Sunday, July 15, 2012

"Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again;

 we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.”
                                ~Jack Kerouac

Here at the Jersey shore...southern style not Snooki style...summer vacation season is happening everywhere.  And, with Americans trapped in the June, July, August mode, they pack the suitcases and head out.
But, once again, we can study the ancients and realize we are just following the trails of the ancient Romans.  Remember the Romans designed roads, and they packed their belongings.  Now, much of the travel was done by the military according to my research, but again...that is still the same in the 21st century.

This illustration shows a luggage tag found in Chester, Britain, which reads: “The Twentieth Legion. [Property] of Julius Candidus.” The hordes of soldiers made me think of airport carousels as one waits patiently for the conveyor belt to burp out one's bag!

Yes, luggage...who thought of something more than a bag to pack into.   From buckskin back packs to steamer trunks to carbon fiber carry-ons, the story of the suitcase parallels the explosion of travel and tourism.  And, now with airlines charging by weight for the suitcases, I think back to returning from Europe decades ago...it would have cost me thousands!!!

The term luggage dates to the 16th century, from lug (v.) "to drag;"  "what has to be lugged about" (or, in Johnson's definition, "any thing of more bulk than value"--well, that could apply to a plethora of stuff!).

From my research, here is timeline I found...
1153 - The first wheeled luggage appears in Palestine and was used to carry weaponry and equipment. (Sad that war created a neat utilitarian assistant.)

1851 - Queen Victoria awards Prince Albert three gold medals for his Travelling Carry-All Omni-Conveyance, Bewheele.

1854 - Louis Vuitton as we know it was born, initially specializing in luggage.

1910 - Samsonite launches.

1970 - Briggs & Riley introduces modern "wheeled" luggage, offering four wheels and a rope tow.

1972 - U.S. Luggage patents wheeled luggage.

1989 - A Northwest Airlines pilot becomes the first person to carry wheeled luggage

1994 - Don Ku was granted a patent for wheeled suitcase with a collapsible towing handle.

2006 - A ban on liquids over 3 oz. in carry-on luggage is announced.

Late 2000s - Airlines begin charging bag fees for checked luggage on domestic flights.


I found several pieces of luggage on my recent flea market jaunt...one thing about suitcase buying...you can pack them!!!

No Louis Vuitton for those who may be wondering...I did get a 

Naugahyde is a composite of a knit fabric backing and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic coating. It was developed by United States Rubber Company, and is now manufactured and sold by the Uniroyal Engineered Products division of Michelin. Its name, first used as a trademark in 1936, comes from the Borough of Naugatuck, Connecticut, where it was first produced. Uniroyal asserts that Naugahyde is one of the most popular premium "pleathers." 

This suitcase has the strangest key though...you have to push down on the tab while turning.  I did look like a bumbling fool trying to open it on the guy's table.   

This suitcase is beautifully worn, but the latches are pristine.  I know some collectors want everything as though it had just come off the showroom floor, but I prefer the past lives that come with the item...not in total tatters but historically worn.

I wonder what caused the circular stain...where the case has been...originally, suitcases were made of wool or linen.  Then, leather was used to cover wood suitcases or just on its own for collapsible suitcases.  Like all produced consumer goods the materials chosen to construct suitcases are truly a product of their time. Wool, wood, leather, metal, plastic, fiber composite, even recycled materials, are all common suitcase materials. During covered wagon times trunks were a popular form of transporting goods. The ride was rough, so the luggage had to be strong. The theme of suitcases becoming less cumbersome over time could be directly related to the advancement of better transportation.  Even this 1940s era cardboard suitcase shows the trend to lighter cases...even though this has leather corners.  Can you picture the man or woman getting on the bus to seek a new life in the big city?


Remember...suitcases are not just for traveling...in our repurpose world, they provide storage...so much more inviting than a rubbermaid tub.  You can stack these in the corner of a room without looking like a hoarder!   So, happy trails to you on your travels!

"Most travel is best of all in the anticipation or the remembering; the reality has more to do with losing your luggage".   ~ Regina Nadelson

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