Bags with Wheels Turn 40 – Revolution in Travel Luggage

Happy Birthday, Wheeled Bag

Your bag has a birthday coming up this month. Well, it does if it has wheels.

October marks the 40th anniversary of “bags with wheels”, according to the nice PR folks for the specialty luggage retailer Briggs & Riley.

The Big AHA Moment

They credit an “Aha!” moment to former executive Bernard Sadow; he and his wife were lugging some heavy suitcases back from a jaunt in the Caribbean when he noticed a skid mark on the ground, and said to his wife, “That’s what luggage needs: wheels.” Aha!

Take the Bag Poll, Below

And in October of 1970, that’s just what he got – a bag, with four wheels and a rope tow. I remember those – truthfully, they were a wee bit clumsy, but better than hauling a 50-pounder by the handle. And as time went on, they got better.

Other Bags, Other Claims

There are other claims to bags-with-wheels fame: one blog says (without citing a source) that bags with “built-in wheels” were invented by a Northwest pilot – and if the pilot in question would like to step forward and take a bow, I’d love to give him some credit.

Another blog points to a fellow by the name of Don Ku, who was granted a patent for a wheeled suitcase with “a collapsible towing handle” back in 1994, and I’d like to personally thank him for that particular improvement. I guess I just did.

Drawbacks to Wheeled Bags

No two ways about it, wheels do add weight to a bag – and in some cases, take up space you might otherwise use for clothing and cosmetics – but it’s worth it, right?

Or is it?

Wheeled bags can take up more room in an overhead bin – which means more passengers fighting over limited carryon space, which can delay the boarding process. On the other hand, any carryon sure saves money when it comes to those stinking checked-bag fees.

Take the Poll

You tell me – take our wheeled bag poll.

Photo by Karl Baron on Flickr


Published: October 7, 2010