The original Gladstone Bag developed in the mid-19th century and represented a kind of suitcase built on a rigid frame that could be split into two separate parts. It was usually made of very strong leather and was often 'tied' with lanyards also made of leather.
The Gladstone bag was designed by leather shop owner J. G. Beard who traded in Westminster and was a keen supporter of William Gladstone, the Prime Minister of the day who was renowned for his love of travelling and after whom Beard named his invention.
It was the Gladstone bag from which developed suitcases as we know them today, even though many items today described and even sold as 'Gladstone bags' are very little like the original design Beard gave to his invention.
Although the Gladstone bag is considered typically English in design it was actually based on an earlier French design of travelling bag.
The Gladstone bag has long been considered the epitome of fashionable travel and considered worthy of mention in iconic books and films such as The Picture of Dorian Gray in 1891 in which Oscar Wild, referring to the Gladstone bag, says 'What a way for a fashionable painter to travel. A Gladstone bag and an Ulster', the latter being another very elegant form of luggage for the wealthy traveller.