Cool Things - Perkins Satchel
At first glance, Lindley Murray Perkins appears to have led the typical life of a man in the second half of the 19th century. Born in New York in 1829, Perkins operated a farm in New Jersey before moving to Baxter Springs, Kansas, in 1882. Though Perkins listed "farmer" as his occupation, in reality, he was an adventurer.
As a child, Perkins knew that he wanted to see the world, beginning with the country from which coffee came. He traveled to Brazil at age 18. It was the first of many voyages. In 1849 he visited California via Cape Horn. This was followed by two trips to Europe in 1850 and 1851. After returning home to marry in 1852, Perkins again left American soil on the first of three trips around the world. Similar journeys occurred in 1898 and 1900. Perkins visited Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa, as well as locations throughout the United States.
Perkins carried the satchel shown here on his trips. Small and simple in its design, the bag is decorated with travel stickers from the hotels in which he stayed. They include cities from around the world, from Yokohama, Japan, to Cairo, Egypt. London and Rome are represented, as are places closer to home, like New York and Yellowstone.
Steamship companies and hotels produced stickers such as these to connect passengers and guests to their luggage. They were meant to ensure that the traveler and his bag ended up at the same final destination.
As stickers accumulated on travelers' luggage, they took on a new meaning as a status symbol. In the late 1800s when Perkins collected the stickers on his satchel, travel was a luxury afforded predominantly by the wealthy. Displaying a large number of stickers from locations around the world indicated that the owner had enough money and free time to travel. It also suggested that the person was educated and cultured.
Perkins had a second method of displaying the culture he acquired through travel: his souvenir collection. Not the typical compilation of postcards or magnets, Perkins amassed an extensive collection of the unexpected in every place he visited. On Civil War battlefields, he pocketed bullets. In Japan he acquired a rickshaw. From Brazil Perkins brought back samples of the coffee he dreamed of seeing as a boy. His collection included giant clamshells from New Guinea weighing 405 pounds, wooden shoes from Sweden, a box of ashes from Vesuvius, and a hairball from the stomach of a cow. He also chipped pieces from some of the most famous buildings in the world, including the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Roman forum, the Coliseum, and houses at Pompeii. Perkins stated that the pieces from Pompeii were "taken with great difficulty in consequence of the strictness of the guards who were very angry at persons taking away the least stone."
Back in Baxter Springs, Perkins displayed his collections in the L.M. Perkins Museum. Upon his death, his heirs donated the artifacts to the Kansas Historical Society. The satchel that traveled the world was included in the donation and is now in the collections of the Kansas Museum of History.
Entry: Cool Things - Perkins Satchel
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: June 2006
Date Modified: August 2014
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.