The craft of manufacturing brown paper bags has a long and colorful history. The paper bag machine was designed and patented in 1850 by an American inventor named Francis Wolle. He established a paper packaging plant that could create 1,000 feet of paper per minute. Later, Margaret E. Knight made a breakthrough in 1871 when she invented the machine that produced flat-bottom paper bags.
In 1883, Charles Stillwell went one step further by including pleated sides into the paper bag, making it more convenient. Walter Deubener improved on Stillwell’s invention in 1912 by adding string and handles to paper bags. The modern paper bag that we use is the product of the combined efforts of all of these great inventors of the past.
Centuries later, paper bags are still in use. Many high-end firms are increasingly promoting paper bags in an effort to promote minimal and ecological packaging. These paper bags are not only environmentally beneficial, but they also add to the shopping aesthetic. However, the modern way of producing paper bags is much different than how it was centuries ago.
Primarily, fibrous raw material is first transformed into pulp, and then the pulp is processed into paper in a two-step process. The harvested wood fibers are separated from the lignin, which is a useless part of the wood. Pulps can be made chemically or mechanically. Based on the type and grade of paper produced, the pulp is bleached and further treated. The pulp is dried and pressed in the paper plant to make paper sheets.
Before being cut to the customer’s specifications, the prepared sheets of paper are piled one on top of the other. At this point, the shape and design of the large brown paper bags are decided upon and realized.
Read a detailed description of how paper bags are made in an infographic by Bagitan Packaging.