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Basic Information

Malemaker is an archaic term for a maker of leather bags, pouches, saddlebags, travelling bags and trunks.

The term predates the standardization of spelling in English. In 1516, Henry VIII established the Royal Mail, organized by the Master of the Post. Originally this service carried packages and messages for the Crown only, not being open to the public until 1635. These packages were transported in saddlebags and traveling cases, known as "males" at the time (and today we'd call them "the mail" or more likely "the bags the mail is hauled around in").

Leatherworkers who made and sold such carrying cases eventually came to be known as malemakers. Of course, such specialization probably wasn't particularly common prior to the expansion of the post service to the public. This would probably be a somewhat rare occupation, limited by demand to only the largest cities (or perhaps the most horse-dependent cultures or otherwise mobile populations). More common would be general craftsmen who sometimes made bags and saddlebags in addition to all the other items they crafted out of the same materials.

All those caveats and considerations acknowledged, it occurs to me that tanned leather prior to the 19th century or so was not known for handling repeated exposure to inclement weather particularly well. So if some craftsman was known for making a very good or sturdy bag, they may have been able to keep up a steady trade. Also, the Royal Male itself probably had one or more contracted craftsmen that provided the needed packages, and Kings have been known to pay handsomely.

Under the Guild system of merry olde England, a malemaker would be part of the "Worshipful Company of Leathersellers".


Game and Story Use

  • This could be a craftsman associated with a royal court or other government agency of the era. Depending on how extensive the packaging demand is, they may have to supplement income in other ways, or possibly perform other functions for the post as well.
  • In a fantasy setting with magic items, this could be a highly skilled craftsman or artificer, capable of making enchanted bags. Wards, protection magic, magical traps, magical locks, invisibility, and elementalism weather-proofing might all be useful things to have on the bags used by His Majesty's couriers and tax-collectors.
  • Further exploring the fantasy genre - if saddlebags need to be customized for a variety of fantastical mounts, that's further justification for specialists. The random leather-worker on main street of a tiny village might not know how to build a bag-and-harness that'll fit a wyvern.
  • That a craftsperson can afford to specialize in such a narrow subset of products can serve as an indication of their skill, wealth, and/or eccentricity. She's not some hardscrabble leatherworker taking whatever orders come her way and barely making due — instead she's a specialist in travelling cases and people pay exorbitant fees for her unparalleled trunks.
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