Tag Archives: trailer

The 1930s Travel Trailer Camping Craze

The 1930s saw the rise of an odd phenomena considering the the world was in the grips of an  economic disaster.  In 1930 Arthur Sherman started manufacturing travel trailers.  You would think that the Great Depression was a poor time to start a business, but Sherman’s Covered Wagon Company was wildly successful.

People had been auto camping for years, and saw it as an economic alternative to traditional travel where there were train fares and hotel bills.   Times might have been tough, but people saw camping as a way to continue travel.  Many travel trailers were homemade, and even a  manufactured one could be bought for as little as $300 (about $4700 today).  Trailers were sold by the thousands.

The press was partially responsible for the trailer boom.  Magazines from Popular Mechanics to Woman’s Home Companion heaped praise upon the benefits of trailer camping.   Bouyed by all the hype, the trailer companies over-produced in 1937, which led to disaster for many of them, including Covered Wagon.   The market was saturated, and the slow economic recovery was halted by a series of strikes in the auto industry.  Many of the companies barely made it to 1942, when the US military began buying travel trailers to use as military housing.

At the same time, many trailer owners were forced to park them for the duration, forming trailer parks that were more like permanent addresses.  And after the war, many young families turned to travel trailers in an effort to find housing.  Trailers were still built as a travel home, but just barely.  This was shown in the  1953  Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez comedy, The Long, Long Trailer.  By the next year companies started making the trailers wider – 10 feet, and it soon became obvious that the trailer industry was diverging.   Travel trailers remained small, but house trailers, or mobile homes grew and grew.

Considering how many of these were made in the 1930s, they are not commonly seen today.  I know where a couple of them are parked, and I’m betting they have been there since the 1940s.   Most of the vintage travel trailers we see today are from the late 1950s and newer.  To learn more about vintage travel trailers, there is a great book, Ready to Roll, by Arrol Geller and Douglas Keister.

Today’s illustrations are from a 1936 Covered Wagon catalog.

Here’s an old post I did with an inside view of a 1940s trailer.

And finally, a not-to-be-missed photo essay from Life magazine.


Filed under Camping and Hiking, Vintage Travel

Prairie Schooner, 1937 Style


In 1937, travel trailers were still a bit of a novelty, the first ones being manufactured in 1930.  People had been auto camping for sometime though, and by the late 1920s, home built trailers were appearing on America’s roads.   In 1929, Arthur Sherman of Detroit had a carpenter build a camping trailer for his family.  It was so popular at the camping spots that Sherman saw the potential in the idea.  He started manufacturing travel trailers as the Covered Wagon Company.  Others followed, with the center of manufacture being Elkhorn, Indiana, which had 34 trailer builders by 1935.  Despite the Depression, the travel trailer business boomed.  It is estimated that in the 1930s there were up to 2000 makers of travel trailers.

I’ve always been a sucker for wardrobe lists, ever since I was eight years old and got the list for summer camp.  So this 1937 ad is one of my favorites.  Here we have Mrs. Robert Fulton, Jr. detailing her packing list as she and the mister head off across the country.  She made sure that it was all washable, or rather “Luxable”, as this is a Lux soap ad.  To better read the ad, click on each photo for an enlargement.

Tomorrow, I’ll write more about the 1930s trailer boom and how WWII changed the trailer industry.  A hint:


Filed under Camping and Hiking, Proper Clothing, Vintage Travel