Do You Know Who Designed the “Paper Bag“?

Who would have thought (if anyone gives such items the time of day) that heated debates are led on the history and design of this completely prosaic, run-of-the-mill everyday item that is a brown paper bag? This slightly humble invention has all but turned into a children’s lunch-bag trademark, while the redesigned “Big Brown Bag” has become synonymous with   Bloomingdale’s.

It seems that the time has finally come to pay suitable homage to this invention, thus MoMa’s Curatorial Assistant Aidan O’Connor launched the Counter Space Project, an exhibition which strives to pay homage to the highly underrated yet ever popular domestic design product aka the paper bag. The majority of experts trace its design way back to 1869, however it seems that many instigations, credit-poaching and additional re-designs lurk beneath the surface!

Still, in view of similarity to today’s version of the paper bag, credit goes to Margaret Knight from Columbia Paper Bag, where the revolutionary flat bottom was created, much more steady and firm than any previous paper bag editions. Knight patented the machine with which this “industrial origami” is manufactured.

However, innovations in the bag’s design don’t stop here: in 1880 Charles Stilwell added folding sides to the existing design to simplify the process of folding and unfolding. And those are the paper bags we know and lovingly use up to this today!

The paper bag’s entire history is, curiously enough, a highly interesting read. More information on its history is available on this blog.

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