The Gladstone Bag was originally made for wealthy professionals - mainly doctors, but including lawyers and politicians, usually men - to carry the tools of their trade, and to look elegant and protect their valuable contents.
Today the Gladstone Bag is valued by men and women alike, both as an attractive fashion accessory, and as one of the roomiest containers for business tools, students’ books and lessons plans, also for its original purpose of carrying doctors’ medical preparations and patient case notes and lawyers’ court notes and law books.
The original Gladstone Bag was a massive affair built on a rigid frame with a large and heavy base, and having two compartments designed to keep certain items separate, such as to prevent liquid medicines spilling over onto patients’ case notes. The true Gladstone Bag closes at the top and opens wide, and its huge base keeps the bag steady in use and prevents contents falling out and being scattered or damaged.
The genuine Gladstone Bag, retaining its original shape and features, has remained popular with doctors and surgeons, hence the reason it’s sometimes referred to as a ‘doctor’s bag’ or ‘surgeon’s bag’.
But from Victorian times a wide variety of bags and cases have been designed and called ‘Gladstone Bag’ even though some bear little or no resemblance to the original design.