In 1852, Francis Wolle , a schoolteacher, invented the first machine to mass-produce paper bags Wolle and his brother patented the machine and founded the Union Paper Bag Company.
In 1871, inventor Margaret K Knight designed a machine that could create flat-bottomed paper bags, which could carry more than the previous envelope-style design.
In 1883, Charles Stilwell patented a machine that made square-bottom paper bags with pleated sides, making them easier to fold and store. This style of the bag came to be known as the S.O.S., or “Self-Opening Sack”.
In 1912, Walter Deuberner , a grocer in Saint Paul Minnesota, used a cord to reinforce paper bags and add carrying handles. These “Deubener Shopping Bags” could carry up to 75 pounds at a time, and became quite popular, selling over a million bags a year by 1915. Paper bags with handles later became the standard for department stores and were often printed with the store’s logo or brand colors.
Plastic bags were introduced in the 1970s, and thanks to their lower cost, they eventually replaced paper bags as the bag of choice for grocery stores. With the trend towards phasing out lightweight plastic bags though, some grocers and shoppers have switched back to paper bags.
In 2015, the world’s largest paper shopping bag was made in the UK and recorded by Guinness World Records.