The carpet bag was not invented as a pocketbook or handbag for women. Rather, it was the day's version of our modern suitcase that operated as a reliable traveling companion and carrier of a person's possessions. As explained in the Scientific American Supplement, No. 561, October 2, 1886: "The old-fashioned carpet bag... is still unsurpassed by any, where rough wear is the principal thing to be studied. Such a bag, if constructed of good Brussels carpeting and unquestionable workmanship, will last a lifetime, provided always that a substantial frame is used."
Such bags were popular in the United States and Europe during the 19th century. They are still made to this day, but now typically as women's decorative small luggage and purses, although typically no longer out of old carpets. Carpet was the chosen material because, during the time, carpet in homes was a popular accent piece and the "remainder" pieces were easily bought to use for the construction of carpet bags. In a sense, the carpet bag was a sustainable invention because it used remnants of materials which otherwise would have gone unused.
Carpet bags sometimes also served as a "railway rug", a common item in the 19th century for warmth in drafty, unheated rail-cars. The rug could either be opened as a blanket, or latched up on the sides as a traveling bag. From Robert Louis Stevenson's Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879): "... my railway-rug, which, being also in the form of a bag, made me a double castle for cold nights."
One of the most popular carpet bag brands of the mid 1960s (known as "the California Carpetbagger") is Jerry Terrence: The Original Carpet Bag, or JT Carpet Bag. The company encouraged the use of brand new carpet material.