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1915 motor camper

RVs have carried the same amenities for 100 years

How old is your RV, or at least the major features that allow you to enjoy using it?  Surprisingly, most major RV design types and features, excluding appliances, are at least 100 years old.

Motorhomes were introduced in 1910 by an auto manufacturer in Buffalo, N.Y.  Tent campers were also available from several companies around the country in 1910.

Travel trailers were made as early as 1913 by carriage shops in Los Angeles. Slide in camper boxes, similar to today’s truck campers, were advertised by a maker in San Francisco in 1915.

Finally, the fifth wheel hitch and trailer to be pulled by it were patented by a company in Hempstead, N.Y., in 1917.

This 1915 motor camper (shown above) was made in Toledo, Ohio, and reportedly made the round trip from upstate New York to the San Francisco World Expo in from 1915 to 1916.

1911 Tent Camper
1911 Tent Camper

Americans had displayed a love for camping and the out of doors from the earliest days of our country.  The advent of the automobile facilitated that lifestyle as well as the amount of gear and bedding that could be taken by a camping family. It was easier to go greater distances.

Because transportation over long distances was difficult and costly, most of the original rigs had only regional distribution, not national.

Multiple slideouts, originally called telescopes for the way they functioned, were available by 1915.

1916 camper with slides
1916 camper with slides

Since these developments in the years prior to World War I, the size of all types of RV has changed dramatically.  The addition of every conceivable type of appliance has been added.

We have moved from using gasoline fuel for our cooking stoves to propane and electricity. Our furnaces have moved from wood and charcoal fuel to electricity and propane.  We have moved from ice boxes for fresh food preservation to multi-fuel refrigerators.

Buddy Stove
Buddy Stove

The Buddy Stove furnace could burn any available hard fuel from wood or coal to cow patties and could heat coffee or a pot of soup on its top.

The Coleman 2 burner hot plate could work on nearly any liquid fuel.

Amazingly, a few new models have been attempted through the last century, like Winnebago’s introduction of a flying RV in the 1970s. But, none has held on like the four original 100-year-old concepts.

Coleman 2 stove
Coleman 2 stove

About Al Hesselbart

The retired general manager of the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind., Al Hesselbart is the author of the RV history book, "The Dumb Things Sold...Just Like That." He also represented the RV Industry Association at two symposiums held in China. He has appeared on multiple TV documentaries and is a frequent speaker at RV events. He can be reached at ahesselbart@aol.com.

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