The briefcase. Many think it is an item that professionals use to carry documents and other items from place to place. While this is true, the briefcase has also played an important role in history.
It is believed that the briefcase came about as a way to improve the satchel, which makes it difficult to pinpoint an exact date of invention. Briefcases as we known them today appeared sometime in the 1800’s and were used by military men and others who needed to carry important documents. The briefcase offered a way to protect the documents and other items by closing them securely in something. Over the years many additions or improvements have been added to the briefcase. Hundreds of patents have been filed for briefcases. These range from a children’s briefcase to one that contains both a portfolio and a briefcase.
Briefcases have been used by all sorts of businessmen. Salesmen, gamblers and even doctors have benefited from the briefcase. The briefcase is a lightweight, portable item that someone on the job can carry with them. This was useful to gamblers, who often times needed to make quick getaways, and to salesmen who used the briefcase as a portable office.
The materials used to make briefcases include leather, plastic, synthetic materials and metal. At the High Plains
Museum we have three briefcases, two are leather. The first is the image on the left, which is a leather briefcase used by B.E. Bridges. The second briefcase, which is not pictured, is a soft leather briefcase that belonged to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. The third briefcase we have in our collection, shown on the right, is a plastic briefcase that was used for the WWI Auxiliary before the VFW came about.
Today the briefcase is used by men and women in all sorts of professions from all walks of life; lawyers, politicians, and students all use the briefcase. The briefcase is even part of history. The briefcase has played a role in India’s financial history since 1860 when a briefcase was used to hold the British budget papers. Even today India’s Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram uses the briefcase to present the budget. It even helped the Allies achieve victory during WWII. The Tizard Briefcase contained Britain’s important technology secrets and was delivered by a special team of Army, Navy, and Air Force personnel, specialists of war technologies, Sir Henry Tizard and Dr. Edward “Taffy” Bowen to America. To read about how this briefcase changed the war, click here. President Lincoln’s briefcase was recently added to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
The briefcase is used by many different individuals or groups today and comes in many different materials. From leather to plastic it protects important documents. It has even played a part in the world’s history; from containing the budget of India, to helping win a war, the briefcase has had quite the journey.