The History of Shopping Bags

Walter H. Deubner ran a small grocery store in St. Paul, Minnesota, and was looking for a way to give his business a boost.

By Careful observation, he noticed that his customer's purchases were limited by what they could conveniently carry. So he set about devising a way to help them buy more purchases at one time. It took him four years to develop the right solution: a prefabricated package, inexpensive, easy to use and strong enough to carry up to seventy-five pounds worth of groceries.

The package consisted of a paper bag with cord running through it for strength. Deubner named his new product after himself, calling it the "Deubner Shopping Bag", and sold it for five cents. Deubner patented his product and within three years, by 1915, was selling over a million shopping bags a year.

Early Stages of Shopping Bags:

These early bags, flat in design and originally from the twisted cone, evolved into square and oblong shapes. The simple construction consisted of two side seams, or one center seam and one bottom seam. Bags with extended sides or gussets followed, with center ream and a pasted flat bottom, and evolved into the popular patent bag, square with a block bottom. This design allowed for a large quantity of goods to be carried. These three designs (the flat, gusset, and patent) remain the basic forms of construction of shopping bags today.

The early bag-making machines simply folded and pasted a continues flat tube from a reel of paper, then cut the tube into a variety of lengths. One end of each bag was pasted by hand. Later machines combined the operations, thus eliminating all hand work. The addition of a pair of handles produced the carrier bag, or shopping bag as we now know it. Various types of handles were used at first: a cord passing through a pair of washers at the mouth of each side of the bag; a cord running the entire length of the bag across the bottom and back up the opposite side, forming loops at the mouth on both sides; or twine pasted between cardboard strips and the interior of the bag's mouth.



William Purvis - Patented improvements for the paper bag machine.