The origins of the motorhome and RV
History of Motorhomes and RV`s
In Europe, wagons built to live in, rather than just to carry persons or goods, were developed in France around 1810. They were used in Britain by showmen and circus performers from the 1820s; but Romani people only began living in caravans (vardos) from about 1850.
The covered wagon that played a significant part in opening up of the interior of the North American continent to white settlement from about 1745 was a type of caravan. A well set-up wagon provided its occupants with living quarters as well as a means of transportation for themselves, plus their supplies and equipment.
The origins of the motorhome date back to 1910 when the Pierce-Arrow motor company introduced the Touring Landau model at the Madison Square Garden auto show. The Pierce-Arrow’s entry was specialized for the camper in mind—providing cargo compartments for camping equipment and even an on-board toilet.
In Canada, the earliest motorhomes were built on car or truck bodies from about 1910. By the 1920s the RV was well established in the US, with RV camping clubs established across the country, despite the unpaved roads and limited camping facilities.
In Australia, the earliest known motorhome was built in 1929. It is now in the Goolwa Museum, where it has been partially restored. It is recognized by both the National Museum of Australia and the (Australian) National Motor Museum as being the first motorized caravan in Australia.
In the 1920s, individual builders and manufactures began to convert panel trucks and buses to be used for camping. Designers patterned these housecars after airplanes, boats, and buses. RV production was halted during World War Two and would not resume for tourists until the 1950s. When production did resume, designers began grafting trailer bodies onto truck or bus chassis.
Raymond Frank gave these housecars their contemporary name of “motorhomes.” Following a model common in RV history, in 1958 Frank designed his first motorhome so his family could take vacations to Florida and the mid-west. The 27-foot motorhome, mounted on a Dodge chassis, soon caught the eye of fellow campers who asked Frank to build them one, too. By 1960, the Frank’s had sold 7 motorhomes and decided to open Frank Motor Homes, Inc. the next year. With the stylish fiberglass construction and contemporary color palate, the Frank motorhomes became an acceptable option for 1960s suburbanites who wanted a RV but scoffed at the travel trailer.
Motorized RVs started to become popular in the late 1950s, but they were expensive luxury items that were far less popular than trailers. That changed in 1967 when Winnebago began mass-producing what it advertised as “America’s first family of motor homes,” five models from 16 to 27 feet long, which sold for as little as $5,000. By then, refrigeration was a staple of RVs, according to Hesselbart, who wrote The Dumb Things Sold Just Like That, a history of the RV industry.
Soon other firms began to manufacture these mainstream motorhomes. In 1966, one of the most recognizable names in motorhomes was launched—Winnebago. Under the direction of John Hanson, Winnebago began to produce nearly all of their motorhomes’ components other than the chassis. As Hanson explained, “The cheapest way to get things done is to do them yourself.” In ten years, Winnebago had grown from 415 employees to 1,252 in 1969 with over $3 million in sales. While Winnebago was the market leader, other companies were also growing. In 1969 a total of 23,100 motorhomes were sold. While the gas crunch of the 1970s drove many manufactures out of business—including Frank Motorhomes (then known as Travco)—today, the motorhome market is still going strong. In 2014, 43,900 motorhomes were sold in the United States.
As motorhomes became more sophisticated, they attracted a new breed of enthusiasts interested less in camping and more in destinations, like Disney World and Branson, Missouri, Europe. Today, it seems that only your budget limits the comforts of an RV. Modern motor homes have convection ovens, microwaves, garbage disposals, washers and dryers, king-size beds, heated baths and showers and, of course, satellite dishes.
Source: smithsonianmag.com and wikipedia.org