While we have relatively few 19th century images, we note that it was very common for German primary children to have book satchels through the 1930s. We have less information after the the 1930s, but they have also been common after World War II (1939-45) as well. Many of the children photographed for the ritual first day of school portrait had these satchels which appear to be leather and worn over the shoulders. There was aGerman tradition to photograph a boy on his first day of school. Quite a few of these first day of school portraits show the boys with their satchels. Almost all the German book satchels we have noted have shoulder straps. Some had flat and others had rounded tops. These satchels are a substantial size, suggesting that their teachers gave them a good bit of homework. I am not sure when this style first appeared. A smaller leather satchel appears to have been a pencil case. Some boys had wooden rather than leather pencil cases. The boy here looks like a younger primary school boy, but it probably was not his first day of school. Note his book satchel and other equipment, including a slate complete with eraser. There is also a wooden pencil case.
The English term we use is satchel, but bag is also used. We prefer satchel because it conveys the mreaning of a substantial (in this case laether) bag with shoulder straps better tyan bag which can mean a wide variety of things, inclusing a paper sack. School book bag/satchel means (Schul)ranzen or Ränzel in German if there are straps on it, which is usually the case. I know a form without straps being called Schulmappe in German but it's nearly never used nowadays. You had to carrid these by the handle with one hand. These were more common in the 50s and 60s I believe. Ranzen (pron. "Ranza"in Swabian) is also a dialectical word for a belly or back, more commonly used in southern Germany.
We have relatively few 19th century images, We believe that theywere widely usedby German children throughout the 19th cdntury. We have much more information on the 20th century. We see children routinely wearing these classic leather book bags to school throughout the early 20th century. They seem to be the same styles used during the 19th century. we note that it was very common for German primary children to have book satchels through the 1930s. We have less information after the the 1930s, but they have also been common after World War II (1939-45) as well. A German reader tells us that these school book satchells were common through the 50s and 60s and can even occassionally be seen nowadays in the 2000s. The modern bags are made in many different, sizes, styles, and colors. You no longer see mny children with the classic leather bags.
A graet many German school children had these satchels in the early 20th century. We see countless portraits and snapshots of the children with these satchels. Both boys and girls had them. From the photographic record it would seem that a large percentage had them. We note group photographs in which virtually all the children seem to have these satchels. Of course, even the children who do not have satchels in the photographs, may have had them at school. Many of the children photographed for the ritual first day of school portrait had these satchels which appear to be leather and worn over the shoulders. Given that they were made in leather, they must have been realtively expensive. Thus we would guess thast some children from poor families might not have had them. We are not sure what, if anything the schools did for disadvantaged children.
There was a German tradition to photograph a boy on his first day of school. We see both studio portaits ad snapshots. These photographs wee sent tofriends and family. Quite a few of these first day of school portraits show the boys with their satchels. Many available images show German boys going to school dressed in sailor suits with these over-the-shoulder book bags.
The book bags worm by German children appear to have been the standard style worn on the back. Almost all the German book satchels we have noted have shoulder-supporting backstraps. There were some differences. The basic satchel was a boxy design. They seem quite substantial for primary school children, room for plenty of books. It is not always clear because so many of the available photographs are front views of the children and often all we can see are the supporting straps over the shoulders. Some of the satchels had flat and others had rounded tops. We are not sure when this classic style of school satchel first appeared. This style as far as we can tell was worn throughout the 19th century. And we see the same stles during the earkly 2oth centry. We do not see different styles until well after World War II. Book bags are still popular in Germany and there are many different kinds. Many of the more moder styles are probably better descrived as book bags rather than satchels. Some of the popular brannds are: Scout (usually for primary school children) and Diesel, 4You (for older school children).
The contents of these satchels is an interesting topic. They were essentiually book bags, but primary chilldre did not have a lot of books to take home.
These satchels are a substantial size, suggesting that their teachers gave them a good bit of homework.
A smaller leather satchel appears to have been a pencil case. Some boys, like the boy seen here, had wooden rather than leather pencil cases (figure 1). The term for pencil case is (Schul)mäppchen or (Feder)etui (being French) Federmappe is not as common as it used to be. It’s called like this, because the children used to lay their ink pen in it called short Füller and long Füllfederhalter. Nowadays Mäppchen are not made of wood. More out of leather or other kind of stuff.
It was common to bind the school books together with a string, this is called a Bücherbündel in German.
Available images of German children show that bookbags were also widely used by both boys and girls. We have notice stylistic differences in neighboring Switzerland. We ae not sure if this was the case in Germany. A German reader tells us that there were. "The sachels in many on your photographs were (usually) for boys. Girls usually had another form of the leather straps over the shoulder, shorter for a boy. Thus a boy could run into trouble if he had an olddrr susdter. You understand how kids notice suych differences. It didn't bother the girls much. But no boy wanted a girl's satchel. The girlish sachels with longer straps could be easily carried, hanging over an arm."
These appear to be mostly leather book bags. I do not know if they were made from other materials. We do see other materials beginning we think in the 1970s.
The boy here looks like a younger primary school boy, but it probably was not his first day of school (figure 1). You can see his school sachtel. Note his other school supplies, including a slate complete with a sponge eraser. This allowed him to easilt wipe away what ever he wrote in class. (We thought it was a rag eraser, but it is claerly a sponge eraser.) There is also a wooden pencil case. A Slate is called a (Schiefer)tafel. A Sponge is a Schwamm in German. You had to write on these slates or Tafeln with a Griffel or many Griffeln made out of Schiefer, too. Nowadays these kind of writing equipment is only used in museums and for educational and funny purposes.
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