History of Suitcases In 5 Eras

Carry-on luggage rules get more stringent every day. Soon, you won’t be able to take your wallet onboard without paying! What will happen to our faithful companions, the suitcases? Well, they’ll have to adapt, just like they have adapted through years. In fact, here’s a short history of suitcases and how they came to be.

5. Trunks

Before you had suitcases, you had trunks. They were big, heavy and sturdy. Back in the day – we’re talking 18th century here – they had to be built like slightly-more-portable chests. Trunks were made of wood, leather and even had a metal base, all to survive in the rolling holds of ships. They were also waterproofed – with sack or canvas – since the ships weren’t entirely watertight.

The weight and the cumbersome manner of the things didn’t really matter to the traveler of the day since he was likely a wealthy fop who could afford to pay various porters to ferry the luggage for him. However, by the end of the 19th century, tourism was becoming a thing people other than the fabulously rich could enjoy, too.

4. Suit-cases

While trunks continued to evolve into smaller and smaller shapes – Louis Vuitton’s first invention was a flat trunk that could be stacked (previous ones had a rounded top to prevent water from collecting) – suitcases didn’t take off until the 20th century. Rail travel, people not as rich as to afford porters wherever they go doing more traveling and a general increase in tourism helped a lot.

They were still monstrosities that could crush your modern-day suitcase with little effort. Called “dress suitcases,” “suit-cases” or just “suitcases,” they looked like nothing if not hardback books that had a handle on the long side. They were built with frames of wood and steel, with leather, wicker or rubberized cloth to cover it, while the corners were adorned/protected with brass or leather caps. And when steamship travel was still popular, they were also advertised as waterproof.

3. Suitcases

Travel was evolving at a blistering pace in the 20th century. It was not only due to trains becoming more commonplace but also because planes transformed to be more than just an elaborate suicide device for dashing daredevils of good breeding. Automobile transportation advanced in great strides in the 1930s, too – and those families didn’t need luggage that could withstand crocodile bites and saber strikes.

Thus suitcases had to become smaller and cheaper. One that fits on the back of the car didn’t need to be as robust as in the barbaric antediluvian days of 1920s steamer travel. And while the proles were enjoying affordable suitcases, American oil fat cat Erle P. Halliburton ushered in the aluminum suitcase to accompany him on his travels through the Texas oil fields. This eventually leads to the development of Zero Halliburton, a suitcase model well known for carrying McGuffins in the movies.

2. Rolling Suitcases

During that time, air travel was becoming bigger and larger (which I am thankful for – otherwise I’d be employed in train delay compensations, a decidedly less exciting field), as well as more affordable to more people. Those people needed newer, smaller suitcases to fit into planes and to be easier to transport by hand.

Enter one Bernard D. Sadow. One day, he was at an airport, returning from a family vacation in Aruba. He saw an airport employee easily rolling heavy machinery on a rolling skid. He told his wife that something like that would be great for suitcases, after which they went home, salvaged the casters off a clothing trunk, attached them to a suitcase, and voila! He filed the patent for “Rolling Luggage in 1960”, had it approved in 1962, and you probably remember a cheap plastic wheel breaking in the last three years.

Incidentally, there were earlier patents for wheeled trunks and wheeled suitcases, but they didn’t catch on since people didn’t have the pleasantries of air travel to contend with.

1. Smart Suitcases

With airlines desperate to extract ancillary charges for everything that’s not your seat, the carry-on standards are getting more stringent. That’s why luggage comes in “carry-on” and “check-in” sizes. Modern suitcases are made from polymers such as nylon, feature zippers instead of clasps, and have both handles and wheels for easy transportation.

But that’s not all. Since people are desperate to cram internet connectivity to everything they own, smart luggage has become a reality. They have batteries, Bluetooth (for those smart locks), scales, shells made from fancy materials and more. Just don’t come crying to us when you get locked out due to a buggy software patch!

However, we are the shoulder to cry on if your flight gets delayed, cancelled or overbooked. If that happens, set your smart suitcase to sentry mode and fill a claim with Skycop. We’ll help you get up to 600 EUR in-flight compensation – enough to buy a top-of-the-line carry-on suitcase!

Claim now!


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