Historical information

The paper shopping bag was most likely used for carrying garments, silk or woollen fabrics home from the Wallace Hughes department store. This substantial drapery operated from the late 19th-century-to the mid-20th century, and had 30 departments and stood at 464 - 470 Brixton Road, south London, U.K. The building was destroyed during the second World War and rebuilt in the 1950s. Brixton was once home to several large department stores, none survive today.
History of shopping bags:

Before the late 1800s, shopping bags didn’t exist. Shoppers would either carry their goods home in baskets, or have the merchant deliver them to people's homes, until 1852 when Francis Wolle, a schoolteacher in Pennsylvania, invented a machine to produce paper shopping bags. This invention would allow customers to carry items home in disposable paper bags. Soon after, owners of department stores and retailers began to realise that paper shopping bags could be used to help market their brands, and as such custom shopping bags with printed logos became common place. Carrying a shopping bag from certain shops became a type of status symbol for consumers, providing evidence that one was well-off, had good taste, or both.


The paper shopping bag is a rare survival of ephemera related to a department store owned by Wallace Hughes in Brixton, South London, Britain that operated during the early-20th century, The arrival of waves of more than ten million migrants by boat is one of the major themes in Australia’s history. The paper shopping bag is representative of personal items purchased for migrant journeys as markers of domesticity, warmth and making oneself at home in a new land that speaks of the transnational lives embedded in threads of migration.

Physical description

The green coloured paper shopping bag with a printed logo and store information in red ink.

Inscriptions & markings

Wallace Hughes, Brixton; For jumpers; For blouses; brixton's most fashionable draper