The allure of RV camping has been a part of American history since the early 1900s. Today, we see dozens of RV campers of all shapes and sizes on the road. From the 5-star luxury mobile homes to the basic pop-ups, the adventure seeker and camping enthusiast revels in the freedom and fun the RV camper provides. But where did it all start and how did it become the treasured alternative to travel we see today?
In 1910, the first RV for commercial sale was introduced to the public by The Pierce-Arrow Touring Landau. It was a response to the limitations of the railway system. It had a fold down sink and a backseat that turned into a bed. Within that same year, Los Angeles Trailer Works and Auto-Kamp Trailers began creating their own RV campers. It wasn’t too long before many more companies began commercial production of their own models. With the exception of a mobile bathroom, these RV models were the first to have livable conditions for leisurely travel.
Clubs and organizations began to form to recognize one another while out on the road in these motorized homes. The Tin Can Tourists and The Vagabonds. The Tin Can tourists traveled in Model T Fords, also referred to as Tin Lizzies. They modified them into mobile homes. They heated food in tin cans, parked their cars wherever they chose and slept in their home-on-wheels. The Vagabonds were a group of people who traveled by car and slept in tents on their road trips across country. Aside from tent camping, they converted a Lincoln truck with a camp kitchen inside. The 4 notable men included Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, and John Burroughs. Their regular trips from 1913 to 1924 sparked national interest because the media covered them regularly.
In 1929, The Airstream was first created. It is still in existence today. It was built over a Model T eventually forming into the iconic teardrop shaped trailer we see on the road today. By the 1930s, Airstream trailers were sold commercially. Features began to improve with beds, dining areas, electricity and water. This was a definite step up from the mobile homes that began in the early 1900s. Although, “Earl,” the first and oldest travel trailer was created in 1913, RV trailers with many more amenities able to hook up to vehicles also became a viable option. It is important to note that many of the RV campers were custom built for travelers during this time and beyond.
World War II kept RV travel out of the public eye until the 1950s and 1960s. This is when many of the RV companies we know and love today began making their RV campers. The Winnebago was created in 1967, known as the “America’s First Motorhome.” Sporting different models and features such as a canopy and folding dinette, the Winnebago became an all-time American classic RV model.
Innovations and upgraded versions of RV campers continued throughout the years leading up to present day. The revival of RV camping and lifestyle has made a strong comeback in the 2000s. Luxurious models with flat-screen televisions and WiFi are giving families another alternative for their vacations. Remodelers and vintage enthusiasts are taking classic designs and turning them into modern day mobile homes. We put in the same work and proper maintenance to our RV campers as we would our homes.
The RV Camper has a rich history that continues to leave its mark on us today. For the freedom of travel, the love of the road and for fun-filled family vacations, we keep the remembrance of the RV campers humble origins in our hearts.