April 25, 2012
Civil War Paper Bags
People complained of shop owners wrapping purchases in newspaper only to have the ink ruin their purchase but more expensive shops used plain or brown paper to prevent this. Newspaper covered parcels were considered low class and few wealthy ladies wanted to be seen carrying one.
In 1852 Francis Wolle patented a paper bag making machine but his bags weren't widely available until 1869, when he founded the Union Paper Bag Machine Company. Before that, if you wanted a paper bag, you'd have to make it yourself or rely on mass handmade bags that some products came in. Little paper bags were popular for holding seeds and tiny foodstuffs like raisins, dried herbs, small cakes, nuts ect. Thick, brown paper was common for paper bag making.
Making paper bags is a pretty simple endeavor.
How to make paper bags, the 1850s way:
This is very low tech but one way they did it. These instructions were taken from the book Rollo's Vacation, where a girl is teaching her little brother how to make bags to keep seeds in. The book recommends powdered gum-arabic, which can still be purchased in art stores, but is very expensive.