This category covers establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing luggage of leather or other materials. The luggage industry produces a wide variety of products, including suitcases, briefcases, attache cases, hand luggage, tote bags, trunks, and occupational cases. Materials used in addition to leather include plastics, nylon, cotton, linen, and metals. Many products use a combination of these materials. Construction methods include sewing, molding, and laminating.
Luggage shipments decreased steadily throughout the late 1990s and into 2000, falling from $1.42 billion in 1997 to $655 million in 2002. Total industry employment declined from 9,550 workers to 5,577 workers, 3,961 of whom were production workers, over the same time period. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, had a significant impact on the travel industry as a whole, including that of luggage, but by 2004 the United States was seeing an upswing in number of people traveling.
Luggage—defined as a product designed to carry items by hand from place to place—has been around in some form or another since the beginning of time. Cave men and women likely carried sticks, stones, bones, and furs in small leather sacks or large skins as they moved from cave to cave. Egyptians packed precious objects into casket-shaped trunks and buried them in tombs with their kings and queens. In those early days, separate trunks or chests were used to transport different types of items; for example, there were jewelry, linen, and wardrobe cases. This practice endured for centuries and is still popular with those who have no need to travel lightly.
How one traveled dictated what type of luggage one used. When traveling by foot, for example, a simple sack was often sufficient. If beasts of burden were available, items were boxed or bagged and secured atop the animal. Travel by ship or barge made it possible to use large trunks and chests. Of course, the more money one had, the grander the style of travel and the type of luggage. "Heaven only knows how many people it took to get Cleopatra's barge up the Nile, Marco Polo to China, or Mrs. Vanderbilt across the Atlantic," wrote Diane Sustendal in Showcase. "It's only in recent years that hopping the Concorde with a single bag has become a status way to travel. Prior to that, three or more matched pieces of luggage lined up at a dock, train station, or airport said something about the status of the traveler."
Whole groups of people, she noted, have been identified by the types of luggage they carried. The "Casket Girls of Louisiana," young women sent from France to the colonies (now the United States) to marry, carried their belongings in caskets. Carpetbaggers got their name from the bags in which they carried cash and clothing to the South following the Civil War. "Old Saddlebags" referred to the early Pony Express riders who carried mail in such pouches on the back of horses. Some types of luggage have gotten their names from modes of transportation, including the coach bag, train case, flight kit, pullman case, and steamer trunk. The luggage lexicon has also been affected by war. British soldiers during World War I had their "kit bag."...