Vintage Wooden Homes on Wheels: Photos of Mobile Living From the Early 20th Century


These structures, colloquially known as mobile homes, offer a picturesque glimpse of a bygone era, when flexibility, craftsmanship and the open road beckoned to an adventure-seeking generation.

The concept of mobile life was not entirely new during this era. However, it gained significant momentum only at the beginning of the 20th century.

A confluence of factors such as improved transportation systems, economic opportunity, and the desire for a more transient lifestyle led to the rise of wooden homes on wheels.

The Smithsonian honors Pierce Arrow's Touring Landau of 1910 as being the nation's first recreational vehicle.

The Touring Landau used a patented, fifth-wheel trailer hitch mechanism that was permanently attached to the automobile.

The model was shown at Madison Square Garden and offered to the public for $8,250. It lists a phone line to connect the trailer to the driver and has a chamber pot.

By the 1920s, the most common car was the Ford Model T, and RVs had to be custom-built. In 1923, a Nomad House car was built on the chassis of the Ford Model TT.

It was owned by novelists John Stanton and Mary Chapman, who owned it for 47 years and traveled to 24 states in it.

In 1927, Leonard S. Whittier built a custom RV on the chassis of a Brockway Model H bus chassis. It had wicker chairs, bookcases, a refrigerator, and a sink as well as an electric stove. It also had a septic tank.

That same year, the Airstream Trailer Company built the Clipper with riveted aluminum to resemble an airplane. It could sleep four and had a water supply.

In 1937, the teardrop trailer sleeping two people became popular. In 1938, Commander Attilio Gatti, an Italian explorer, built two "jungle boats" for his trips to Africa.

The jungle boats had a dining car, bar, two bedrooms and lighting as well as a telephone.

However, the residents of these mobile homes were naturally resourceful.

Wooden homes on wheels have outnumbered homes on wheels since the beginning of the 20th century; They represent a unique chapter in American history.

They symbolize a time when individuals were willing to abandon traditional life for the adventure of the open road and the bonds of community that came with it.

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