepu

Mar 31, 2016

© Thor | Flickr

History

With the rise of “smart luggage” pieces like Bluesmart and Trunkster, it’s easy to see how far suitcases have come from the days of your grandparent’s vinyl luggage. While their modern form dates to the 19th century, the suitcase has been around for thousands of years.

 

Louis Vuitton © Gabriel Jorby | Flickr

© Gabriel Jorby | Flickr

 

The earliest humans lived in nomadic societies, so naturally they would pack their belongings for long journeys. The famous Ötzi, the Iceman of Italy, was found possessing a kind of wooden backpack with a leather bag inside. Thousands of years later, the first luggage tag was discovered from the time of the Roman Empire, found in Chester, Britain, reading, “The Twentieth Legion, Property of Julius Candidus.” Later on, the earliest form of wheeled luggage was found in Palestine, used during the Crusades to transport weaponry and equipment for the Knights Templar. In the Middle Ages, travel was mostly reserved for aristocrats who traversed the country with wooden chests covered in canvas or leather and divided into compartments.

 

Gladstone Bag © Rodtuk | Flickr

A Gladstone Bag © Rodtuk | Flickr

 

During the 16th century, portmanteaus became common, as well as the later Gladstone bags, constructed with two hinged leather sides fastened together with a handle and buckle. It wasn’t until 1596 when the word “luggage” first appears in the English language, appearing in the Oxford English Dictionary as a derivation of lug, literally meaning “that which needs to be lugged about.” Luggage as we recognize it today was designed in the 1800s for wealthy travelers crossing oceans on steamships. These pinewood trunks were waterproofed with tree sap and had heavy iron bases to survive rough waters.

 

La Maison Goyard, Paris, France © Paul Arps | Flickr

La Maison Goyard, Paris, France © Paul Arps | Flickr

 

Wheeled luggage made a comeback in 1848, when a colonel of the British Raj saw the Maharani of Nadir arrive for a reception with a wheeled trunk pulled by an elephant. Unfortunately, the man’s ambitious business plan was cut short when Queen Victoria instead awarded the patent to her husband, Prince Albert. As travel became more fashionable, some companies such as La Maison Goyard and H.J. Cave & Sons began crafting high-end pieces for their aristocratic adventurers. The most famous of these designers was Louis Vuitton, whose first creation was a stackable flat-topped trunk. Prior bags had round tops to prevent water from collecting, but Louis Vuitton’s distinctive design and style was hit, and would go on to make the brand world famous and often imitated.

 

Louis Vuitton © Ian Collins | Flickr

© Ian Collins | Flickr

 

It was during the 20th century luggage became a booming industry. Travel was becoming attainable for more people. In the early part of the century, dapper travelers purchased “dress-suit cases” to store their wardrobe. Some of travel’s most recognized brands were born in this time period, with American Tourist and Samsonite developing cheap bags for the everyday American consumer. Travel also became a status symbol, seen in the mid-century trend of covering your suitcase with destination labels. The tradition is still practiced today, though mostly on Instagram instead of via stickers.

 

Samsonite © Paul Thompson | Flickr

© Paul Thompson | Flickr

 

#trazeetravel

Insta Feed
Trends / Top Trends
Jun 18, 2019

Trazee In-Depth: Creative Multigenerational Destinations for Summer

Choosing a summer vacation destination is rarely a last-minute endeavor. Depending on your career, school or schedule, summer can be that one season to let loose, vacation and completely get away for a little while, making it a fun one to plan for.

Unique Places to Stay on the Island of Ireland

Whether it’s a friendly B&B, a luxurious castle or a cliff-top lighthouse, accommodation on the island of Ireland is like no other. With a warm welcome guaranteed, enjoy the very best of Irish hospitality.

Trends / LGBTQ
Jun 18, 2019

LGBTQ+: South Africa

South Africa has a lot going for it. Incredible wildlife, bustling cities and a welcoming LGBTQ+ culture make the country a world-class destination for all travelers.

Trends / Study Abroad
Jun 18, 2019

Dealing with FOMO When Studying Abroad

The Fear of Missing Out greatly affects students who study abroad. For months students look forward to the countries they will call home, whether for a semester or a year, and then after they arrive, the loneliness and separation sets in. It’s difficult to be away from family and friends for a long amount of time and studying abroad is no exception, no matter how badly a student wants to fall in love with their city.

Leave Troublesome Rideshare Worries Behind

We can see it now and remember when it happened to us: Watching as the black car icon loops around and around, seemingly endlessly, and our wait time on the rideshare app continually changes. Long wait times and confused drivers are just a few bothersome issues that can nag at rideshare users. Need a solution? Ditch rideshares altogether in favor of renting a car on your next trip.

Trends / Food & Drink
Jun 18, 2019

Taking It Back to Basics at Ghent’s Gruut Brewery

Breweries are everywhere today and, while many craft and microbreweries specialize in particular styles of beer, few are quite as specialized as Ghent Gruut Brewery in Ghent, Belgium. Here, the current craze for hop-heavy India Pale Ales is entirely eschewed as absolutely no hops at all are used in the brewing process. Before you clamor to claim this can’t be beer at all as everyone knows the four ingredients of beer are grain, water, yeast, and hops, consider hops weren’t actually added to beer until the 13th century. Before then, all beers were flavored with herbs and spices, or gruut, as the French population of medieval Ghent called them.