A dark brown leather suitcase with a light brown trim and stitching. It has a central lock which can be locked by key to ensure belongings are kept safe. A leather carry handle makes the case easy to transport when travelling. There are brass rivets to strengthen points at different places on the case.

History of the Suitcase

During the 19th century the suitcase was essentially just that – to carry suits. Prior to this knapsacks and carpet bags were used for overnight stays and heavy trunks for the longer journeys. Grand houses even had luggage rooms dedicated just to store their trunks and cases in when they were not travelling the world.

Initially travel would have been by boat and heavy trunks would have been necessary to protect the belongings on the voyage. With the invention of planes, trains and motor vehicles the travel industry really took off and bulky cases were no longer an option.

Suitcases became the must have item to hold your wide selection of clothes, toiletries and books as well as enough space to bring back a memento from your travels. Suitcases initially were made in leather with re-enforced corners for protection but over the years many materials have been used. Today a wide variety are available from hard shell to soft shell cases.

Hard shell cases have the advantage of protecting your belongings from water damage, easy removal of any external marks picked up while travelling but you are restricted to how much you can pack in them as they are rigid rather than expandable.

Soft-shell cases are lighter when empty than hard cases, are more flexible and expandable as well as being water repellent. However, whichever size of case you choose you do still have to adhere to the baggage allowance if travelling by aeroplane!

While travelling it is always advisable to keep your belongings safe. Originally there would be a clasp that could be locked but these days it is more common to have a zip which you add a key or a combination lock to.

It wasn’t until the 1970’s that Bernard Sadow patented a suitcase on wheels after struggling through an airport in Puerto Rico with his family and two large suitcases. Initially stores refused to sell suitcases with wheels as men were reluctant to be seen with such an item. These days most suitcases come with handles and wheels to make transporting our precious belongings around much easier.

Key theme(s):

Seaside & Holidays

More information:

Date 1950s, 1960s, 1970s
Material(s) LeatherMetal
Item number MBPO82

Questions to help you remember using this item

  • Do you like travelling in this country or abroad?
  • What other countries have you travelled to?
  • What was the first suitcase like that you travelled with?
  • In those days did you have to lock it?
  • Has your suitcase ever gone missing or been damaged while you have been travelling?

User Stories

When my husband moved from Ireland to England, he had all his belongings in 2 suitcases and a rucksack. Some people take more for the weekend or definitely a 2-week holiday to the sun or snow! – Memory Box Volunteer

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