The original idea for RVs came from the covered wagons used throughout Europe in the 1800s by gypsies and caravans that moved from place to place living out of their wagons. The first noted motor homes in North America are documented in Canada around 1910. The history of RVs in the United States began in the 1920s. The first RVs documented were trailers or towables used in conjunction with other vehicles. Many of the first RVs were built by hand. Sometimes they would be attached to cars or trucks, but others were built as separate units to be attached by hitch to a tow vehicle.
In the 1930s, RVs were made available for commercial purchase and imagined a notable increase in popularity. Motorhomes gained recognition in the 1950s and began to be produced in 1967. The first RVs did not have creature comforts such as bathrooms or septic tanks; they were very basic. However, as they became more popular, they evolved to keep up with what people wanted, providing similar comforts to those available in the home.
The first RVing enthusiast club was founded in 1919. They called themselves the Tin Can Tourists. This organization was created for those who were interested in or curious about motorhomes and RVs. The club got its name from their habit of welding tin cans to their radiators to warm up food. The club still exists today, focusing on vintage recreational vehicles and RVers who prefer the vintage version of the RV. The club members focus on connecting with other members, enjoying rallies, and placing and restoring old RV models.
There were many pioneers in the RV industry. Among the makers of early recreational vehicle models were Ford, Winnebago, and Airstream. Airstream began to produce their trailers in the early 1930s. Airstream RVs earned a loyal following that continues to this day. They were designed with an aluminum shell and a focus on aerodynamics. Airstream units were the very first self-contained trailers designed for travel made available on the market. Airstream survived many difficult economic situations, the worst being the aluminum shortage during World War II. They are still actively producing travel trailers today, showing their ability to evolve and endure regardless of economic ups and downs.
The original units cost between $500 and $1000 and came in many different shapes and sizes. The RV’s popularity did experience low points; particularly during the Depression, followed by World War II. During this period they were not produced for general purchase; although some makers of the RV continued to produce them as mobile hospitals, morgues, and prisoner transports in support of the war efforts. After the war ended, returning soldiers and their families looked for a cheap way to travel and relax, thus ushering in a second era of RVing. By the 1950s, the rise of the motor home began in full force. Winnebago began to mass produce a wide variety of different types of motorhomes for easy travel at a cheap price. By this point, these vehicles had evolved to include plumbing and refrigeration. Recreational vehicles continued to evolve to meet the wants and needs of consumers.
As things continued to move forward, the public’s interest in the motorhome evolved. Previously they had been popular as a means of full time living or occasional camping, now they were changing to allow for destination travel as opposed to singular events. From the late 1960s until current day, the industry continued to change to match advancing technologies, from beds and mini kitchens to televisions and Internet access. Some of the most noteworthy additions through the decades included: washer and dryer sets, satellite dishes, showers and baths, ovens and more. In the modern RV industry, manufacturers can include almost any luxury into an RV; the only thing limiting the RV’s bells and whistles is the RV buyer’s budget.
In this day and age, recreational vehicles are used for everything. Long distance travel has become one of the most popular uses of the RV. The Good Sam Club focuses on offering information, camping sites, and services to RV users to provide the best experience possible. There are campsites and rest stops specifically designed for recreational vehicles and motorhomes, which focus on providing necessities for travellers. RVing through the years has experienced great change, and these extraordinary vehicles will continue to evolve; moving forward in providing comfort and easy travel for those exploring the open road. Considering the history of RVs, it’s no surprise that modern vacationers so often choose to RV across America.