American Made: Steele Canvas Tote Bags

Steele Canvas bags

It’s not often you get to see an item go from raw material to finished product in front of your eyes; let alone right in your own neighborhood. But that’s what I was able to experience at Steele Canvas Basket Corporation in Chelsea, MA. Since 1921 Steele Canvas has been making high quality canvas products in Massachusetts. Originally focusing on bags for the coal and textile trades, Steele has expanded to making killer products for consumers, some of which you can find being sold at the likes of Urban Outfitters and J.Crew.

Steele Canvas construction

Guided by Steele’s Marketing Manager Frank Geffken, I entered their factory and experienced first hand the enormous amount of craftsmanship that goes into making each of their products. Many of their workers have been with the company for over 30 years, with their shop foreman racking up nearly twice as many. There are no assembly lines here, no mechanical arms taking each bag down the line, but rather hard working individuals who truly care about the product they’re making. Almost all the pieces for the items they manufacture are sourced locally or within the North East. The leather comes from Peabody, MA, the wood for the laundry carts from upstate New York, and the rivets and fasteners from Gloucester, MA.

Steele Canvas

All of the bags at Steele are designed in house. Because they make everything they sell, the sky’s the limit in regards to design and material. “The Duke” tote bag, my personal favorite, was a collaboration of all the employees utilizing remnant material from another project (the camo bottom) and personal touches from all the contributors. Outside you’ll find a black leather pocket and brass rivet on the handle. Inside, a bold orange pocket is perfectly sized for your phone and charger.


Currently in development are color block tote bags. The bottom of the bag is made from a high strength durable vinyl which makes it perfect for the beach or pool. If a simple canvas tote is more your speed, Steele’s Natural Canvas Tote comes in 4 sizes and are made to order. Each has reinforced handles (which I’m told can hold over 100lbs) a boxed bottom that allows the bag to stand on its own for easy loading, and a handle stenciled logo. It’s perfect as a grocery tote or for any hauling need.

Steele Canvas Logo

Steele also accepts custom orders and are happy to work with customers on design ideas. For more information, visit their website at

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