No, this is not a page devoted to my wife and her friends.
Airsickness bags are nearly as old as commercial aviation. Early planes
were small and flew low, well within the turbulent layers of the
atmosphere. They smelled of hot oil and metal, leather seats and the
disinfectant used to clean up after airsick passengers. Opening the window
was the only way to escape the smell.
Ford Trimotor 5AT
The first flight attendants were qualified nurses, one of whose main
jobs was to assist queasy passengers. They worked aboard planes like Henry
Ford's Trimotor plane, introduced in 1927 and dubbed the "Tin Goose".
The first barfbags seem to have been introduced in the 1920s, as shown in
these quotations (from
Interior of Trimotor. Note the seat pockets - for airsickness bags?
"Trimotors of the era flew at low speeds in the turbulent strata
close to the ground. Fumes from gas tanks and from engine exhaust easily
filtered into poorly ventilated cabins. Each passenger chair came equipped
with a variety of paper bags, boxes, or basins for gastrointestinal
emergencies. Most passenger planes of the day boasted sliding windows, the
better to inhale pollution free ozone, according to airline
advertisements, but the principal value of open windows seemed to have
been their practicality for airsick travelers. Patrons immediately behind
an airsick passenger learned to keep their windows closed. It was not
unusual to hose out the entire interior of a plane after completing a
- Flight in America
1900-1983, Roger Bilstein
"The... air is annoyingly potted with a multitude of minor vertical
disturbances which sicken the passengers and keep us captives of our seat
belts. We sweat in the cockpit, though much of the time we fly with the side
windows open. The airplanes smell of hot oil and simmering aluminum,
disinfectant, feces, leather, and puke... the stewardesses,
short-tempered and reeking of vomit, come forward as often as they can for
what is a breath of comparatively fresh air.
- Ernest K. Gann, an early commercial pilot
The first plastic-lined
airsickness bags were created by Gilmore T. Schjeldahl for Northwest Airlines in 1949. This feat earned him a
place in the North Dakota Entrepreneur Hall of Fame. Oh, he also helped
invent the telecommunications satellite - a minor achievement compared to
his services to air travel.
Mr Schjeldahl died in 2002. The University of North Dakota Library has a special collection devoted
to him; it includes material on the pioneering 1949 bag.
here for more.
Here is a sampling from other baggists' collections. (Thanks for providing me with
these scans and the accompanying information.)