Monday, February 14, 2011

What a Piece: Luggage

“What a piece.” That may mean something different to whoever is looking at whatever. This is a recurring feature, in which we will spotlight certain vintage items that we feel are noteworthy and cool - classic. Function, use, quality and design. Made in the USA. This is what Junk and Howe searches for, and this is what we find.

Luggage. If you go anywhere, you need it. Samsonite and American Tourister are household names when it comes to luggage. Once fierce American-made rivals, today they are both owned by the same company and mostly made outside the United States.

Samsonite advertised and sold their first piece of luggage at Macy’s in 1918, and became famous for their “Strong Enough To Stand On” slogan during that time. It was started in Denver and run by Jesse Shwayder, who brought in the rest of his family. Such things aren’t always a good idea, but it was a picture of Shwayder, his three brothers, and their father all standing on a wooden plank resting across a row of their luggage that helped gain attention for the company, eventually pushing them to the top luggage company in the country. By the 1970s, they were making their bags overseas.

Sol Koffler wanted to make durable luggage for affordable prices. He set out to do that by opening American Luggage Works in Providence, Rhode Island in 1933, which eventually became American Tourister in the ‘40s, after World War II. The company did well for the first few decades, but exploded in the 1970s due to an ad campaign that featured a gorilla jumping up and down on an American Tourister suitcase. In actuality, it was a man in a gorilla suit, but the impact had been felt and seen. By the early 1990s, they sold the company and began making luggage in other parts of the world.

The old luggage is still durable, and built to last – especially the hard shells. The larger suitcases are ideal for road trips. They’re big enough to carry two people’s things – great for a relaxing, simple getaway weekend. Pare down and get out of town. Sounds like ad copy. Or use them for storage - perhaps to store seasonal clothing or files. Stack them in a room and use them for decoration at the same time.

The smaller of the sets – especially the American Tourister carry-ons and train cases – are great for so many occasions and uses. Use them as your carry-on bag for the plane – they’re small, light, and resilient. Use one or the other as an overnighter, day tote, gym bag, make-up case, sewing kit case, art supplies storage, and so forth. Like the briefcases and medium-sizes, the train case is perfect storage for a musician – cables, microphones, pedals, etc. Know a friend, lover, or family member who’s a musician or artist? These kinds of things are the perfect unique gift – even for yourself!

There are tons of brands of vintage luggage out there because there were boutique shops and smaller, regional companies. And of course, there are brands like J.C. Higgins, which was the sporting goods brand by Sears & Roebuck. Or Louis Vuitton, which is French designer luggage and an obvious mention, so I’ll spare you. Whichever way you go, a quality vintage suitcase can get you there – safely, and in style.

Visit the Junk and Howe store and see what we have waiting for you. Here's a few directly:

Vintage American Tourister Hard Shell Briefcase/Suitcase (BUY IT)

American Tourister Escort Marble Red Hard Shell Suitcases set of 2 (BUY IT)

Vintage American Tourister Tiara Carry-on Bag (SOLD)

Vintage J.C. Higgins Small Suitcase (SOLD)

Vintage American Tourister Train Case (SOLD)


Some recommended travel music that Junk and Howe has enjoyed in the last couple months:

The Strange Boys – And Girls Club
Harry Nilsson – Nilsson Schmilsson and Aerial Ballet
Merle Haggard – Mama Tried
Loretta Lynn – 20 Greatest Hits
Waylon Jennings – 16 Biggest Hits
Dwight Yoakam – personal greatest hits mix
Greg Cartwright – Live at the Circle A
The Shangri-Las – Myrmidons of Melodrama
Neko Case & Her Boyfriends – Peel Session 9/13/00
Hank Williams – 40 Greatest Hits
Blanche – If We Can’t Trust the Doctors…
The Record Low – Away From Us

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