The carpet bag may have started out as a fairly functional invention – an easier-to-use alternative to the wooden or metal trunks that were widely used by travellers until the carpet bag rose to prominence in the 19th century. 

Today, though, the carpet bag is durable not just in a literal sense, but as a style icon. It’s no wonder that vintage carpet bags like those we produce in England here at Carpet Bags remain as sought-after as ever.

Here are just some of the more famous carpet bags from down the years that have helped to make this type of bag iconic across Europe, America and beyond.

Mary Poppins’ carpet bag

Everyone’s favourite fictional nanny captured imaginations in part because of her trusty magical carpet bag, which was a fixture of both the children’s books by P. L. Travers and the 1964 film.

It’s no surprise that so many of the little ones who were enchanted by Mary turning up at the Banks’ London residence with a Victorian Gladstone possessing magical abilities far belying its modest appearance grew up wanting to own carpet bags of their own.

The ‘railway rug’ of Robert Louis Stevenson   

Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes was one of the earliest published works of the celebrated Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, musician and travel writer Robert Louis Stevenson in 1879.

Quite apart from its status today as a pioneering classic of outdoor literature, Travels... also interests us because of its mention of a “railway rug”, which was another purpose served by many carpet bags. “Railway rugs” were popular in the 19th century as a source of warmth in drafty and unheated rail-cars.

As Stevenson recounted, “my railway-rug... being also in the form of a bag, made me a double castle for cold nights.”

The chosen luggage of Phileas Fogg and Passepartout

Carpet bags have long had something of a self-sufficient image, as might be best embodied by Phileas Fogg and Jean Passepartout’s use of one as their only luggage in Jules Verne’s 1873 novel Around the World in Eighty Days.

The story centres on Fogg making a £20,000 (the equivalent of about £2 million today) wager with members of the Reform Club in London that he can circumnavigate the world in 80 days or less, before setting out in his quest to win the wager with Passepartout, his French servant. 

It’s hardly a shock that today’s vintage carpet bags have come to be seen as so iconic, given the great cultural power they have gained down the generations through depictions like the above. So why hesitate to help yourself to one of your own from our generously stocked online store?