Gladstone bag

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A 16-inch Gladstone bag made of ox leather

A Gladstone bag is a small portmanteau suitcase built over a rigid frame which could separate into two equal sections. Unlike a suitcase, a Gladstone bag is "deeper in proportion to its length."[1] They are typically made of stiff leather and often belted with lanyards. The bags are named after William Ewart Gladstone (1809–1898), the four-time Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.[2]


Hinged luggage was first developed in the late 19th century. The first Gladstone bag was designed and manufactured by J G Beard at his leather shop in the City of Westminster.[3] Beard was an avid admirer of Gladstone, and named it to memorialise his name.

Though the Gladstone bag developed into the typical flat-sided suitcase of today, modern leather versions are marketed which in fact are not Gladstone bags. Often these modern bags are made with soft, rounded sides, only opening at the top. This incorrectly named Gladstone bag is actually a kit bag, or a square-mouthed bag.

Usage in literature[edit]

In J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfied mentions packing his "s", which are adorned with school stickers, and carrying his "s" as he walks to the train.

In Arthur Conan Doyle's The Man with the Twisted Lip, Sherlock Holmes carries some equipment in a .

In Jerome K Jerome's Three Men in a Boat this reference is made while planning their journey: "We got a big for the clothes, and a couple of hampers for the victuals and the cooking utensils."

In Vladimir Nabokov's Pnin, a reference to Pnin's " " containing, among other things, a "relatively new black suit" that Professor Pnin planned to wear for a lecture.

In Neil Gaiman's Stardust, Tristran Thorn is mentioned to carry a with him as he adventures beyond the wall.

In Jonathan L. Howard's Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, Johannes Cabal carries his wide array of medical and various other supplies in a .

In Paul Scott's The Jewel in the Crown, Edwina Crane uses a on overnight visits to other characters' homes.

In Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest, the Continental Detective Agency Operative uses a which is searched by Dinah Brand as he showers.

In H. Rider Haggard's "She", Mr. Holly carries his all the way to the lost tombs of Kor.

In Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, the artist Basil Hallward uses a when he journeys to Paris.

In Paul Theroux's The Great Railway Bazaar, while in Belgrase Theroux mentions a granny "carried a battered ."

In Jack Higgins' Book The Eagle Has Landed the IRA/Abwehr operative agent Liam Devlin carries his equipment/clothing in a .

At the end of James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, ALP refers to HCE's 'Clarksome ', understood to be a reference to a .

In John LeCarre's novel "The Constant Gardener", some important documents are carried by one central character in a .

In Tennessee Williams "The Night of the Iguana" the Rev. Shannon has "a beat up covered with travel stickers"

In Berkeley Gray's (pseudonym of Edwy Searles Brooks) story "Thank You, Mr. Conquest", where Norman Conquest uses one to carry the 'boodle' from where he found it.

In W. Somerset Maugham's The Painted Veil, at the Preface, the author speaks of a travel he did to Italy as a student just with his clothes in a .


  1. ^ Lehmann, Mary Augusta (1917). The leather goods department. The Ronald press company. p. 81. 
  2. ^ Freeman, Morton S. (1997). A new dictionary of eponyms. Oxford UP. p. 109. ISBN 978-0-19-509354-4. 
  3. ^ "History of the Gladstone Bag". Retrieved 2009-09-05.