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history wall

Tom has been designing and making bags since 1972: we’ve been an official company since 1982. Some of you have been around for the whole ride, others are new. This is our way of sharing our history with everyone, and it's the online version of the history wall at our Seattle Factory Showroom.

Tom (center), seems always to have had a thing for bags. Flanked here by the other Brothers Bihn, Dan (right) and Greg (left). Tom's father Michael flew for PanAm.

Departing for the East Coast, circa 1965.

An early sketch of the bag that became the Aeronaut 45.

Tom in one of the down jackets he designed and made, circa 1977.

Hiking the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island, Canada, 1974. Tom carried a pack, a sleeping bag and rain gear he'd designed and made himself.

Tom's retail store / workshop in Santa Cruz California, circa 1992. Every bag you see, every bag in the store, was made by Tom - designed, cut and sewn.

Backside of an early print catalog — in this case the "catalog" was a 4" x 6" postcard.

Tom on a solo backpacking trip in the back country of Yosemite, 1977. The pack hiding behind him was built by Tom for a classic Kelty external frame called the Massif.

Line drawing of the Super Musette messenger-style shoulder bag, circa 1998.

Tom and friends on a snowless but chilly winter hike in Yosemite, 1997.

Tom designed and made a bag-less backpack that strapped to a kayak and allowed you to portage solo, late 1980s.

Tom volunteering at an event for the Resource Center for Nonviolence in Santa Cruz, California. Late 1980s, photo by Tom's friend Doug Rand.

A frameless, top-loading pack from the late 1980s. Photo by Dan Bihn.

The Basic Book Bag V1, ~ 1994.

Cake! For a party celebrating Tom's first five years in his retail store in Santa Cruz, California. Cake courtesy Tom's mother Barbara Bihn.

Christmas at the Santa Cruz shop, circa 1996.

The first TOM BIHN shop — 109 Locust Street in Santa Cruz, California; 275 square feet. This photo was taken just days after the store opened in December 1990. Photo by Barbara Bihn.

First TOM BIHN woven logo label. Artwork derived from The American Boys Handybook, from Tom's grandmother Bess.

In the mid-1990s, Tom briefly manufactured under the label Black Bag: this turned out to be a bad idea. Live and learn.

An artistic arrangement of bags for a photo shoot at the Carmelita Cottages in Santa Cruz, California.

In the early 1970s, Tom made custom made down-filled jackets and sold them to friends, family and teachers at school. Some folks still have those jackets!

Tom at work in his first shop in Santa Cruz.

Yes, that's a San Francisco Mime Troupe t-shirt.

Sketch for the layout of an early print catalog.

The canine-specific Skookum Dog line is launched, 2013.

Tom's dog Faux Pas (usually pronounced Fox Paws) sometimes rode in Tom's backpack when he commuted to work on his bike. Faux was a constant fixture in Tom's workshops and stores from 1984 until 2001.

Tom's friend Doug Rand with a Limpet backpack, late 1980s, at Union Station in Tacoma, Washington.

Tom at work in his garage/workshop, 1982. He was making cases for bowed psalteries — who woulda thunk it?

A photo taken by Tom's friend Dave Giannini, in Tom's original Santa Cruz shop.

Tierra del Fuego, 1977. Tom was dropping out of high school, so the obvious thing to do was for he and his dad to take off for South America.

Yes, that's a "60/40" mountain parka, made by Tom.

Back in Tom's original Santa Cruz shop, he didn't have an "Open" and "Closed" sign but rather a "Here" and "Gone" sign. He modified this one on his way out the door on New Year's Eve 1996.

The very first "TOM BIHN" label, sewn in a couple of dozen down jackets in the early 1970s.

When Tom was 13, he and his grandfather built a table for cutting fabric. When Tom was 20, he lived in a tent in the Santa Cruz mountains for a couple of years, and the table did a brief stint as an outdoor kitchen (above). Rescued from the woods some years later, the table went on the be used in Tom's various workshops/retail stores. In the 1990s it was rebuilt and fortified by Tom's friend Rob, and still does regular service in Tom's design studio.