Photo from Archival Clothing.
When distances between towns and villages were covered by roughshod horses and rickety carts and wagons, the messenger bag was merely a tool of the mailman’s trade, like the the Pony Express mochila — from the Spanish word for “backpack,” these removable flaps of leather had four hard-sided locked boxes for letters, so the mail wouldn’t fly out during their fast overland rides. Of course, the design of the modest messenger bag is nothing new. Such a style has been historically seen on running messenger in early civilizations, in the green canvas of military-style map bags and document pouches, and beyond.
Fast forward to the 1950s, when electrical linemen made the messenger their bag of choice for storing necessary tools and keeping them within a close reach while climbing utility poles. The modern messenger bag has come quite a ways, made originally by the De Martini Globe Canvas Company, who designed the lineman trade essentials.
De Martini’s bags become a hit with bicycle couriers in the city of New York during the 1970s, with certain companies choosing different color schemes as identifiers. Darting and weaving through traffic, cyclists can still be seen bearing such bags in the Big Apple and across the globe.