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Luggage Characteristics Have Changed Over The Years

Oct 12, 2007
It is fascinating to note how the characteristics of luggage have changed over the past years. In the stagecoach days, a trunk was the best luggage available and people were always in the streets ready to load it onboard. There were even larger trunks available for shipboard travel and people knew they would find their way onboard without lifting a finger to get them there.

Steamer trunks and other trunks as well, were often reinforced along all the edges with metal bands. Metal trunks and locks were sometimes made of brass or other bright metals. Other trunks were banded with heavy leather for protection. Trunks could be made of metal, wood, or sometimes other materials, depending upon the size. Lightweight travel in the horse and buggy days might include simple saddlebags, particularly if the traveler was male.

Trunks continued in popularity up until the time when suitcases and overnighters became the luggage of choice. Television ads focused on the strength and durability of the luggage. Often the luggage itself was heavy, not to mention awkward to move from one place to another. An ad from the 70's showed a piece of the sponsor's luggage being left in a cage with a gorilla to use as a play thing. The luggage was still operational after the time in the cage although it was never clear whether the goods inside survived as well.

Perhaps it was the influence of the flower children who traveled the highways in the 60's that changed the look of luggage. One can hardly imagine hauling a two-suiter across the country while hitching rides. As backpacks became popular among the younger set, they also became larger and larger, until they crossed the line to become small duffel bags, or vice versa.

At the same time, hard luggage became more convenient to move, often with a handle and retractable wheels so the larger pieces could be easily moved with one hand only. Somewhere along the line, the duffel bags became soft-sided luggage and some of the larger pieces began to sport pull-up handles on which a second piece of luggage could be placed and be wheeled along through airports with ease. This type of luggage seemed like a built in baggage cart since a traveler could transport up to three pieces of luggage at one time, using the wheels to keep luggage secure.

Well-made luggage today advertises sturdy reinforced seams, convenient pockets, and strong fastenings for handles and grips. Today though, the weight of the luggage is no longer in the luggage itself, but in the items placed inside the luggage.
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