The History of the Luggage Industry Throughout the Last 100 Years: A Brief Overview


If you’re traveling this season, regardless of where and how far, you’re more than likely going to be bringing along at least one piece of luggage, if not more. No matter where you find yourself going, you can bet that luggage is always there with you, carrying all of your personal clothing and items and keeping them safe. Luggage is so second-nature for travel, that we rarely put any deep thought into it.

However, the luggage you decide to purchase should be given greater thought. After all, your luggage is what you’ll use to carry all your belongings as you travel, and you want it to be durable, tasteful, and something you enjoy having with you.

Only decades ago, the list of luggage options used to be fairly short. Most of them came in the same shape, were made of similar materials, and served the same purpose. To help you gain a better sense of appreciation for the many great luggage options available today, let’s take a brief look at the history of the luggage itself over the last one-hundred years. You’d be surprised by just how far we’ve come.  

The Mid-1900s

In the mid-1900s, the luggage industry was finally gaining some traction. Although wheeled luggage was not very common in this time (in fact, men were ridiculed if they had wheeled suitcases in the early 1900s), suitcases were evolving to carry much more than just clothes. Luggage was being created to carry other common items in that era, such as cigars, cameras, and other technical equipment.


Although wheeled luggage had existed for many years (since the age of the Crusades) prior to 1972, the company U.S. Luggage finally patented wheeled luggage, marking 1972 as the “official” year of the birth of luggage on wheels.


In this year, pilot Bob Plath invented the modern luggage with an extended handle as we know it today. He released it worldwide under the brand name TravelPro.


In 1994, a man by the name of Don Ku invented the collapsible luggage handle, which is the modern design of luggage. Naturally, he patented the invention as well.


At the turn of the century, the company Rimowa introduced a new suitcase made of polycarbonate. Compared to the previous trend of canvas luggage, polycarbonate luggage set the trend of hard-shell cases, which are extremely durable and very popular in the industry today.


In 2004, big-league player Samsonite reinvented the wheel. Rather than uni-directional wheels, the company developed a spinner-style wheel that could literally be spun in any direction. Luggage equipped with these wheels can be easily maneuvered through even the busiest of airports.

...And Beyond

As we progress into the future, luggage is now coming in many shapes, sizes, and materials. Some pieces of luggage are now being made with Bluetooth and other technological capabilities, which is changing the luggage industry altogether. At the same time, as society becomes more aware of the need for environmental protection and improvement, luggage is now becoming readily available in vegan and eco-friendly options, such as aluminum, canvas, and other non-animal-derived materials.

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