• Sep 6, 2010
100th Anniversary of the RV – Click above for historical high-res image gallery (69 images)

It seems appropriate while we celebrate the last vestiges of summer on this Labor Day weekend that we also acknowledge the 100th anniversary of the recreational vehicle, also known as the RV. The summer season and RVs go hand in hand, and people have motored across America in mobile homes since 1910. RV historians say that year was when just a few companies began building the precursors to what we now know as recreational vehicles, thus marking the birth of the RV industry. Those companies include Pierce-Arrow from New York (above, 1910 Touring Landau), the Los Angeles Trailer Works and Michigan's own Auto-Kamp Trailers of Saginaw.

2011 Sunseeker RVThe RV industry has survived wars, tough economic times and oil crises and still come out no worse for wear. Credit the American spirit of adventure, our love of travel or maybe just the unique freedom one experiences while traveling without a tether to your permanent residence.

If I'm waxing too poetic about what some consider to be just ill-constructed boxes of balsa wood on wheels, know that I am an RV owner myself (right, 2011 Forest River Sunseeker) and have known the joys of sitting around a campfire in the forest roasting s'mores one minute and playing Rock Band in an air-conditioned living room the next. It may sound like sacrilege to hard-core outdoorsmen who like sleeping on the ground, but it makes perfect sense to an RV enthusiast.

So, in honor of the RV's 100th birthday, we've assembled a gallery chronicling its history courtesy of the RV industry's centennial website. Enjoy the trip through time.

Popular Mechanics ad for Pop-Up Camper, circa 1910 Adams Motor Bungalo, 1917 Tampa, FL Campground Historic Campground Homemade Housecar, circa 1930s Early Towable Early trailer and Model T Ford, 1913 Housecar, 1915 Auto Camper Early Pop-Up Trailer Cozy Camper Tent Trailer, 1916 Model T with Telescopes, 1916 (side view) Model T with Telescopes, 1916 (rear view) Zaglemeyer Kampcar, circa 1920 Homemade RV, circa 1920 Florida Campground, circa 1920 Warner Prairie Schooner, circa mid-1920s Pierce Arrow Fleet Housecar, 1928 Overland Park Trailer Camp, circa 1925 Housecar, circa 1926 Wiedman Camp Body on Stewart Truck Chassis, 1928 Housecar, circa 1930s Curtiss Aerocar, circa 1930 Travel Trailer, circa 1930 Chevrolet Housecar owned by Mae West, 1931 Ford Housecar, 1931 Sportsman Trailer, 1932 Covered Wagon, circa 1932 Airstream, 1933 Airstream, 1935 Airstream Clipper, 1936 Schult Sportsman, 1936 Hunt Housecar, 1937 Book Wagon, circa 1938 Travel Trailer, circa late 1930s Liberty Towable Spartan prototype, 1945 Westcraft Towable, 1949 (exterior) Westcraft Towable, 1949 (interior) Truck Camper, circa early 1950s Victour Housecar, 1951 Holiday Rambler, 1954 Yellowstone travel trailer, 1954 Towable, circa 1957 Winnebago Fifth Wheel, 1958 Pop-up Camper, circa late 1950s Phoenix Yellowbird Tent Camper, 1961 Frank Motorhome, 1961 Coachmen Cadet, 1964 Banner Motorhome, circa 1960 Winnebago Motorhome, circa 1966 Corvair Ultravan, circa 1960 Ford Based Chassis Mount Motorhome, 1969 Lo-Liner Aristocrat, circa 1960s GMC Motorhome, circa 1973 - 1978 Winnebago Winnie Wagon, 1974 Boles Aero Fifth Wheel, circa 1970 Bluebird Wanderlodge, 1970 GMC Motorhome, circa 1973 - 1978 Type C Motorhome, circa 1970 Newell motorhome, 1978 Winnebago Itasca, 1982 Vixen Motorhome, 1982 Type C Motorhome, circa 1990s Motorhome, circa 1990 Travel Trailer, circa 1990 Type A Motorhome, circa late 1990s 2011 Forest River Sunseeker

[Source: NY Times, RVcentennial.org]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      How in Gods blazes in the 100 years of RV/Campers could you not include the VW Microbus/Kombi/Westfalia? The GMC Barbiemobile I could understand but not the Kombi?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Its amazing how far technology(in every way) has progressed in the past 100 years.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Got rid of our 34' quad bunk house trailer 1 1/2 years ago and our family still misses it!

      Great times even in very bad weather with all of the amenities to keep us comfortable and if you got tired of the view, the heat or the cold, latched up the Hensley hitch and away we went.

      Great family time (away from msn/facebook) with great family memories and to this day, we never turn down a campfire invitation!

      • 4 Years Ago
      Good job Neff - I'm glad you haven't tried making a 'it makes financial sense' argument out of your purchase (supercars don't either, we're talking about purchasing products created for the sake of -pleasure/leisure-), too many people these days try to rationalize the unrationable, even myself.

      I wonder how our Fleetwood '92's faring right now, it's been sitting for three years.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Hey John that is a beautiful RV you got there!

      I feel similar, growing up my parents bought an 84 Econoline Tray Teck Conversion Van with a 5.0L V8... it was great it had carpeted ceiling and a table in between the captain seats and rear bench, and you could turn the captain seats around. It had a built in chess board (magnetic) and a card table if you flipped it over. We then traded that in for a 94 Econoline 150 Centaurus with a 351 Windsor which had much more power and a lot more features like a TV and rear AC controls and rear radio and such... my dad did the cash for clunkers sadly...

      here are a few pics of it before it was taken away... still in perfect condition and only 101,000 miles!!! All the wood in there was real too and it even had a build in radar detector

      • 4 Years Ago
      We bought a Quicksilver 10.0 pop-up this summer to tow behind our Mazda5, and it's just the best thing ever. I absolutely love it. Some day I want a restored 1972 Winnebago Brave. They're so mean looking!
      • 4 Years Ago
      It would be great to save 3-4 weeks of vacation, rent one of these bad boys and drive across the country.
      • 4 Years Ago
      John - you seem way too young to have an RV but good for you. Maybe you can rent it to automotive journalists visiting Autoblog World HQ!
      • 4 Years Ago
      I like the recent models that allow hauling motorcycles on the inside, and still has sleeping and galley areas. Good for bringing the fun toys and keep the g/f happy.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Happy Anniversary RV. All the best for the next 100 years.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Hopefully there will be.
      • 4 Years Ago
      We can assume you are speaking of the newer ones and not the 1910 version?