At the session on Sustainable Innovation at last week’s Fortune Innovation Forum, William McDonough, the green architect and designer, said the following:
“Mankind isn’t so smart. It took us 5,000 years to put wheels on luggage.”
Which got me to thinking about the history of wheeled luggage, so here is the best history you can get on the subject based on a brief survey of the (internet-hosted) literature:
circa 1851: In “Moby-Dick,” Queequeg tells the story of strapping his seachest to a wheelbarrow but then, not knowing how to maneuver the barrow, gathers the whole assembly and carries it.
very early 1900’s: steamer trunks with two wheels are advertised.
1970’s: wheels appear on traditional suitcases; the sight of travelers pulling them by leashes and poorly balanced suitcases toppling over adds levity to the travel experience.
1989: Northwest Airlines pilot Bob Plath develops the roll-aboard suitcase for flight crews.
Today: wheels on everything. Soon we will be porting luggage at our front, back and sides, cocooned in storage, like Manhattanites walking their dogs.
(Picture: the TravelPro Crew5 series, via London Luggage)