A short history of suitcases

A short history of suitcases

From the days of carrying potli or the bindle to the futuristic robotic sensor-equipped bag

Sheetal Vyas
October 22 , 2014
01 Min Read

Even before someone thought up a box to carry stuff in, ancient travellers took a large cloth, flung things inside and tied the ends into a knot. This was called the potli here, elsewhere, the bindle, and was carried under the arm or at the end of a stick. Lakshman is said to have carried one.

Ötzi the Iceman, the well-preserved natural mummy dating back to 3,300 BCE, was found in the Alps two decades ago. He carried items that told a comprehensive story of his time; among them was a wood-ribbed backpack with a leather bag.


The travelling chest, a tweak on the storage trunk, must be the first genuine precursor to the suitcase. Various woods were used, and covered with an array of oil-treated hide like deer, horse and cowhide.

“No one’s going to pull a suitcase on the end of a strap.” In 1970, Bernard Sadow had trouble persuading people to accept his concept of luggage with wheels. His four-wheeled bags were improved by a pilot Robert Plath in 1987, and that’s how the two-wheels-with-telescoping-handles came to be.

Hop, as they say, is still in beta. But the robotic sensor-equipped bag promises to respond to the Bluetooth signal on your phone and follow you about. If the phone loses signal, it’ll vibrate to tip you off and Hop… well, it locks itself in place.


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