Designed to stand the test of time, Globe-Trotter’s cases have been pushed to the limit over the past 120 years, proving it’s not just the design that has staying power.
An elephant stands atop a Globe-Trotter cabin trunk, its front leg raised in a classic circus performance pose. The image may look like a trick of the camera, but it was actually the result of a real-life test that took place more than a century ago. Aside from its whimsical and eye-catching style, the photograph has come to symbolise one of Globe-Trotter’s most enduring characteristics: the strength of its products.
The ‘Elephant Test’, as it’s known, was an experiment staged at the Zoological Garden of Hamburg, owned by the famous Victorian animal merchant Carl Hagenbeck. The one-tonne elephant was persuaded to stand on the cabin trunk in order to test its strength and endurance – with triumphant results. The advert appeared in a 1912-13 company catalogue (and later, in 1947) alongside a second experiment-based advert, this time with five men in place of an elephant perched on top of an empty Globe-Trotter suitcase. In the text, the stunt was dubbed ‘a marvellous test of strength’.
Globe-Trotter suitcases undoubtedly have a very distinctive aesthetic, but it’s the durability of its products that have really stood the test of time. The company pioneered the use of vulcanised fibreboard – a material renowned for its strong, yet lightweight quality – back in 1897, and continues to use it in all of its suitcases to this day. Aside from the madcap publicity stunts favoured in Victorian times, Globe-Trotter products have been tested to their limits in some of history’s greatest feats of endurance. In 1953, a Globe-Trotter case accompanied Sir Edmund Hillary on his successful ascent of Mount Everest, and, in the early 20th century, Captain Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen both carried Globe-Trotter cases on their Antarctic expeditions.
While vulcanised fibreboard continues to be Globe-Trotter’s material of choice, and the machines used in its production have barely changed over the past 120 years, the company has always pushed the boundaries of innovation. Designer collaborations and one-off products have resulted in some truly unique and super-strength special editions. These include the new carbon fibre trolley case, designed in collaboration with Hypetex, a group of former Formula 1 engineers who became the world’s first manufacturers of coloured carbon fibre. Then there’s the limited-edition James Bond Stabilist Rifle Case, created especially for the 007 flick Skyfall and made from a suitably spy-worthy black aluminium.
So, while you may not be embarking on a spot of espionage or elephant training any time soon, you can always rely on Globe-Trotter to be so much more than style over substance.