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From Covered Wagons to RVs on the Road

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It all started in the 1800s and today the growth of RVs and travel is almost commonplace.

First RV Travelers

First RV Travelers

The Covered Wagon

The Covered Wagon

The RV Pioneers

It could be said that the true pioneers of the RV craze began in the 1800s with the pioneers headed west in their covered wagons. Then in the early 1900s, the Ford Model T rolled off the assembly lines. And it was affordable for the average household. The public now had a world to explore, and they were in pursuit.

Now, remember, there were no real roads back then, no street signs showing the way, no fast-food places, no billboards, but they were eager to explore. In the early 1900s, it would take two weeks or more to travel from Michigan to sunny Florida.

The first RV was built in 1910, the Pierce-Arrow Touring Landau but a little high priced for the average household. It had a back seat folded down for a bed, a chamber pot, and a sink. Thank goodness for the Ford Model T!

There was a 'kit' available from the Lampstead Kampkar Co. for $535 to fit on the Model T. There is one on display at the RV National Auto Museum, Reno, Nevada. And some improvised and added their own touches to accommodate the family.

Early Camping

Early Camping

Early Tin Can Tourist

Early Tin Can Tourist

Tin Can Campgrounds

Tin Can Campgrounds

A 1910 Pierce-Arrow Touring Landau

A 1910 Pierce-Arrow Touring Landau

Tin Can Tourists

Tin Can Tourists

from-covered-wagons-to-rvs-on-the-road
from-covered-wagons-to-rvs-on-the-road

The Vagabonds

Some very well names, Thomas Edison, Harry Firestone, Henry Ford, and naturalist John Burroughs did an annual camping trip from 1913-1924. But this group didn't travel like the usual Tin Can Tourists. No, they had a caravan of 50 autos following them to haul their elaborate camp supplies. Each had their own tent, with their initials on it, a huge dining tent that could hold twenty. A kitchen camper equal to the Waldorf Astoria complete with a refrigerator. Then of course their meals were served by waiters. Such luxury!

The annual camping trips of the Vagabonds gave them over a million dollars of free advertising for Ford and Firestone. News headlines reported their every move and it became almost a circus.

The Tin Can Tourists

On a gathering of the TIN CAN TOURISTS in 1919 at Tampa, Florida they decided to form a group that would serve to help each other with tips and road information about places to stay, routes to follow, etc. The group of twenty named themselves the TIN CAN TOURISTS(TCT). And within a few years, there were over 100,000 members. They also had rules they were expected to honor. No alcohol, no open fires, no vile language, and cleanliness above all. It was critical to always leave a camping space clean.

RVing has grown leaps and bounds and they have contributed so much to the economy whether it is jobs or purchases.

Museums with RVs and Auto Related Displays

  • RV Museum and Hall of Fame, Elkhart, Indiana, 574-293-2344.
  • Jack Sisemore Travelers Museum, Amarillo, Texas. Full of RVs, Harley Davidson, vintage gas stations, and cigarette machines.
  • Old West Museum, Cheyenne, Wyoming. Full of chuckwagons, and stagecoaches.
  • Remington Carriage Museums, Cardston, Alberta, Canada. Opened in 1993 and is the largest in the world.
  • Vovo Museum, Vovo, Illinois, 815-385-3644.

RVing Today and Some Interesting Facts.

RVs have definitely come a long way, and we can salute the original TIN CAN TOURISTS for leading the way. Manufacturers have added every amenity one can imagine. Some models even include large screen TVs both inside and outside. There are many RV clubs such as Escapees, GoodSam, Passport America. Each offers discounts and offers such benefits as road service, insurance, etc. Several RV magazines and websites offering tips on purchasing, traveling, campgrounds to reserve, etc.

Here are a few statistics:

  • There are one million full-time RVers.
  • Over nine million own RVs.
  • Over 114 billion is contributed to the economy by RVers.
  • There are over 16,000 campgrounds in the U.S.
  • The average RVer takes four trips per year.
  • It is estimated an RV vacation is 60% cheaper than a motel.


A Small Sleeper RV

A Small Sleeper RV

2020 Coachman RV

2020 Coachman RV

Comments

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on February 02, 2021:

Alicia, thanks for visiting. It has always been my dream to own an RV and see the country firsthand! I agree with you.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on February 01, 2021:

I wish I had an RV. Travelling with a recreational vehicle seems like such a great way to explore a region. Thanks for sharing the information, Fran.

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on January 31, 2021:

Rosina, thank you for your visit. Shows us how far traveling on the road has come.

Rosina S Khan on January 31, 2021:

It was nice knowing about RV travelers starting from long ago until last year. I had not heard about RVs before but I am familiar with wagons. Thanks for the article, full of pictures about RV's and wagons and showing how they improvised until today.