Gladstone Bags

Thursday, 24 December 2015

The Gladstone Bag and the ‘Grand Tour’ of Victorian Britain

When Victorian men and women went on the Grand Tour, they’d usually be seen carrying a large sturdy holdall, called a ‘carpet bag’, and usually resembling one of the most fashionable and functional forms of luggage, then and now, and referred to as a ‘Gladstone Bag’.

But in reality there were usually several major differences between the carpet bag and the Gladstone bag, one being the carpet bag sometimes contained just one compartment, while a true Gladstone Bag contains two separate sections, typically used to keep certain items separate, such as to avoid medicines spilling out onto important papers in the other compartment.

Another difference was that true Gladstone Bags were, and usually still are made from quality leather, while a carpet bag has always been adequately manufactured from sturdy material, rather like carpeting. 

In earlier times, politicians like Gladstone would carry important papers in a Gladstone Bag, a tradition that continued for many years after Gladstone left office and which resulted in Chancellor of the Exchequers from Victorian to quite recent times transporting their budget speeches to the Houses of Parliament in a Gladstone Bag.

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