The Contents Of A Victorian Lady’s Traveling Bags

Lately, I’ve been studying Victorian train travel. I assure you that deciphering Victorian train schedules is no easy task. If I were a Victorian traveler, I would never arrive anywhere on time for having taken numerous wrong trains.

I’ve excerpted from the 1876 American etiquette book The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness by Florence Hartley, regarding the practical items a woman should pack in her traveling bags.  

here is no situation in which a lady is more exposed than when she travels, and there is no position where a dignified, lady-like deportment is more indispensable and more certain to command respect.

Have a strong pocket made in your upper petticoat, and in that carry your money, only reserving in your dress pocket a small sum for incidental expenses. In your traveling satchel carry an oil skin bag, containing your sponge, tooth and nail brushes, and some soap; have also a calico bag, with hairbrush and comb, some pins, hairpins, a small mirror, and some towels. In this satchel carry also some crackers, or sandwiches, if you will be long enough upon the road to need a luncheon.

First Class: The Meeting…and at First Meeting Loved
Abraham Solomon

In your carpet bag, carry a large shawl, and if you will travel by night, or stop where it will be inconvenient to open your trunks, carry your night clothes, and what clean linen you may require, in the carpet bag. It is best to have your name and address engraved upon the plate of your carpet bag, and to sew a white card, with your name and the address to which you are traveling, in clear, plain letters upon it. If you carry a novel or any other reading, it is best to carry the book in your satchel, and not open the carpet bag until you are ready for the night. If you are to pass the night in the cars, carry a warm woolen or silk hood, that you may take off your bonnet at night. No one can sleep comfortably in a bonnet. Carry also, in this case, a large shawl to wrap round your feet.

There is scarcely any situation in which a lady can be placed, more admirably adapted to test her good breeding, than in the sleeping cabin of a steam-boat. If you are so unfortunate as to suffer from sea-sickness, your chances for usefulness are limited, and patient suffering your only resource. In this case, never leave home without a straw-covered bottle of brandy, and another of camphor, in your carpet-bag. 

American carpetbag – circa 1865
wool, leather, metal
Metropolitan Museum of Art   
The Irritating Gentleman
Berthold Woltze
Don’t you feel so sorry for this girl?

2 Replies to “The Contents Of A Victorian Lady’s Traveling Bags”

  1. Excellent. The advice would still be good today though we would use different bags.

  2. I gotta admit that I would rather like a carpetbag made to hold a laptop. Glad you found your cat!

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