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April 4: The Rolling Suitcase

April 4, 2014
t1larg.luggage.contrastBernard Sadow’s patent application #3,653,474 for a rolling suitcase, filed in 1970, was granted on this date in 1972. “Whereas formerly, luggage would be handled by porters and be loaded or unloaded at points convenient to the street,” the patent stated, “the large terminals of today, particularly air terminals, have increased the difficulty of baggage-handling . . . [which] has become perhaps the biggest single difficulty encountered by an air passenger.” Sadow, then a vice president at a manufacturer of luggage and coats, “had his eureka moment in 1970,” writes Joe Sharkey in the New York Times, “as he lugged two heavy suitcases through an airport while returning from a family vacation . . . Waiting at customs . . . he observed a worker effortlessly rolling a heavy machine on a wheeled skid.” Prior to the rolling suitcase, fold-up wheeled carts to which travelers could strap suitcases had become popular, and fifteen years after Sadow’s invention came the “Rollaboard,” the upright kind of wheeled luggage widely used today, created by a Northwest Airlines pilot. Sadow’s other inventions included air-cushioned carrying cases for laptop computers, electric toothpicks, and a spray dispenser for holy water that sells at the gift shop at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. He died at 85 in 2011. “It was one of my best ideas.” -Bernard Sadow