THE GLADSTONE BAG
At Gladstn London, whilst our name is actually not derived from it, there is no doubting our passion for bags & travel is influenced by the Gladstone Bag. A bag with a rich history in politics, medicine and literature. It’s origin is the simple and durable design of the famous Carpetbag used widely in the US & Europe in the 19th Century. Its tough leather and frame made it the perfect travel companion.
From politics to potions
As is widely known, it was named after British Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone and was designed by the leather maker, J. G. Beard of London. The Gladstone Bag quickly became the epitome of Victorian England and, as medicine become available to the masses, the bag found a new audience – the doctors of the day.
Physicians needed to take their kit on house visits and their traditional medicine boxes and cabinets were bulky and difficult to carry. In contrast, the Gladstone Bag was spacious, well organised and quickly became the popular choice; the final signifier the medical profession had arrived – complete with ear trumpet, stethoscope, sewing kit, lotions and potions
On board the titanic
With the opportunity to travel becoming more widely available, the Gladstone Bag began to expand its reach, including on the fateful Titanic voyage. On board the Titanic, the pursers would store the First Class passengers’ valuables in Gladstone Bags for safe keeping – they were the earliest form of the in-room safe, such was the trust and style afforded to this bag. The many important documents, decrees, papers, instruments, love letters and precious treasures that were transported made it an aspirational possession of the time.
The bag’s enduring quality and safe storage were tested when the ship sank - recovered from the ocean floor were Gladstone Bags. The tanning methods had rendered the leather resistant to the ravages of the sea bed and the valuable contents remained in good condition. The onset of the Second World War meant a shortage of leather, zips and metal frames and with the new challenge of how best to conceal an ugly gas mask, bags grew in size. Yet the iconic Gladstone design endured.
Planes, trains & automobiles
Fast forward to today and the Gladstone bag is one which fits an extra pair of shoes, toiletries and everyday essentials - packed within the frame and its (typically) leather exterior. One day it’s a carry-to-work bag, and another day it’s the perfect travel companion. The hinged design and ‘open mouth’ makes it easy to pack and unpack.
Nowadays, the Gladstone Bag is highly sought after by those who appreciate the iconic style of this supremely collectable fashion accessory and find great purpose for this wide-mouthed bag. The requirements and expectations of a traditional Gladstone bag have remained the same.