In the 1930s commodity bag manufacturers took notice of the amount of work thrifty women undertook to clean and color commodity bag fabric. It was realized that selling commodity bags that had easy-to-remove inked labels would encourage women to buy one brand of a product over another. Paper labels that were stitched or glued to the fabric bags, a practice started in the 1920s, also gained popularity, eventually replacing inked labels for finer quality sacks. Soon manufacturers also determined that supplying commodities in packaging that was already-colored could dramatically increase sales. Next, manufacturers experimented with adding prints to the bags. The printed bags were so successful that when choosing new design prints for a season, one manufacturer regularly consulted groups of women to determine which they liked best. Even at the increased cost of five to seven cents for dyed and printed bags over plain white bags, colorful packaged commodities quickly became a standard item at feed and grocery stores.
At the same time colors and prints were added to the bags, the fabric itself underwent a change as well. While many commodity bags were still made from the traditional coarse fabrics, more and more manufacturers began to sell some of their products in finer, higher grade commodity bag fabric. This smooth, soft fabric was equal in quality to that of sheets and pillowcases available in department stores.
Converting Commodity Bags:
Recycling Circa 1940
Exhibition Dates: April 2005 - June 2006
LSU Textile & Costume Museum
140 Human Ecology Building
Department of Textiles, Apparel Design, and Merchandising
College of Agriculture
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
Telephone: (225) 578-5992 and 578-2281
Fax (225) 578-2697