When Were Paper Bags Invented? How Are They Made Now?

When Were Paper Bags Invented? How Are They Made Now?
Like many other trends and inventions from the past, such as bucket hats and film cameras, paper bags are returning to society as a popular commodity. Although they never really disappeared, paper bags endured a brief stagnation with the rise of plastic shopping bags. However, as people and businesses move toward more environmentally friendly practices and lifestyles, paper bags are reentering the playing field as desirable packaging options. Here’s everything you need to know about paper bags, from when they were invented to how they’re made now, to fully understand their growth and importance.


Paper bags first came to full fruition and shops in 19th century. Their rise began with Francis Wolle and his creation of the first bag-making machine in 1852. His invention cut and folded paper into envelope-bottom bags, which allowed people to store and carry items. However, the bags couldn’t carry bulky and heavy items due to their envelope shape.

The Growth of Paper Bags

In 1870, Margaret E. Knight created an upgraded paper bag machine, trademarking and bringing classic brown paper grocery bags to life. Her machine manufactured the traditional flat bag bottoms we know today, making paper bags stronger and compatible for carrying groceries. On top of becoming a grocery store staple, brown paper bags also rose to popularity as easy, simple lunch bags for schools. Additional influences that shaped paper bags’ course in history include the introduction of side pleats and refined manufacturing methods. In 1883, Charles Stillwell added to Knight’s grocery bag design with pleated sides, which allowed the bags to fold. Foldable bags made carrying easier and allowed people to close their bags without tearing them. To strengthen these paper bags, chemist Carl Dahl later discovered the process of turning wood chips into pulped and pressed sheets of paper.

Present-Day Paper Bags

Nowadays, paper bags come in various forms, from Knight’s classic grocery bag to colorful gift bags. Compared to past manufacturing methods, present-day paper bags can be made more sustainably, minimizing their carbon footprint and adding to their eco-friendly features. Manufacturers now often use recycled materials to create paper bags, reducing deforestation, waste, and energy consumption from creating new pieces of paper. Other differences in paper bag manufacturing include increased output quantity and added design features, from customized prints to dyes. The popularity and use of paper bags have grown substantially from the time of their initial invention to present times. Paper bags provide an array of benefits compared to plastic bags. Their sustainability, eco-friendliness, and other advantages makes them more than qualified as a trend worth reviving.