At the beginning of the 20th century, suitcases were an art form in and of themselves and many from the 1930s and 1940s were designed and produced regionally similar to how a cobbler or tailor would fit and create bespoke products completely unique to the owner. Suitcases were adorned with little touches like monograms, patterns, elaborate latching systems and handles that made cases as unique as the individual buying them. Many regional name companies appeared and were marked with branding like Airheart, Skyway and even OskKosh. Its a fact that the US made the most interesting suitcases and were rivaled only by a few examples from the UK in terms of quality and style.
Suitcases made domestically were formed from wood and wrapped in beautiful and functional tweed and other materials. Opening a case, you can sometimes even catch a glimpse of era long past from newspaper clippings that were commonly used as a buffer between the wood interior and the plush fabric linings. American craftsmen prided themselves on the quality of their luggage and it shows that they are just as durable and beautiful today as they were 80 years ago. Suitcases from this era were made for the more affluent class who could afford to go on long trips and needed to bring entire wardrobes that could handle travel on trains, planes, automobile luggage racks and even steamships. Steamer Trunks were even available in much smaller quantities(making them much more rare) for travelers who would spend months globetrotting to amazing places. It is for this reason, we prefer to carefully leave stickers from places like Cuba and Egypt intact whenever we recondition them.
It wasn’t until air travel became more available in the 1960s when companies like Samsonite and Taperlite emerged as the primary source of suitcase providers. They created a standardized style guided by the need for lighter and stronger suitcases that fit with travel needs of the time. Trunks were replaced by smaller suitcases that could meet the size and weight requirements of of shorter trips via air and rail. In the 1970’s suitcases manufacturers made their way to plastics and fabric forms and while some look really cool in their own right, in our eyes, they lost that unique handmade style and dapper artisan qualities of their predecessors.