AskDefine | Define carpetbag

Dictionary Definition

carpetbag adj : following the practices or characteristic of carpetbaggers; "carpetbag adventurers"; "a carpetbag government" n : traveling bag made of carpet; widely used in 19th century

User Contributed Dictionary



carpet + bag


  1. having the characteristics of carpetbaggers
    carpetbag travels


  1. A traveling bag made from carpet scraps used primarily in the United States in the 19th century.


  1. To come to a place or organisation with which one has no previous connection with the sole or primary aim of personal gain, especially political or financial gain.

Extensive Definition

A carpet bag is a traveling bag made of carpet, commonly from an oriental rug, ranging in size from a small purse to a large duffel bag.
Such bags were popular in the United States and Europe during the 19th century. They are still made to this day, typically as women's decorative small luggage and purses, although typically no longer out of old carpets.
The carpetbaggers of the Reconstruction era following the American Civil War were given their name from this type of luggage which they carried.
From the Scientific American Supplement, No. 561, October 2, 1886 "The old-fashioned carpet bag (Fig. 1) is still unsurpassed by any, where rough wear is the principal thing to be studied. Such a bag, if constructed of good Brussels carpeting and unquestionable workmanship, will last a lifetime, provided always that a substantial frame is used."
Carpet bags sometimes also served the dual use as a "railway rug", a common item in the 19th century to keep warm in drafty and unheated rail-cars. The rug could either be opened as a blanket, or latched up on the sides as a dual purpose traveling bag. From Robert Louis Stevenson's Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879): "... my railway-rug, which, being also in the form of a bag, made me a double castle for cold nights."
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