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History of Caravans

  • In Caravan
  • September 18, 2020
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History of Caravans

The very first thing that comes to mind after hearing the word “caravan,” is mostly the awesome adventure you’ve experienced with friends and family on the road. Caravans were unheard of until 1885, a century before you and I were born. The first Caravan to be purchased in history was called “The Wanderer.” It is indicated to have traveled for more than 1400 miles on the summer of 1885. The owner of the said caravan was a medical doctor known as Dr. William Gordon Stables. He was also a renowned doctor during the Victorian era. The invention of cars happened around the same period. However, they were not available for public utilization and, therefore, the caravan had to be horse powered.

As WW1 was coming to an end, cars were becoming increasingly popular. The first caravan to be towed by a vehicle happened in 1919 in the British town of Eccles. Camping become a popular endeavour as cars were becoming more and more affordable. Consequently, caravans were affordable to everyone, not just for the elite. In addition, Henry Ford’s assembly line methods enabled production of more economical cars and in large numbers. This made transportation by car a prime mode of traveling and transport over long distances.

• European Romani Origins
In Europe, the enchanting horse-powered vardo-wagons of the Romani people became an important cultural identity of the British Romanichals (Romani) during the mid-1800s, going all the way into 20th century. The Romani people practiced a nomadic life style that went back ages. The vardo wagon not only attested to the economic well-being of a family, but also supported their age-old nomadic culture.

Vardo wagons were a delight to look at since they articulately designed and decorated to perfection. The level of decoration on a wagon differed with the economic status of the family. The more lavish it was, the wealthier the family. The wagons came in six different designs including, Burton, Reading, Ledge, Bowtop, Openlot, and Brush.

• Establishing of the Caravanning Club
Caravanning and travel trailer’s originated from showmen and traveling gypsies In Europe. A big part of their lives was spent in horse-powered caravans.

In 1901, caravanning for fun was quickly growing in popularity. It was during this period that the first dedicated caravanning club emerged. Originally, the Camping and Caravanning Club was called Association of Cycle Campers, and was established by Thomas Holding. In 1907, the Caravanning Club was established with Dr. Stables as its vice president. According to the Club’s manifesto, its main objectives were to connect individuals and families seeking van life as their desirable pastime, to provide suitable vans together with other relevant amenities, and to set up appropriate camping sites.

With the progressive growth in popularity, more developers stepped up into the scene with more designs. In the late 1920s motorist had a variety of trailer vans and bodies to choose from.

• Caravans in North America in the 1920s
The motor home origin in North America can be traced back to 1910. This is the period in which Pierce-Arrow motor company launched the Touring Landau design at the Madison Square Garden. The company’s production model was specifically focused on campers. It featured cargo storage sections to fit camping paraphernalia, and even accessorized with an on-board toilet.

During the 1920s, panel buses and trucks were a favorite for individual manufacturers and builders who would renovate them to be utilized for camping. Manufacturers modeled these motorhomes after, boats, airplanes, and buses. During the WW2, however, the production of RVs became impossible until the 1950s. After the war, the production quickly picked up pace with designers attaching trailer bodies onto bus chassis or truck.
The name “motorhomes” was given to these housecars by Raymond Frank. In 1958, Frank came up with a design for his initial motorhome to enable him to take vacations with his family to Florida and other mid-west locations. Mounted on a Dodge chassis, the 27-foot housecars attracted attention from other campers who then requested Frank to design one for them too.

By the year 1960, Frank had managed to sell seven motorhomes. This prompted him to open Frank Motor Homes Inc. The following year. Frank motorhomes were elegantly designed with fiberglass and fashionable color palate, which attracted the 1960s suburbanites preferring an RV over the travel trailer.

In the late 1950s, motorized RVs’ popularity was growing exponentially. However, they were relatively costly luxury pieces at the time. This would soon change in 1967 when Winnebago started producing it’s “America’s first family of motorhomes” as advertised, in massive quantities. The “family” had five models with length ranging from 16 to 27 feet long, and their market prices ranged from a meager $5,000 only.


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