Origin of the Name
Pre-Civil War America saw many people prospering and reading groups were growing in popularity. Magazines were growing in readership and people were carrying carpetbags, the all-purpose 19th century equivalent of a backpack.
The nation's first humor magazineThe Carpet Bag went to print, riding the coat tails of the humor movement of the mid-1800's. The magazine edited by Benjamin P. Shillaber was the first to discover and publish Mark Twain* and Artemus Ward**. The carpetbag and The Carpet Bag were on their way to both fashion and literary fame when they became a victim of the times.
After the Civil War the term Carpetbagger became associated with any unwelcome stranger traveling with no more property than he could carry in a carpetbag to exploit or dominate the war-torn victims of the South. Soon after the epithet came to refer to any Northern politician or financial adventurer accused of going South to use the newly enfranchised freedmen as a means of obtaining office or profit.
Fortunately for book clubs, we've decided to resurrect and honor the pre-Civil War meaning of the Carpetbag. The library wants you to be reminded of its usefulness as a satchel, while also being reminded that its namesake is part of American literary history. The Bud Werner Memorial Library makes available to you, "Carpet Bag" Book Club Kits.
*On May 1, 1852 the Carpet Bag made literary history when it published a short piece titled "The Dandy Frightening the Squatter" and signed with the initials SLC. To date, this is the earliest known publication by a young Samuel Longhorn Clemens, the future Mark Twain.
**The magazine hired a young compositer named Charles Browne from Maine who secretly contributed his first humor sketch to the Carpet Bag and was thrilled to see it published. Under the pseudonym Artemus Ward, Browne later became one of the nations most popular humor writers.