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A 16-inch Gladstone bag made of ox leather

A Gladstone bag is a small portmanteau suitcase built over a rigid frame which could separate into two equal sections. Unlike a suitcase, a Gladstone bag is "deeper in proportion to its length."[1] Gladstones are typically made of stiff leather and often belted with lanyards. The bags are named after William Ewart Gladstone (1809–1898), the four-time Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.[2]


Hinged luggage was first developed in the mid 19th century. One of the first recorded official documentations of the Gladstone bag is a British Patent registered by Edward Cole of Hemmings Row in the city of Westminster. Edward Cole was a Leather Case Maker based at No. 9 Hemmings Row. City of Westminster.[3]

The Patent for "An Improvement In The Frames Of Traveling Bags" was registered by Edward Cole on 4 February 1854 and sealed 14 July 1854. This original patent is still held by Cole Brothers of England in their archive.[4] The business of Edward Cole was taken over and run by two of his sons James and Edward at the end of the 19th Century and subsequently changed to Cole Brothers in 1907, being located at 24a Floral Street, Covent Garden after the earlier demolition of the Hemmings Row site in 1886 to make way for the extension to the National Gallery.

Gladstone bags were used by the pursers on the RMS Titanic to transport valuables.[5]


  1. ^ Lehmann, Mary Augusta (1917). The leather goods department. The Ronald press company. p. 81.
  2. ^ Freeman, Morton S. (1997). A new dictionary of eponyms. Oxford UP. p. 109. ISBN 978-0-19-509354-4.
  3. ^ "History of the Gladstone Bag". Archived from the original on 2009-10-31. Retrieved 2009-10-31.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Tsang, Amie (17 October 2018). "The Titanic's Artifacts Are About to Change Hands. Here's What's for Sale". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 July 2019.