Suitcase thumbnail 1
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Design 1900 to Now, Room 74

Suitcase

ca.1930 (manufactured)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This suitcase is an example of a once-common plywood object type, and one that helps demonstrate the very wide range of late 19th and early 20th century object types which were made of plywood. The suitcase carries stamps for ‘Luterma’ on its interior and exterior. From 1897 Luterma was the trade name for products made by the A.M. Luther Woodworking Company for Mechanical Woodworking (founded 1877) in Tallin, Estonia. Luterma was one of, if not the, most important manufacturers of plywood and plywood products in Europe in about 1900.

This suitcase originally belonged to Morton Shand (1888-1960), a leading figure in British modernism in the 1920s and 1930s.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Moulded and sheet 3-ply birch plywood with an additional reinforcing layer of 3-ply added around the edge of the lid; leather straps, hinges and handle; paper labels, wax seals
Brief Description
Suitcase, moulded and sheet birch plywood, manufactured by Luterma, Estonia, sold by Venesta, Britain, manufactured about 1930
Physical Description
Suitcase of bent and sheet plywood, with brown leather straps, hinges and handle. The lid of the case fits snugly over the base. The straps are fastened with metal buckles. On the exterior of the case are the remains of numerous paper labels and red wax seals. Inside the case is stamped the maker's logo. The case is not lined.



Note: all leather parts are replacements.

Dimensions
  • Height: 85.8cm (Note: full height)
  • Height: 42.3cm (Note: of seat)
  • Width: 42.2cm (Note: front of seat)
  • Depth: 38.6cm (Note: of seat)
  • Depth: 54cm (Note: approx depth of widest point)
Production typeMass produced
Gallery Label
  • Mass-producing innovative materials The company Luterma in Tallinn, Estonia was an important plywood manufacturer in the early 20th century. Its Department of Sundry Goods made use of a new, highly efficient technique of mechanically wrapping plywood around forms to produce a variety of products, including suitcases and hatboxes like the two shown here. Ensuring the expensive new machinery was cost-effective by reducing the number of stages of production, Luterma was able to mass-produce goods to sell to an international market. Plywood hatbox About 1930 (designed 1897) Manufactured by Luterma, Estonia Moulded birch plywood with metal bindings and leather straps Museum no. W.11:1, 2-2016 Plywood suitcase About 1930 (designed 1897) Manufactured by Luterma, Estonia Moulded birch plywood with leather hinges, straps and handle Given by the Shand Family Museum no. W.12-2016 The object fit in the 'Automation and Labour' section of the Design 1900-Now gallery opened in June 2021.(2021)
  • Text from Plywood: Material of the Modern World (15 July-12 November 2017) HATBOXES, BAGS AND SUITCASES The Russian company Luterma made these hatboxes, bags and suitcases. Luterma was an important 20th-century plywood manufacturer, with a large British distributor called Venesta. They sold moulded products like these in great quantities. The hatboxes and suitcases were marketed as lightweight and strong and came in a range of sizes. They typify a move towards smaller luggage in the 1920s and ’30s, linked to new kinds of travel in aeroplanes and cars. HATBOX Designed about 1897 Manufactured about 1930 by Luterma (previously A.M. Luther), distributed by Venesta Made in Estonia Moulded 3-ply birch plywood with metal bandings and replacement leather straps, paper labels V&A: W.11-2016 HATBOX About 1930 Manufactured by Samson (later Samsonite) Made in the USA Moulded 3-ply birch plywood, with an additional reinforcing layer of 3-ply at top and bottom V&A: NCOL.524-2015 SUITCASE About 1930 Manufactured by Luterma (previously A.M. Luther), distributed by Venesta Made in Estonia Moulded and sheet 3-ply birch plywood with an additional reinforcing layer of 3-ply added around the edge of the lid; leather straps, hinges and handle; paper labels, wax seals Originally owned by P. Morton Shand (1888–1960), contributor to the Architectural Review Given by the Shand family V&A: W.12-2016 HANDBAG About 1930 Bags of this type were used by both men and women, and sold in various sizes Manufactured by Luterma (previously A.M. Luther) Made in Estonia Moulded 3-ply birch plywood with leather straps V&A: NCOL.602-2016 SMALL BAG About 1930 Small bags of this type were sold for various uses, including as lunchboxes and for carrying botanical specimens Manufactured by Luterma (previously A.M. Luther) Made in Estonia Moulded 3-ply birch plywood with leather straps V&A: NCOL.303-2017 HATBOX About 1900 Manufactured by A.M. Luther (later Luterma) Made in Estonia Moulded 3-ply birch plywood, with an additional reinforcing layer of 3-ply at bottom, leather straps V&A: NCOL.523-2015(2017)
Credit line
Given by the Shand family
Object history
This suitcase was given to the V&A in 2016 by the Shand family [2016/43]. It was in the possession of the retired furniture designer and teacher Mary Shand, who is also Lady Stirling, the widow of architect Sir James Stirling. The suitcase originally belonged to Lady Stirling’s father, Philip Morton Shand (1888-1960), a leading figure in British modernism during the 1920s and 1930s. Among Shand’s many achievements in this context were his translation of Walter Gropius’s The New Architecture and the Bauhaus (1930) and his organization of the first exhibition of Alvar Aalto’s work (furniture and sculptures) in the UK (at Fortnum and Mason in 1933). Shand was also closely associated with the Architectural Review and MARS (Modern Architectural Research Group, 1933-37).



The suitcase has been extensively used; it might be called pleasingly used. It has numerous travel stickers for rail journeys and the remnants of three red wax customs seals, indicating transit through European countries. According to Mary Shand her father used the suitcase often, including on trips to the Baltic countries (including Finland and Estonia) and in 1933 when he attended the CIAM conference (Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne) in Athens (subsequently known as the Athens Charter conference). The Luther company had a UK distributor, Venesta, run from 1925 by Shand’s friend Jack Pritchard. Pritchard was the founder (with Wells Coates) of Isokon and, in 1935, the Isokon Furniture Company. Shand might have acquired the suitcase through Pritchard or on his trip to Estonia.

Summary
This suitcase is an example of a once-common plywood object type, and one that helps demonstrate the very wide range of late 19th and early 20th century object types which were made of plywood. The suitcase carries stamps for ‘Luterma’ on its interior and exterior. From 1897 Luterma was the trade name for products made by the A.M. Luther Woodworking Company for Mechanical Woodworking (founded 1877) in Tallin, Estonia. Luterma was one of, if not the, most important manufacturers of plywood and plywood products in Europe in about 1900.



This suitcase originally belonged to Morton Shand (1888-1960), a leading figure in British modernism in the 1920s and 1930s.

Bibliographic Reference
Wilk, Christopher. Plywood: A Material Story. London: Thames & Hudson / V&A, 2017
Collection
Accession Number
W.12-2016

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record createdJanuary 12, 2016
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