History of handbag – INPI Treasures. INPI – Institut national de la propriété industrielle – French patent & trademark office, is the place where registered great French innovations since last 200 years. Founded by French government the INPI – national industrial property office is in charge of patents, trademarks and design and models.
We are sharing for the first time the archives of INPI – for example a patented handbags designed in France in 1864. Let it be known that most of the modern handbags in USA and Europe are having the same ancestor – a handbag designed in Paris, France, as an earliest innovation designed for women since XV century.
Historically a handbag was an accessory for men. PURSE, the oldest known bag, dates back more than 5000 years, and was a pouch worn by a man, Ötzi the Iceman, to carry the coins or gold. Early Europeans used handbags to store personal belongings needed for the day. Clothing had no pockets until the XVIIth century. Worn attached to a belt, this purse is THE FIRST LUXURY MAN PURSE in human history from early 1500s was created in France. This handbag had 18 secret compartments and represented symbol of wealth and status for an aristocrat. This finest leather pouch with iron frame and 18 pockets, some behind secret closures, created for a French Royalty, today considered as a first luxury bag and presented in Tassen museum in Netherlands.
From the XVIth century in France, women often wore a decorative clasp at the waist with a series of chains attached, called a chatelaine. Suspended from it were useful household accessories such as scissors, keys, and sewing tools. Crafted from precious metals, chatelaines were considered as jewelry and status symbols. XVIIth and XVIIIth century ladies preferred to carry their particulars in small bags with drawstrings that were known as reticules in France and “indispensables” in England. Using embroidery skills learned from a young age, French ladies created designs of great artistry and beauty.
A “handbag” is a larger accessory that holds objects beyond currency, such as personal items. The term “handbag” began appearing in the early 1900s in USA, but in Europe it came in use from middle of 1800s. Initially, it was most often used to refer to men’s hand-luggage. Women’s bags grew larger and more complex during this period, and the term was attached to the accessory since this time. In late 1860s, when women’s fashions moved in the direction of using small ornamental purses, which evolved into handbags, men’s fashions were moving in another direction.
15 year invention patent n ° 1 BB deposited on 19.11.1864 by Pierre Perrier for a kind of clasp with invisible opening, for purses, bags, cases, etc. INPI Archives
The modern purse, clutch, pouch or handbag came about in England during the Industrial Revolution, in part due to the increase in travel by railway. In 1841 the Doncaster industrialist and confectionery entrepreneur Samuel Parkinson (of butterscotch fame) ordered a set of travelling cases and trunks and insisted on a travelling case or bag for his wife’s particulars after noticing that her purse was too small and made from material that would not withstand the journey. H. J. Cave (London) obliged and produced demanded these set of luxury bags.
These are now on display in the Museum of Bags and Purses in Amsterdam. But H. J. Cave did continue to sell and advertise the handbags, because of many critics who said that women did not need them and that bags of such size and heavy material would “break the backs of ladies.” H. J. Cave stopped promote the bags after 1865, concentrating on trunks instead, although he continued to make the odd handbag for royalty.
The patrimonial fund of invention patents and its original files largely cover the XIXth century (1791-1901). It is through a few patent filings and with the inventiveness of applicants that we will observe the evolution of ladies’ bags in the XIXth century. The inventors of the XIXth century will mainly innovate in terms of clasps and bellows for ladies bags. This can be explained in particular by the technical and necessarily “new” dimension of patented inventions. Indeed for a patent to be valid in the XIXth century, it must be different from existing inventions and bring something new. Clasps and bellows are the subject of incessant inventions. The handles of the bags are also the focus of much attention, some of them precisely planning to strengthen the closure system of the bag.
The practical aspect of the bag has not been forgotten, however, there are many patents of invention relating to travel bags for women. This peculiarity refers to the increasingly precious taste for luxury leather goods, such as Louis Vuitton travel trunks. This practicality of the lady’s bag is also available in the different uses that the inventors are trying to bring to it and perfect. We thus find, for example, a “drawer-necessary bag”. The appellations at the same time as the uses are diversifying, several patents of invention are registered for “shopping bags” or “baskets”. Anecdotally, it is interesting to note that in 1895 an inventor went so far as to patent a “photographic chamber forming a lady’s bag”, that is to say a small camera hidden in a handbag. Photography is then intended for all hands, amateur practice then being in full swing.
15 year patent No. 245347 filed on 23.02.1895 by Bernard Kauffer for a Photographic Chamber forming a lady’s bag, INPI Archives.
15 years invention patent n ° 188247 filed on 21.01.1888 by Mademoiselle Fidenciana Alonso Y Portillo for a sackcloth and various containers of different species, fitted with net or canvas, with leaded cord, useful for trade for transport of various objects, INPI Archives.
The 20th century & the big leather goods houses. The funds kept by the INPI also cover the XXth and XXIst centuries, it is notably in the patrimonial fund of Designs and Models (1910-1995) that we find some emblematic models of the great fashion and leather goods houses. The protection of a model permanently imprints the identity of a brand or a creator.
Thus, in the XXth century it was the most diverse forms that were to impose themselves and the handbag became an essential for outfits as much as it contributed to the fame of large houses. Both useful and aesthetic, designers redouble their imagination around this fashion and everyday object. This is how Hermès introduced the zipper in his handbags for the first time, a system reported from the United States.
Model n ° 12856 deposited on 13.08.1925 by E. Hermès for a leather bag with rack closures, INPI Archives
Hermes. Photographs representing 2 models of leather bags with rack closure. Models deposited on May 5, 1922 at the Secretariat of the Paris Prud’hommes Council (Fabrics) on N ° 6077. Advertising was requested on August 7, 1925 by Miss. Blondelet, new representative. The depot was opened on August 12, 1925 to be made available to the public and the Tribunal if necessary. The photographic prints of these models, drawn up by the National Industrial Property Office, were exhibited in the Communication Room from September 15, 1925.
The practicality of the handbag is indeed important: the handbag must be able to contain all the women’s belongings. This is the case for example of these handbags providing a special location for an umbrella, depending on the season, or a mirror.
Jaffe Freres and Wolf Company. Photograph representing a model of a lady’s bag called “the Coquette”. Model deposited on October 13, 1924 at the Secretariat of the Paris Prud’hommes Council (Fabrics) on N ° 7856. Publicity was requested by the depositor on February 19, 1926 by Mr. René Deeppen new agent. The repository was opened on March 1, 1926 to be made available to the public and the Tribunal if necessary. The photographic print of this model, drawn up by the National Industrial Property Office, was exhibited in the Communication Room, from March 12, 1926.
Model n ° 13516 deposited on 13.10.1924 by the company JAFFE FRERES ET WOLF for a lady’s bag “La Coquette”, INPI Archives
BRANDCHAFT FRERES Company. Photograph representing a model of lady’s bag with umbrella and parasol. Model deposited on November 13, 1928 at the Secretariat of the Labor Court of Paris (Tissue Section) on N ° 11482. Advertising was requested by the depositor on April 4, 1929. The deposit was opened on April 18, 1929 for be made available to the Public and the Court if necessary. The photographic print of this model, established by the care of the National Office of Industrial Property, was exhibited in the Communication Room, from April 30, 1929.
Model n ° 17918 deposited on 13.11.1928 by SOCIETE BRANDCHAFT FRERES for a Lady’s bag with umbrella and parasol, INPI Archives.
There is no shortage of fantasy or even eccentricity: several models kept by the INPI show the inventiveness and imagination of the creators.
Pierre Widmer, manufacturer of ladies’ bags. Photograph representing a model of lady’s bag (n ° 10) included in a deposit of 30 models. Models deposited on January 17, 1930 at the Secretariat of the Paris Prud’hommes Council (Fabrics) on N ° 12486. Advertising was requested on November 15, 1930 by Mr. G. Patry, new representative. The depot was opened on November 17, 1930 to be made available to the public and the Tribunal, if applicable. The photographic print of this model was exhibited in the Communication Room, from November 19, 1930. No. 10 This model can be made in any material, any size and any color.
Model No. 20134 deposited on 17.01.1930 by P. Widmer for a Lady’s Bag, INPI Archives.
Mme Jane Lambert. Model of lady’s handbag covered with mother-of-pearl shells. Model deposited on May 4, 1922 at the Secretariat of the Labor Council of Paris (Metals) known as N ° 13.300. Publicity was required by the depositor on May 4, 1922. The depot was opened on May 10, 1922 to be made available to the public and to the Tribunal if necessary. The photographic proof of this model, established by the care of the National Office of Industrial Property, was exhibited in the Communication Room, from May 27, 1922. This model of ladies’ handbag can be executed in white or in all colors.
Model n ° 9292 deposited on 04.05.1922 by Mme LAMBERT, née Jane BERTRAND for a Lady’s handbag covered with mother-of-pearl shells, INPI Archives.
As the century goes by, famous and or unknown depositors will protect their inventions and their models, some iconic becoming “it-bags” like the “Pliage” of Maison Longchamp.
Drawing n ° 951759 filed on 22.03.1995 by Philippe Cassegrain (Maison Longchamp) for a Bag, INPI Archives.
Sources: INPI archives.
Additional photography: Metropolitan Museum Archives; FREJA (1884 – 1886), LE MONITEUR DE LA MODE (1880-1890), LES MODES PARISIENNES (1870-1890), LA MODE FRANÇAISE (1870), LA MODE ILLUSTREE (1880).