Special Report

How School Backpacks Have Changed Over the Last Few Decades

A new school year is upon us, and kids across the country are returning to class wearing their new clothes and flashing new technology. Another aspect of the new school year ritual is breaking in a new backpack. More than 79 million American students carry backpacks, an item  not found among kids of several generations ago. Here is what school days used to look like decades ago.

The backpack is an essential part of the school experience, and 24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of what school backpacks looked like the year you were born. We used various reference and media sources to create our list. 

In addition to chronicling the evolution of the backpack, we are also noting the health impact of wearing this item. If not worn correctly, backpacks can strain muscles and joints and may cause back pain in kids if they’re too heavy. In 2007, more than 23,000 backpack-related injuries were treated at hospital emergency rooms, physician offices, and clinics. 

Click here to read about what school backpacks looked like the year you were born
Click here to read our methodology and detailed findings

It wasn’t until the late 1940s that school children began wearing backpacks. Materials available after World War II like nylon made backpacks for civilian use lighter and more functional. Until then, kids carried books and notebooks by fastening a strap of leather around them, toting canvas or leather bags, or bringing satchels to school.  

Today’s backpacks are sleek, fashionable items made from various materials such as canvas and leather, and they are as much an accessory for students as clothes, handbags, or jewelry as they are useful. Backpacks address the needs of the modern student and have many storage compartments and have been outfitted to accommodate laptops and smartphones. Changes are taking place all the time, and Americans are taking to heart lessons that would help them navigate their lives better. Here are, for example, life lessons from the 1900s that are still relevant today.

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