Did you know that the word “luggage” is actually derived from the word “lug?” It literally means, “that which is lugged around,” believe it or not! The term officially entered the English language in 1596, but by then, the concept had been around for a long, long time.
Humans have used trunks, cases, bags, and sacks to carry their possessions throughout our entire existence. Even Otzi the Iceman, a miraculously well-preserved mummy from 3300 BCE, was found with a small leather pouch that helped him carry his tools. Early humans like Otzi lived a nomadic lifestyle – personal possessions were kept to a bare minimum, so the need for carry-alls was low.
It wasn’t until the age of the Roman Empire that travel as we know it today came to exist. Wealthy Romans popularized tourism and leisure travel, creating a need for proper, portable luggage. Even legionnaires in the Roman army were known to use suitcase-like items to carry their belongings. Some of the earliest luggage identification tags ever found are from this period.
Allegedly, an item reminiscent of modern wheeled luggage appeared in Palestine in 1153, although wheeled luggage wouldn’t officially be invented until the 1970s. Let’s take a look at how we got there.
Early “True” Luggage
Luggage that most closely resembles what we’re familiar with today came about in the 18th and 19th centuries. Before train and air travel, covering long distances was a painfully slow (and dangerous) process, usually done in large groups or families. Large wooden trunks were popular, as they could hold the possessions of multiple people. They were also thick, sturdy, and durable to compensate for heavy exposure to the elements.
In the early 19th century, traditional suitcases began to gain popularity for every day travel and commuting. Suitcases were typically made of oil-treated leather stretched over wooden frames, and were far more individualized and portable than previous iterations of luggage. However, these pieces were still fairly bulky and difficult to maneuver.
Impact of Air Travel
Commercial flights became common in the early 1900s, allowing people from all walks of life to travel great distances with ease for the first time. With these new capabilities came a need for airline-friendly luggage – it had to be lighter, cheaper, and just as durable. The earliest airline luggage was manufactured using traditional leather working techniques, but soon the development of plastics and other synthetic materials revolutionized the entire process.
Polyester and plastic bags were lighter, highly portable, and more affordable for lower class travelers. They allowed air travelers to maneuver more easily through airports and, since they took up less space, to bring more personal items along on lengthy trips. Additionally, comfort and aesthetics began to take more of a front seat in luggage design – large-scale manufacturers began to craft luggage in any shape or color their customers desired.
The Journey Continues
From its humble beginnings of carrying tools for primitive humans, to guiding CEOs and businessmen on first-class flights, luggage has come a long way. Consumers today have more style and brand choices than ever before – Luggage Online alone carries more than 80 different brands of luggage! Certainly a far cry from the one size fits all wooden trunks of yesteryear.
It may be hard to imagine now, but luggage will almost certainly continue to evolve. New materials will likely emerge that will help bring down the cost of high-quality baggage, while ever-changing airline restrictions and new modes of travel will absolutely play a role in mandating the features of the next generation of luggage.
What will the luggage of tomorrow look like? Will it hover beside you? Feature self-propelling wheels? Tell us what you think!