In the 1850s, some American paper manufacturers produced ready-made paper bags, which gradually began to play a major role in the story of retail packaging. It was not until 1873, when the idea was picked up by a visiting Englishman, Elisha Robinson, that the technology arrived in Europe.
By 1902, the firm of E.S. & A. Robinson of Bristol had seventeen bag-making machines, although 400 people were still being employed by the firm for bag-making by hand. In 1883, Charles Stilwell had patented a machine that made square-bottom paper bags with pleated sides, making them easier to fold and store.
Paper carrier bags were introduced in the 1930s, but they have been largely replaced with the arrival of plastic carrier bags in the 1970s.


  • Title: Paper Bags
  • Type: Bag
  • Rights: Robert Opie Collection

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