“...often undervalued, the paper bag will keep doing its job.”
December 5, 2017 7:00 PM Subscribe
The Secret Feminist History of Brown Paper Bags [Eater] “Few things are as useful as the paper bag. In the United States, people use (and reuse) 10 billion of them every year. Who among us has gotten through life, likely as a child, without opening up a brown paper bag filled with a sandwich, juice box, and a piece of fruit? Or, later in life, enjoyed an alcoholic beverage in a public place with the illegal item safely ensconced inside a bag? But paper bags have been around for so long, and in so many forms, that few have ever stopped to wonder where they came from in the first place. Even fewer know that paper bags were involved in not one but two feminist crusades.”
• In the Bag [MoMA]
• In the Bag [MoMA]
It was slightly later that a woman named Margaret Knight, working for another company, the Columbia Paper Bag Company of Springfield, MA, designed a machine that could produce flat/square-bottomed paper bags, a great improvement on the earlier, structurally weaker envelope-style bag design. As a result, it is Knight who is more widely recognized as the inventor of the paper bag in the general form of the one shown in Counter Space. She’s also believed to be the first woman to achieve a U.S. patent. Engineer/professor/design historian Henry Petroski describes Knight’s “industrial origami” method in his book Small Things Considered: Why There Is No Perfect Design (2003):• The invention of the paper bag was a triumph of feminism [Aeon]Knight’s machine worked by pulling from a roll of paper stock a sheet that it immediately started to form into a tube. Paste was applied where one side of the paper overlapped the other, thus completing the tube. Knight’s machine performed its greatest magic by shaping the end of the tube into a flat bottom by means of a series of three folds…the first fold formed the end of the tube into a slit diamond, the second creased the other tip over to form an elongated hexagon. With the proper pasting taking place simultaneously with the folding, the closed bottom was formed quickly. The bag was completed by being severed from the continuously forming tube, at which point the cycle was repeated.
“Her work on the machine also bled into her shifts at the factory. This initially annoyed her superiors – until she showed them her plans – which led them to believe that she had a ‘keener eye than any man in the works’. After a ‘rickety’ wooden model of her machine proved successful, producing thousands of ‘good, handsome bags’, she had an iron version produced in 1868. While the machine was at a Boston shop to be refined, it was viewed by Charles F Annan, a would-be-inventor of dubious morality. Knight prepared to apply for a patent for her new machine. In 1871, she was shocked to find that Annan had already been granted a patent to the machine, which he claimed as his own. The dispute ended up in court, where the cash-strapped Knight spent $100 a day to hire a patent attorney to prove that she was the machine’s true inventor. Annan’s lawyer argued that an uneducated, self-taught woman could never have built such a sophisticated machine. He was countered at every turn by the mountains of physical evidence and eye-witness testimony Knight produced. ‘I have from my earliest recollection been connected in some way with machinery,’ Knight protested.”• Brown Paper Bag Fold [Origama Resource Center]
1. Fold a corner of a brown paper bag at a 45 degree angle. This forms a triangular layer on top.• Short Documentary: Margaret E. Knight, Inventor < small>[YouTube][8:20]
2. Fold the pointy corner down so the pointed tip extends beyond the horizontal layer made in step 1.
3. Tuck the pointy corner under the layer made in step 1. Note: this only works if there is enough material to tuck under.
4. Voila! A convenient and secure handle where once there was none.
Meet Margaret E. Knight, known as -the female Thomas Edison-. She was true to her nature and inspite of hardships became successful in the field of mechanical design.
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