Historical information

The suitcase didn't catch on until the end of the 19th century, it was quite literally as a case for suits. A typical suitcase came equipped with an inner sleeve for storing shirts, and sometimes a little hat box on the side. But even in the early 20th century, the "dress-suit case" was only one of countless styles of container travellers could buy, from steamer trunks to club bags. By the late 19th century a significant point was reached in the history of transportation, it was the beginning of mass tourism, rather than travel for travels sake made use of by the wealthy in society. Travel wasn't just for the wealthy any more but everyone. Suitcases began as an afterthought in the luggage and leather goods business, but they soon became the very symbol of travel. An 1897 wholesale price list included the words "suitcase" only twice in a 20-page list of luggage types. In America a 1907 T. Eaton & Co. Catalogue, trunks took up a full page while suitcases share a page with club bags and valises. In a 1911 a United Company catalogue, now displayed around 40 per cent of the advertisements were for suitcases. Early suitcases were lighter and more portable than trunks, but they were still bulky by today's standards. Leather, canvas, wicker or thick rubbery cloth was stretched over a rigid wood or steel frame. Corners were rounded out using brass or leather caps and some had wooden rails running around the case. Until steamship travel declined during the mid-20th century, many of these types of the case were advertised as waterproof with some lightweight models marketed specifically to women.


The item gives us a snap-shot as to how people undertook travelling during a time when undertaking a journey for pleasure at the end of the 19th century was mainly only for the wealthy. This time saw the beginnings of change from the wealthy in society being able to travel, to the onset of mass tourism. Along with this change in societal norms saw many innervations to the design of luggage as it became a fashionable item.

Physical description

Suitcase wooden with four wood reinforcing ribs, 2 leather straps with buckles & leather handles each end. Has inner shelf.

Inscriptions & markings