The Duluth Pack has its humble roots in a poor French-Canadian named Camille Poirier, who made hisway west to Duluth, Minnesota. Arriving here in 1870 with his “little stock of leather and tools”, he began a small shoe store and quickly made a go of it in this booming frontier town on the shores of Gitchi Gummi. On December 12, 1882, Camille filed for a patent on a new type of packsack. It was a canvas sack that closed with a buckled flap, had new-fangled shoulder straps in addition to the traditional tumpline, a revolutionary sternum strap and an umbrella holder (for portable shade in this newly cutover country). Known then as the Poirier pack, this northwoods classic is referred to today as the original Duluth Pack.
In 1911, Camille sold off the pack business to the new Duluth Tent and Awning Company. We opened shop on 1610 West Superior Street in the then bustling West End. (You can still find us at this address today.) In addition to the packs, we made countless awnings for booming Duluth businesses. Remember, during the early 1900s there were more millionaires per capita in Duluth than in any other town in America. Duluth had lumber barons, shipping magnates, railroad tycoons and big shots in the iron ore business. Our early catalogs feature hay wagon covers, cots, wall tents and heavy canvas aprons for working blacksmiths.
America was changing. The Roaring 20s found the common man with more money and leisure time. Auto-camping became the rage and hoards of adventure-hungry sportsman and fun-loving families headed for the hinterlands. Duluth Tent & Awning responded by creating the “auto-pack” that clamped on to the running boards of a touring car to carry extra gear. We also made canvas tents that attached to a car to create the first “mobile home”.
The 1960s and 70s brought us into the age of jet travel and folks had even more leisure time. Durable luggage was once again a necessity. Though we had been manufacturing bags for big companies like Gokey’s and Orvis since the 50s, Duluth Tent & Awning decided to introduced its own line of heavy duty canvas and leather Sportsman’s Luggage. It was an instant hit.
In June of 1991 we opened a tiny “hole-in-the-wall” retail store in Duluth’s Canal Park…a revitalized warehouse district on the waterfront. We quickly expanded three times and finally built our 5000 square-foot flagship store a few doors down…opening in April of 1998. Stop in and see us when you visit the Head of the Lakes in Duluth, Minnesota!