facts about the invention
Paper Bag by
Francis Wolle in 1852.
AT A GLANCE:
Francis Wolle patented in the United States, and later in France and
England, a machine that he devised for making paper bags. It was the
first of its kind, and covers the fundamental principle of the many
similar machines that are now used.
DID YOU KNOW?
machine in 1852
machine to produce paper bags
||A bag made
of paper for holding customer's purchases. Allowing customer to
purchase and carry more products
issued October 26, 1852
||First to invent. First
to patent. Entrepreneur
||December 17, 1817 in
1852 Francis Wolle invents and
patents paper bag machine.
Wolle and his brother and other
paper bag makers found Union Paper Bag Machine Company.
1870 Margret Knight
invents a device to cut, fold and paste paper bag bottoms
1871 Charles Annon files patent application similar to Knight's design
1871 Knight, filed a patent interference suit against Annan.and the
court rules in her favor
1872 132,890 (US) issued November 12, 1872 to Charles Annan for paper
1883 Charles Stilwell awarded patent for
making Square-Bottom Paper
Bag w/ pleated sides
William Purvis awarded a
patent for an improved paper bag machine
1891 Purvis sells patent license to Union Paper Bag Machine Co., now
part of International Paper invention, history,
inventor of, history of, who invented, invention of, fascinating
(1817-1893) invented the paper bag- making machine in 1852 in the United States.
Francis Wolle, botanist, born in Jacobsburg, near Nazareth, Pennsylvania,
December 17, 1817, was educated in the Moravian parochial school in
Bethlehem, and then became a clerk in his father's store. Subsequently he
taught, first at Nazareth hall and then in the higher departments of the
Moravian parochial school in Bethlehem. He became in 1857 vice-principal of
the Moravian seminary for young ladies, and in 1861 principal of that
institution, which place he held until 1881. He was ordained a clergyman in
the Moravian church in 1861. In 1852 he patented in the
United States, and later in France and England, a machine that he devised
for making paper bags. It was the first of its kind, and covers the
fundamental principle of the many similar machines that are now used. Further advancements during the 1870s
included glued paper sacks and the gusset design, producing the types of
paper bags used today.
In 1869, Wolle and his brother and
other leading paper bag makers founded the Union Paper Bag Machine Company.
Union Bag and Paper Co.'s decision to open a
plant in Savannah was great news to depressed Savannah in 1935. The company,
founded by paper bag machine inventor Francis Wolle, opened its $4 million
plant with 500 workers the next year. Savannah citizens streamed through the
plant on opening day to ooh and ahh at the production of a thousand feet of
paper per minute. The plant is still in operation today and is owned by
Margaret Knight (1838-1914) of Boston is credited with about 90 inventions and 22
patents. Her patents covered textile and shoe-making machinery, domestic devices, and even
a "sleeve-valve" automobile engine. Knight's greatest success, however, was the
first machine to make the square-bottomed paper bags. Others had been trying to develop such a machine for years, since
the envelope-shaped bags then used were narrow and flimsy.
About two years after the Civil War
she went to work for the Columbia Paper Bag Company in Springfield,
Massachusetts. While in the factory, she
invented a device to cut, fold and paste bag bottoms. Initially her employer complained
about the time she spent on the device. When she suggested she might consider selling the
rights to him if it worked, he gave in. After doing thousands of trial bags on a wooden
machine, she had an iron model produced in Boston.
However, before she could
place the patent application, she found a man named Charles Annan who had studied her
machine while visiting the factory was attempting to a patent machine suspiciously similar
to her own. Knight, 33 at the time, filed a patent interference suit against Annan. She
played to win, spending $100 a day plus expenses for 16 days of depositions of herself and
other key Boston witnesses. Annan claimed that because Knight was a woman she could not
possibly understand the mechanical complexities of the machine. Due to her careful notes,
diary entries, samples and expertise the court ruled in her favor.
The paper bag-folding machine was not Knight's only invention. Besides
devices that improved her paper bag machine, her other inventions included a
new window frame and sash design, a numbering machine, an automatic boring
tool, and a spinning or sewing machine. The total number of her inventions
is generally thought to be eighty-nine. They earned her a good deal of
money, but when she died in 1914 her fortune had dwindled down to a mere
Bag w/ pleated sides
On June 12, 1883 the U.S. Patent office issued #279,505 to Chas
Stilwell a patent for a paper bag machine. After fighting for the Union in the Civil War, Charles
Stilwell began to tinker with the idea of making a better paper bag. Paper
bags already existed at this time, but they had many flaws. They had to be
pasted together by hand; their V-shaped bottoms prevented them from standing
on their own; and they were not easily collapsible or conveniently
stackable. In the summer of 1883, Stilwell put into operation the first
machine to produce paper bags. The bags had flat bottoms for standing up
straight by themselves and pleated sides that made them easy to fold and
stack. Dubbed the S.O.S., or Self-Opening Sack, it remains in widespread use
today. With the birth of the American supermarket in the early 1930s, demand
for Stilwell’s paper bags skyrocketed. Their versatility, strength, and low
cost made them first a nationwide then a worldwide phenomenon.
The U.S. Patent office issued # 434,461 to, black inventor, William
Purvis on August 19, 1890 for a paper-bag machine, the combination of
two suction-formers having perforated surfaces, between which the ends of
the paper tube are fed, and provided with two independent grooves arranged
at different positions of the length of the formers and out of line with
each other. He later licensed the paper bag invention to Union Paper Bag Co,
of New York.
Invention of the Shopping Bag from The Great Idea Finder
Invention of the Shopping Cart from The Great Idea Finder
ON THE BOOKSHELF:
Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women
by Catherine Thimmesh, Melissa Sweet (Ill) / Hardcover - 64 pages (2000) / Houghton
A dozen women are profiled in this collection of short, anecdotal biographies
demonstrating that necessity, ingenuity, and luck all play a part in successful
inventions. The final section tells girls how to patent their inventions, and an informed
bibliography will do just that.
Kid Who Invented the Popsicle: And Other Surprising Stories About Inventions
by Don L. Wulffson / Paperback - 128 pages (1999) / Puffin
Brief factual stories about how various familiar things were invented, many by accident,
from animal crackers to the zipper.
Panatis Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things
by Charles Panati / Paperback - 480 pages Reissue edition (September 1989) / HarperCollins
Discover the fascinating stories behind the origins of over 500 everyday items,
expressions and customs.
What Can You Do with a Paper Bag?
by Judith Cressy / Paperback - 64 pages 1 Ed edition (June 2001) / Chronicle Books
Armed with scissors, tape, and glue, it's easy to turn an ordinary paper bag into an
extraordinary hat, wig, mask or crown. An engaging activity book for both home and
Bag Book: Over 500 Great Uses and Reuses for Paper, Plastic and Other Bags to Organize
and Enhance Your Life
by Vicki Lansky, Martha Campbell (Illustrator) / Paperback - 120 pages (2000) / Book
Everyone accumulates them, but few have so many inventive ideas for bags as Vicki Lansky.
Pinatas, kites, jump ropes, and hand puppets are just the beginning in this lively
compendium of ways to get organized, make crafts, and clean up.
ON THE WEB:
Margaret Knight of Boston (1838-1914)
Paper Grocery Bag
Charles Stilwell, a Union soldier, is credited with the invention of the paper
bag. He produced the first machine-made folding paper bag and dubbed it the S.O.S. for
"self-opening sack." From the Paper Bag Council.
In 1869, Wolle and his brother and other leading makers founded the Union
Paper Bag Machine Company. Today, near Savannah, Georgia, the Union Bag &
Paper Corporation operates the
largest mill of its kind in the world.
Although commercial paper bags were first
manufactured in Bristol, England, in 1844, Francis Wolle invented the bag-
making machine in 1852 in the United States.
Union Paper Bag Company
By 1938 the company's Savannah payroll was $2.2 million. Article By Mary
Landers for the Savannah Morning News.
Original Patent Model
Patent model of Margaret Knight's machine for making paper bags. In 1979, when curators
were seeking objects related to women inventors, Knight's model was a prize find.
Shopping Bag Margaret E. Mattie Knight was born in 1838 in York Maine.
Great Moments in Plastic Bag History
1973 The first commercial system
for manufacturing plastic grocery bags becomes operational
Paper or Plastic or . . .?
So, what is the answer, paper or plastic? NEITHER!
Look into purchasing reusable bags or reusing your paper or plastic bags at
the store. Reusing a bag meant for just one use has a big impact.
From the U.S. EPA
Martha Knight developed a machine to produce flat-bottomed paper bags, which
was patented in 1870. She also appears to have been the first woman in the
U.S. to fight and win a patent suit.
Presented to the Society of Women Engineers, Huntsville chapter, on March 4,
1999, for Women's History Month. by Susan Davis Herring .
Hall of History & Fame from the The Institution of Engineers of Ireland
The majority of books written credit Stilwell with the
invention. The majority of the Web sites credit Knight as the inventor.
DID YOU KNOW?:
- There are few things simpler and more functional than the
- Americans use them at the rate of 40 billion a year.
- 1977 The plastic grocery bag is introduced
to the supermarket industry as an alternative to paper sacks.
- 1982 Kroger and Safeway start to
replace traditional craft sacks with polyethylene "t-shirt" bags.
- The Union Bag & Paper Corporation operates
the largest mill, near Savannah, Georgia, of its kind in the world. Into
it, each year, go over a million cords of long-fibered Southern pine. Out
of it come 35,000,000 paper bags per day -- 9 billion per year 250 bags
for each family in the United States.
Sources in BOLD Type.
page revised January 10, 2006.
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book, is the perfect desktop reference for both the science novice and the
technologically advanced reader alike.
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