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The Filson Field Satchel: A Briefcase Worthy of Atticus Finch

Wilson Field Satchel

Harper Lee recently released another book about the characters she immortalized in To Kill a Mockingbird, a work entitled Go Set a Watchman. Reportedly, the feisty octogenarian gets a bit put out when the new book is called a sequel. Even though it chronicles events that take place twenty years after Mockingbird, Harper prefers to call it the “parent of Mockingbird” since the manuscript was actually written before her other legendary work about racism and tolerance set in the Depression-era South.

I already had a pin stuck in the editorial planning board for a post on the Filson Field Satchel. That post idea got moved to the head of the line when I heard the news about the new Harper Lee book. You see, that’s because the Filson satchel is the closest, highest quality match you are likely to find to the dark brown satchel-style briefcase Gregory Peck-as-Atticus Finch used in the 1962 screen adaptation of Mockingbird.

The original bag on the table in front of Gregory Peck.

Go Set a Watchman sold over a million copies in its first week of release, which officially makes it successful and kind of a big deal in the publishing world—even if it hadn’t been a follow-up to a beloved classic. We’ll leave the controversy of its publication, and whether the “new” and flawed Atticus will diminish the high regard nearly everyone holds for the original Atticus, to The New York Times and others.

Why We Love the Filson

Field Satchels are still lovingly made in Filson’s Seattle factory with stiff, vegetable tanned bridle leather. Bridle leather is made through a time consuming process that produces a very high quality, thick hide that’s meant to last and take plenty of abuse. It doesn’t come cheap.

You can spend less, and yes, you can definitely spend more on a briefcase. I love the English-made SAB (Swaine Adeney Brigg) bags. They are absolutely first-rate in the quality department. And they should be since one of their satchels is about three times the cost of the Filson.

And I would love to someday have something truly decadent like an alligator Hermes Sac a Depeches, like the one JFK had— if I ever win the lottery. A basic Sac a Depeches in cocoa Togo calfskin is $8,450.

So, I would imagine one made from alligator runs…quite a bit more.

Still, dollar for dollar, the pricey but still reasonable Filson gets the job done. It’s also a lot more in line with what a guy like Atticus Finch might use. Hard to imagine a dignified, cash-poor country attorney like (the original, saintly) Atticus sporting a bag that costs thousands to court…even if he could.

Below are a couple of photos of my own Filson—it’s circa ten years old and is just getting better with age. Note it has the older, second generation English Cheney lock. Thank you, eBay! There have been at least three different locks used on Filson satchels over the years as far as I can tell.

Some aficionados prefer the second one like mine to the first and third versions. The first models were secured to the leather satchel’s flap with one rivet, the second ones with two. The newest, third models use pins instead of rivets to secure the lock. And no, sorry, my second model isn’t for sale.

Filson’s customer service is legendary, so I wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger on the current model. If there is ever a problem with a Cheney lock coming loose, I’m sure they would make it good.

Oh, and I never use the shoulder strap. Nice as it is. Atticus didn't have a shoulder strap on his, so…

Filson says their satchels take about ten years to break in and that’s probably about right. There is an old school charm and dignity to it that, along with its bulletproof durability, makes me smile every time I pick up the darned (heavy) thing.

It’s beautiful, yet sturdy and unpretentious and ultimately it’s the quality that is reassuring …kind of like (the original) Atticus Finch himself.

Not bad for a bag.

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