Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Boston Bag Co. manufactures canvas bags for utility workers and more in New England.

For almost 100 years the Boston Bag Co. has been manufacturing heavy-duty canvas bags to serve the needs of utility workers in Boston. Founded in 1928 during the introduction of the assembly line and the growth of the automobile industry, Boston Bag has had quite a successful run in the New England area.

“Family owned and operated since day one, Boston Bag Co. embodies a rapidly dwindling breed of small, American made manufacturers,” said Marie Thompson, Lead Product Designer.

The roots of the company can be traced back to the Textile Buff and Wheel Co. (TBW Co.), the original name of the brand. Current owner Andy Wise’s grandfather started the business in 1921 in Chelsea, Massachusetts. During the 1920s and early 1940s, the city was known for being a manufacturing hub of wiping cloths which were old articles of clothing that were repurposed for the automotive industry.

The creation of Boston Bag Co. began with an acquisition from Arrow Shirts. Prior to the creation of the Social Security program, Arrow Shirts employed older people to create buffing wheels for the automotive industry from salvageable material from the shirts. When that part of the company closed down ,TBW Co. bought the equipment from Arrow and began manufacturing their own buffing wheels.

In 1973, the great Chelsea fire almost destroyed the company. The factory and base for the Wise’s family business was burned to the ground. Despite this tragedy this did not stop Andy's father, Jerry, from picking up the pieces and starting over.

After the fire the family moved the company to Charlestown, Massachusetts where they still reside. Andy and his father, Jerry, now run the company together – producing wiping cloths, buffing wheels, industrial tool bags, and now, the coveted consumer version of the original Boston lineman bag.

“It’s important to keep the family tradition alive and well. The Wise family has high morals when it comes to American manufacturing. We want to employ people here, and keep an eye on the products to ensure the best quality. This is what has been working for us and we want to continue to be successful with that."

All of the canvas bags are manufactured in this factory, and many of the machines the employees work on are almost as old as the company itself. “The bags still have the same tried and true design, and are made with the same materials and dimensions like they were back when it all started,” said Thompson.

Although originally intended as a purely industrial item, the bags soon became popular to all. Whether people needed them for sports equipment, boating gear, woodworking tools, or just to carry day-to-day items, the bags are perfect for any occasion. Decades have gone by and things haven’t changed.

Last year the Boston Bag team released a new line of bags called the Revival Series, made of the same sturdy canvas, metal rivets, and double stitching that made their original utility bag a time-tested American icon. The Revival Bag has updated features such as leather trim, brass hardware, and extra pockets and straps to suit the ultimate carryall. The versatile design of the bag also allows you to wear the bag in various ways, and can be used for all purposes.

“We decided to expand our line from old world industrial, to high end bench made products using the same time trusted old-world materials and focus on industrial level durability. This was the beginning of the Revival Series which quickly became known as the ultimate carryall for the beach, boat, weekend, work and beyond,” Thompson said.

For now Boston Bag only has two styles of bags, but there are plans for this to change in the next year. Thompson says that a new line of bags featuring a brighter color palette with a lower price bracket is in the works for next summer.

“It’s important to keep the family tradition alive and well. The Wise family has high morals when it comes to American manufacturing. We want to employ people here, and keep an eye on the products to ensure the best quality. This is what has been working for us and we want to continue to be successful with that,” said Thompson.

You can view the entire Revival Series here.