THE EVOLUTION OF THE MESSENGER BAG
THE EVOLUTION OF THE MESSENGER BAG
- DAVID FREDERICK
The Messenger bag has a variety of names namely Carryalls or Courier Bag. The Messenger Bags are normally most associated with Postal/Delivery people-Couriers of the 2 wheeled variety which you see everyday all around the world. Your regular postman will not be seen without one!!
The 1st type of Messenger Bags were used in the 1950's by utility Linesman.This was designed to make it easier for the Linesman to carry their tools when climbing the poles. The Messenger Bag was designed by the De Martini Company Global Canvas Company.The company was formed by Frank De Martini in 1947 in New York.
In 1947, After honing his skills as Sailmaker at the Brooklyn Naval Yard during World War II, Frank De Martini started the De Martini Globe Canvas Co.. Originally Globe Canvas was a sail manufacturing and repair shop, but as advances in the sail making industry put many small sail shops out of business, Frank began filling orders for bags, aprons, covers, and awnings. His designs were practical and durable, and stood up to real work. Customers included the NY phone companies, Airborne Air freight, and the New York Subway Advertising Co.. As Frank put it once... ''If it's made of canvas, like the sign says outside, we'll make it.''
In 1965, Frank introduced a bag he had made earlier for the phone company to the bicycle messenger industry. Soon bag making began to replace the apron, tent, and awning work. Although Frank still made bags for Airborne Air Freight, Columbia Pictures and The New York Subways Advertising Co., most bags became the exclusive domain of bicycle messengers. As the bicycle courier industry grew, his bags gained approval and soon messenger companies took interest. Among the first customers were Coleman Younger, Can Couriers and Meyers Messenger.
Through the 70’S messenger bag popularity increased with the continued success of the bicycle courier business. By 1977 companies began requesting exclusive colors. Mobil Messenger, City Cycle, Elite, and Wheelwise all rode with colors specific to their courier shop. During this time a Globe Canvas bag was the only bike messenger bag readily available to a growing number of bike messengers in New York City. As cities around the world took their cue from New York, De Martini Messengers found their way to Europe and Asia.
The 80’S brought many new customers as New Yorkers found value in messenger bags. By 1986 De Martini had expanded the line with two similar but smaller sizes. Most bags were sold direct to individuals in the basement shop at 177 Mott Street, or as Frank called it, "Down in the Hole".
The 1990's brought a lot of change to NYC and to the Bike Messenger Industry. Globe Canvas was now not only competing with other bag makers who were adopting and often expanding on De Martini Original designs, but also with the "Digital Age". Fax machines, pagers, email, and cell phones marked the decline in the Bike Messenger Industry.
In 1995 Frank retired to his home in New Jersey and left the business to his daughter Kathleen. After nearly fifty years of stitching useful reliable products, Frank’s messenger bag became iconic in the bicycle courier world, and inspired many new manufacturers who would take their cues from his original designs. Frank past away at 90 years of age, but his bags are still on the street, and will be for a long time.