1940s Bonnie Beach Bag

My newest acquisition is this “Bonnie Bag” from the 1940s.  It’s often described as a knitting bag, but period advertising describe it also as a beach bag.  This is a bit of a lazy post, as I bought this bag from Robin of Edgertor at Etsy.  Of all the vintage sellers I know, Robin does the best job of researching her wares. So much of what you will read here is Robin’s work, which she freely shared.

The bag style seems to be quite common, and dated to the late 1930s. Several different companies made these, with some being labeled while others are not. In 1942 W.L.M.Clark registered a design patent for two styles of the bag  – one with an oval wooden plaque, and one with a square plaque.

Here’s one of the patent drawings, with the square wooden plaque. Robin says she doubts that Clark actually invented the design, and I agree with her.  Here is an ad for the bag from May, 1942, months before Clark’s patent for a slightly different design was registered.

It is a clever design, and being made of heavy canvas, they have held up well over the years. Mine shows a few signs of use, but it is in really excellent condition.

My bag was made by A. Mamaux & Son. Would it surprise you to learn that this was a window awning business, not a handbag business?

If you were an awning store in the 1930s or 40s, would you throw out the leftover scraps from awning projects? No, of course not. In this case it really appears that remnants  were used to make a type of Bonnie Bag.

I had been looking for the perfect Bonnie Bag when I saw this one in Robin’s Instagram feed. With that little Scottie, how could I  resist?

The canvas is very heavy – sturdy enough to carry all one’s beach needs.

Expanded, the bag has a totally different look.

I have seen quite a few of this type of expandable bag with no label at all. I don’t think it’s a far reach to assume that these were also made in the home from scraps of canvas, especially during wartime.


Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing, Summer Sports, World War II

10 responses to “1940s Bonnie Beach Bag

  1. Amazing how similar the bag design is to many of the mask designs being circulated today!


  2. jacq staubs

    NOT lazy to me. Awning fabric has always been interesting. Especially vintage. I found several bolts in heavy canvas almost identical to the fabric ( 20’s)of this bag. I covered 1920’s pole bamboo furniture ( i found at the Key West Charities thrift store) .Ended up being carried out of my shop by an interior designer on first sight . He designed an entire collection of fabric around it for his business.I can’t stop loving the canvas?!


  3. ssgarner@missouricom.com

    I am so glad I found your website. Pretty new to it, and look forward to your posts in my email. Vintage-anything,makes me happy!


  4. Amanda Legare

    Wonderful Lizzie. I saw that on Instagram and thought of you. Thanks for the follow-ip.


  5. Clever design! It looks easy to make yourself at home. Not that we need beach bags these days…


  6. Well, I should have one, its my name! Who knew they named a clever tote bag after me!
    bonnie in provence


  7. I love the period images you shared with this! Thank you! I have several of these, only one of which features a “Bonnie Bag” sticker. Also, I find the image on the wood on yours especially interesting! All of mine are either Mexican or a kind of art deco style design.


  8. it’s nicer to see this in blog form honestly! i don’t love the instagram format for sharing images/research. People always tell me i should preserve these in blog form, but here you’ve done it for me : )
    glad you love it. I still want one of the lozenge or square ones, i think. (also, tbh, clark’s patent is a design patent not invention patent, which means he only claimed the lozenge and the square for his company).


  9. You really do need to put your finding in blog form. I hate not being able to search accounts on IG.


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