With the rapid expansion of railroads in the
1840’s and 1850’s, ordinary people were traveling in large
numbers, and there was a need for cheap luggage, so thousands
of carpetbags were manufactured. They were made by saddle
makers in many towns and cities and were many sizes and shape.
They were called carpetbags because the makers would buy old
carpets and construct the bags from the pieces of carpet that
were not completely worn out. This how carpet bags could be
manufactured cheaply. They sold in Dry Goods for $1 to $2
By the 1860’s, carpetbags were carried by all most everyone,
men, women, well-to-do, middle class and not so well-to-do.
Carpetbags were the first suitcases made in large numbers.
When you traveled during the Civil War (1861-1865) and though
the 1870s, you packed your carpetbag . This became a way to
identify an outsider (traveler) in town.
During the Civil War Reconstruction Period (1865-1870) many
people from the Northern States moved South because there many
opportunities for a person to earn a little money. For
example, you could own a farm by paying the past due taxes for
as little as $25. These opportunities attracted all sorts of
people from honest, hard-working farmers, to crooks,
charlatans, con artists and, of course, crooked politicians.
All of these outsiders were called “Carpetbaggers” and this is
a term still used in many places. It also became a term to
refer to a Yankee who moved to the South. Probably the worst
Carpetbaggers were the politicians who used their positions in
the corrupt Reconstruction government to enrich themselves
through bribes, graft and other despicable acts at the expense
of native Southerners. Today the dictionary defines a
Carpetbagger as “ an outsider involved in politics.”