Carpet bags – history

What is a carpet bag?
A carpet-bag is a (old fashioned) travelling bag made of carpet (Oxford Dictionary)

The old-fashioned carpet bag is still unsurpassed by any, where rough wear is the principal thing to be studied. Such a bag, if constructed of good Brussels carpeting and unquestionable workmanship, will last a lifetime, provided always that a substantial frame is used (John T. Humphrey, Scientific American Supplement, No. 561, October 2, 1886). The instructions in the S.A. make it clear that the carpet bag is a classic example of recycling. It recommends the use of a leftover piece of carpet, some pieces of leather and two staves of a good-sized barrel for clams.
In Europe, a more fashionable version of the carpet bag was developed. The Frenchman Pierre Godillot made a travelling bag out of canvas which became extraordinarily popular in the second half of the nineteenth century. The canvas travelling bag was also very suitable for being embroidered in Berlin wool work. Many women embroidered their bags themselves and then had the local saddler add leather corners, handles and a metal frame (Bags, Sigrid Ivo).

The carpet bag in Queen Victoria’s England
The carpet bag goes back to the beginning of the 19th Century. In the North of England in 1830, the first commercial intercity passenger train service in the world was opened: the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. This steam-powered railway service made travel more comfortable and accessible to the masses, whereas travelling (abroad) had been a luxury that only the very rich could afford. In fact it marked the beginning of mass tourism.
In Traveling Etiquette and Tips for Victorian Women, women were recommended to take a fashionable carpet bag if staying overnight somewhere. The traveling satchel was to contain grooming items, a mirror, reading material, crackers, or sandwiches, if [the traveler would] be long enough upon the road to need a luncheon. The carpet bag was to contain “a large shawl,…night clothes, and…clean linen,” and, if a woman was to sleep the night in a railcar, a warm woolen or silk nightcap was to replace her bonnet at bedtime.
But the carpet bag was also an unmissable accessory for men. A popular male user of the carpet bag was Phileas Fogg in Around the World in Eighty Days: ”Mr. Fogg was quite ready. Under his arm might have been observed a red–bound copy of Bradshaw’s Continental Railway Steam Transit and General Guide, with its timetables showing the arrival and departure of steamers and railways. He took the carpet–bag, opened it, and slipped into it a goodly roll of Bank of England notes, which would pass wherever he might go. “You have forgotten nothing?” asked he. “Nothing, monsieur.” “My mackintosh and cloak?” “Here they are.” “Good! Take this carpet–bag,” handing it to Passepartout. “Take good care of it, for there are twenty thousand pounds in it.”

A carpet bag now??
After Phileas Fogg, Mary Poppins and countless other devoted users of the carpet bag, it still remains a very useful and desirable accessory. Whether it is for day to day use for your many everyday necessities or for a romantic weekend away. Taspartout is proud to carry on the tradition. Taspartout uses hand embroidered and vintage finds or sturdy modern materials – as you wish – to create your very own personal and unique carpet bag.