For the best part of a century, Americans have been using recreational vehicles (RVs) to create their own paths through the country. Often, we can’t find the perfect holiday destination simply by searching. Instead, we need to create it. Ever since the first RV went on the road, the motorhome/travel trailer has become the perfect solution to creating those memorable journeys.
The idea of using a travel trailer first came around in the 19th Century when European travelers developed covered wagons. Used to provide gypsy travelers with mobile homes, they offered refuge where previously none existed. Come the early 1900s, though, and the move towards motor homes was becoming a prominent part of the travel experience.
RVing was becoming a real possibility, ever since the Canadians started using motorized RVs in 1920. By 1920, they were now a major part of American motorized travel, with most RVs built by hand by those who wished to travel. They would sometimes, as they are today, be attached to another vehicle. Others were built to be entirely standalone.
By 1919, the first RV camping club had been created – the Tin Can Tourists. With an excellent and appropriate name, the group was all about helping members find people with a similar love of living on the road.
Stretch forward towards the 1950s and RVing was quickly becoming a major part of American culture. In 1967, the very first motorhomes began to arrive on the market. While they lacked the sophistication and comfortable charm of a modern motorcoach, they provided a basic living space for those on the road. As they increased in popularity, they also expanded to provide new features.
The RV: an Innovation of the 20th Century
As things continued to change for the RV industry, so too did the features that were available. Major brands such as Ford and Winnebago became mainstream names in the RV industry. Today, for example, Airstream still holds a reputation as one of the finest recreational vehicle brands on the road. Even in spite of the Second World War aluminum shortage, the company persevered and helped to create the travel trailer industry that we all know today.
Despite being popular and innovative, the fluctuating opportunities of the 20th Century did mean that there were peaks and troughs. From the Great Depression through a pair of brutal World Wars, RVing was not the only travel-hobby to be on the verge of falling off the face of the earth entirely. While some RVs would be used as mobile hospitals and morgues, most were consigned to unpopularity until after the war.
However, the 1950s brought a transformation. Winnebago began to create cheap and affordable travel trailers and motorhomes. Features such as sanitation, electricity, and recreational enjoyment started to become the norm. Today, we’re used to seeing RVs that can be more impressive than an average home. From wireless internet access to satellite TV, high-end showers to full kitchen and dining areas, RVs have been transformed.
So, the next time that you find yourself sitting comfortably in an RV, just remember where it all started. What began as a small scale hobby has survived economic depression, war, and technological innovation. If you want to enjoy the full history of America, then there are few better places to do so than from the comfort of a modern RV.