Luggage: A brief history

Luggage Louis VuittonLuggage, often referred to as “baggage” or “suitcases” is a term coined in 1596, from lug (v.) “to drag;” so, lit. “what has to be lugged about” (or, in Johnson’s definition, “any thing of more bulk than value”). In 20c., the usual word for “baggage belonging to passengers.”

For more than six hundred years, people have used traveling cases, steamer trunks valises, portmanteaus, briefcases, weekenders and the now ubiquitous rolling case to get their goods from point A to point B.

As lover of history, I’ve always been fascinated by luggage – many homes in my native DC have strange small “bedrooms,” (which can’t be referred to as such because they lack windows and closets) that were once housing for the owner’s trunks. I took a steamer trunk to college, only to find that it didn’t even come close to fitting in my shoebox of a dorm room. My greatest desire? A vintage Louis Vuitton case – and an appropriate wardrobe (and private jet ) to carry it.

So for this edition of “The Way We Traveled,” check out this brief timeline of luggage factoids:

1153 – The first wheeled luggage appears in Palestine and was used to carry weaponry and equipment.

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.

2013 – The date when the proposed ban on liquids in carry on luggage will be reversed in the EU.

*This article was updated to reflect additional information about wheeled luggage on March 2, 2011.