No, this is not a page devoted to your mother-in-law and her friends.

Airsickness bags are nearly as old as commercial aviation. Early planes were small and flew low, well within the turbulent layers of the atmosphere. They smelled of hot oil and metal, leather seats and the disinfectant used to clean up after airsick passengers. Opening the window was the only way to escape the smell.

Ford Trimotor 5AT


The first flight attendants were qualified nurses, one of whose main jobs was to assist queasy passengers. They worked aboard planes like Henry Ford's Trimotor plane, introduced in 1927 and dubbed the "Tin Goose".

The first barfbags seem to have been introduced in the 1920s, as shown in these quotations (from

Interior of Trimotor. Note the seat pockets - for airsickness bags? Photo: "Trimotors of the era flew at low speeds in the turbulent strata close to the ground. Fumes from gas tanks and from engine exhaust easily filtered into poorly ventilated cabins. Each passenger chair came equipped with a variety of paper bags, boxes, or basins for gastrointestinal emergencies. Most passenger planes of the day boasted sliding windows, the better to inhale pollution free ozone, according to airline advertisements, but the principal value of open windows seemed to have been their practicality for airsick travelers. Patrons immediately behind an airsick passenger learned to keep their windows closed. It was not unusual to hose out the entire interior of a plane after completing a turbulent flight."

- Flight in America 1900-1983, Roger Bilstein

"The... air is annoyingly potted with a multitude of minor vertical disturbances which sicken the passengers and keep us captives of our seat belts. We sweat in the cockpit, though much of the time we fly with the side windows open. The airplanes smell of hot oil and simmering aluminum, disinfectant, feces, leather, and puke... the stewardesses, short-tempered and reeking of vomit, come forward as often as they can for what is a breath of comparatively fresh air.

- Ernest K. Gann, an early commercial pilot

The first plastic-lined airsickness bags were created by Gilmore T. Schjeldahl for Northwest Airlines in 1949. This feat earned him a place in the North Dakota Entrepreneur Hall of Fame. Oh, he also helped invent the telecommunications satellite - a minor achievement compared to his services to air travel.

Mr Schjeldahl died in 2002. The University of North Dakota Library has a special collection devoted to him; it includes material on the pioneering 1949 bag.

Click here and here for more.

Here is a sampling from other baggists' collections. (Thanks for providing me with these scans and the accompanying information.)