Forty years of wheeled suitcases

We take them for granted today, and indeed, it’s a rarity to see suitcases that don’t have them, but the wheeled suitcase is over 40th years old now.

I don’t really think of these things as having been invented, but the wheeled suitcase was the invention of a luggage company executive Bernard Sadow, who is now 85.  Apparently, Bernard got the idea for putting wheels on suitcases when he was waiting in line at customs at Puerto Rico airport.  Bernard had been trying to manoeuvre two large suitcases when he saw a porter use a wheeled platform for moving furniture, so need led to inspiration.

Although most people now seem to think that wheeled suitcases are a good idea, Bernard met with quite a bit of resistance when he first tried to sell his suitcases in 1970.  He was knocked back by New York department store Macys but after meeting with a Macys vice president, they agreed to try out his contraption.

And contraption it was, because all Bernard did for his prototype was to take some casters off a trunk, screw them to the bottom of a suitcase and attach a belt to the suitcase so that it could be dragged behind him.  Basic, but effective really.  Bernard Sadow then patented the idea, and the wheeled suitcase was off and rolling.

The wheeled suitcase really started to become popular after airline pilot Bob Plath added the retractable handle in the 1980s, so that a suitcase could be pushed or pulled and remain compact as well.  Since then, lighter materials have been used in the construction of cases, wheels and handles so that nowadays most suitcases come with both retractable handles and better wheels.

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