People have traveled from one place to another throughout history. While most are content to move from the place they grew up to a new place, settle down and stay put, others have a restless spirit that drives them onward. Over time, a culture has developed around those who travel and live on the road, or wheeled homes.
They, the people who live on the road, have been giving different names by regular society and the media.
The first mass-manufactured RV’s were introduced in 1910 by the company Pierce Arrow, featuring a porta-potty (chamberpot), folding down bed and a phone that allowed the occupant to talk to the driver. Auto-Kamp Trailers also made their debut in 1910.
The touring and “RV’ing” lifestyles of Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone and John Burroughs, a well-known and respected naturalist, gained national attention. They toured from 1913 to 1924, criss-crossing the country and documenting American culture.
Within a few years, magazines such as Popular Mechanics offered plans for DIY’ers to build their own travel trailers. Teardrop trailers, named because their shape resembled a teardrop, became popular in the 1920’s and 30’s. They are enjoying a resurgence today due to their light weight and ability to store in any garage. Several body types allow builders to customize each trailer to his or her own personal style.
Home built campers and the early 1950 style trailers resembled cans of ham offered in stores, prompting one reporter to dub the owners as “Tin Can Tourists.” Early RV’ers formed clubs with huge memberships which survive today. Anyone with an RV can find numerous clubs with similar interests to join, meet and have fun.
Early RV’s did not have air conditioning, bathrooms, holding tanks or “modern” conveniences. In the 1960’s, popular small trailers such as Shasta featured gas stoves with ovens and full-sized refrigerators. Dinette tables folded down into beds for sleeping, but showers and toilets were still not included.
Slides or pop-outs were introduced around 1990, expanding the living or sleeping areas of any trailer or RV. Other modern conveniences include air conditioning, full baths, entertainment centers, solar panels, outdoor showers, kitchens, awnings and much more.
There are several different types of RVs on the road today. They include:
- Class A motorhomes
- Class B RV’s, which are also known as campervans
- Truck campers, which slide into the bed
- Towable trailers
- Hybrid trailers which are part tent, part “hard-sided” travel trailer
- Fifth wheel trailers
- Folding or Hi-Lo trailers
- Class C motorhomes
Although events such as wars and the Depression slowed the RV industry, nothing has dampened the American spirit for recreation, travel and alternative housing/lifestyle options. Some RV owners spend only occasional weekends in their “toys,” while others live in them full-time.
There are RV’s for every taste, tow vehicle and lifestyle today. Prices vary by model, size, age and condition. Home-built RV’s are not uncommon, as many vandwellers will attest to.