As travel changes over the years and transport evolves, so do our needs when it comes to luggage. Back in the late 1800s when Jules Verne penned Around the World in 80 Days, he didn't have a suitcase in mind for Phileas Fogg. “We'll have no trunks,” he says to his servant Jean Passepartout, “only a carpet bag, with two shirts and three pairs of stockings for me, and the same for you. We'll buy our clothes on the way.” Back in those days, the suitcases were know and use today were not even a thing! The main mode of transport for long trips was by sea in large steamships. Luggage had to be incredibly robust and self sufficient in the form of large hefty trunks built with wood, leather and iron. These would then need to be treated with tree-sap to create a waterproofing that would withstand old leaky ship holdings.
So how did we transition from huge trunks, to the suitcases we know today? Firstly, these case were literally used to carry suits, which is where the name originates. The typical suitcase of the era came with a hat box and an inner compartment for shirts, enabling the suit to be laid flat inside and the closed over and carried perfectly. Trunks were becoming less and less practical and modes of transport changed and travel became more accessible. The turn of the century marked a real change in our traveling behaviour and rather than only for necessity, travel became about curiosity, entertainment and exploration - tourism was born.
Early suitcases were obviously smaller than trunks, but still very cumbersome compared to their modern equivalents. Often made from leather, wicker or rubber that would be stretched over hard steel frames and rounded off at the corners with brass or metal capping. During the 1920s, there were vast improvements and extensions in the automotive industry and travel by car was becoming more popular, as well as the world of aviation opening up the world. There was talk of suitcases actually becoming obsolete as was advised to President Roosevelt in the early 30s. He was advised in one particular business report that simple cardboard boxes and containers could be used to hold clothing and supplies in the back of car in lieu of luggage. This mean that if luggage manufacturers wanted to stay in business, things needed to get lighter and cheaper pretty quickly! Modern materials were used including plastics and faux leathers, but of course there was still a high end market for quality craftsmanship and genuine leather goods.
Original vintage suitcases may not offer the stability and security required for commercial flying today, but they can still be used for car and rail travel as well as a whole host of other uses. We have sold vintage suitcases for home decor, shop display, vintage car props, TV, film and theatre props as well as more inventive and creative ideas. You only need to take a quick look at Pinterest to find lots of beautiful uses for vintage suitcases including table plan displays and gift drop off points at weddings and parties. We have also seen them being made into coffee or side tables and attached to walls as unique shelving solutions. A vintage suitcase offers so much more than just a place to store old clothes under the bed -why not get creative and add a unique vintage detail to your home?
We usually have a good selection of vintage suitcases in stock at My Vintage so I have picked out a few to show you that are currently available.
Classic vintage suitcase in a rich orange-y tan faux leather. Solid brown carry handle with push lock. Measures approx 17" x 14" x 6". Lining is discoloured as would be expected for the age but generally in very good vintage condition.
Fantastic petite vintage suitcase in classic black. Labelled British European Airways BEA approved for under seat stowage. Grey checkered lining inside and two front locks in silver tone (no keys) locks are a little stiff but all working perfectly. Glossy textured finish and very durable. Measures approx 18” x 14” x 5.5”. In very good vintage condition.
You can find a whole host of vintage suitcases, vintage vanity cases, vintage luggage, vintage travel accessories, vintage grooming sets, vintage bags and more if you head over to our Vintage Homeware section. New items are added each week so be sure to bookmark and check back often!
Have you got any creative or interesting vintage suitcase ideas to share? Why not drop me a message over on our socials - I'd love to hear from you!
Until next time
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