Sometimes I love the web. While looking for further images to support an excellent history of the U.S. Army rucksack during World War II, I found the above photo of one of Camille Poirier’s early rucksacks. This in turn led to the discovery of one of his early bags on sale on EBay and an excellent introduction to Camille Poirier and his “Poirier Pack Sack”. In 1911, Camille sold off the pack business to the new Duluth Tent and Awning Company, the forbearer of todays Duluth Pack.
From the EBay auction:
Duluth Pack has its deep historic roots in a poor French-Canadian named Camille Poirier. Poirier came to the struggling village of Duluth in 1870 with very little more than a dream of making boots and shoes. In fact, according to many sources, he came into the village with a “little stock of leather and tools”, and that’s where he began a small shoe store in 1884 (the bag basically being invented pre-shop). The intent of the bag at the time was to carry large loads up and down the vast hills of Duluth, MN without putting total strain on the back (his invention of the tumpline is best known on this bag which now has universal appeal in the hiking and climbing community).
This bag was made before Poirier even had his boot and shoe shop located at 1 west Superior Street, Norris Block, built in 1884. Camille Poirier’s shoe shop was one of the four buildings on the upper side of Superior Street, west of Lake Avenue, making up the oldest section of Old Downtown Duluth, all built in the 1880’s. This is where Poirier patented and invented the “Poirier Pack Sack”. The significance of this pack is the date on the handtooled handmade brass oval plate of Nov. 10, 1882, which was handmade by Camille Poirier himself, basically a prototype strap pack before his actual patent date – on Dec. 12 1882. The actual patent was granted in Duluth, Minnesota on Dec. 12, 1882. The bag itself was a success and led Poirier to invent and to file a patent on December 12, 1882 for a “Pack Strap” that entirely changed the design of pack sacks. The Patent No. is 268,932.
According to the patent filed by Camille Poirier, he “invented a new and improved Pack-Strap for holding and packing articles of clothing, provisions, and other articles which are to be carried in a package on the back. The invention consists in a bag formed with a flap and provided with shoulder straps and head-strap for supporting and carrying the bag on the back.”
In this bag’s amazing design, Poirier was credited with the “tumpline” which is a strap attached at both ends to a backpack and used to carry the object by placing the strap over the top of the head. Later on Poirier’s design came to be called the “Duluth Pack” after the village in which Poirier ran his business.
The “Pack Strap” was a canvas sack that closed with a buckled flap, had new-fangled shoulder straps in addition to the traditional tumpline. In 1911, Camille sold off the pack business to the new Duluth Tent and Awning Company. At the time of this listing, Duluth Pack Company was contacted and a representative of the company said the earliest Pack they had was received by donation from an Australian and this was the Auto (Car) Pack. That pack was dated in the 1920’s and the “Pack Strap” up for auction is many years older than that as you can see. There are no known “Poirier Pack Strap Sacks” left in existence so this is a TRULY ORIGINAL and a one-of-a-kind RARE item. It is believe this bag is the original patent design prototype because of the three stitch marks above the patent date where the umbrella leather loop would sit. The bags that Poirier sold in his store were stamped in ink “Poirier Duluth Back Strap” in this location on the front flap.
More information on tumplines. They are often used to transport heavy loads across uneven terrain such as footpaths and portages. The Voyageurs of the North American fur trade used tumplines exclusively to carry their cargo of pelts and rations across portages. Tumplines should not be worn over the forehead, but rather the top of the head just back from the hairline, pulling straight down in alignment with the spine. The person then leans forward, allowing the back to help support the load. A Tumpline is a strap attached at both ends to a backpack or other luggage and used to carry the object by placing the strap over the top of the head.
More history on the Duluth Pack here.