RV History with Al Hesselbart
Since 1972, the RV/MH (Manufactured Housing) Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana, has recognized many of the giants who have led the RV industry through the years. Some of the icons voted by their fellow industry leaders to be enshrined in the industry’s Hall of Fame are:
Wally Byam founded Airstream in 1932 and popularized RV caravan travel with many exotic trips throughout the world in the 1950s.
Betty Orr was the first female executive in the RV industry. In the 1930s, she was the first female company president, heading Orr and Orr building custom trailers, the first female association president heading the Illinois Trailer Association and as interim president leading the national Trailer Coach Manufacturers Association.
Ralph Morgan founded Morgan Drive Away in the 1930s, the first (and for many years largest) national RV delivery company transporting RVs from manufacturers to retail dealers from coast to coast.
Harold Platt, who, with his father, founded the Platt Trailer Company in 1935. He was so well respected that he was selected to be the industry’s representative on the World War II War Production Board, which assigned defense projects to manufacturers during the War. Before his death in 1996, he was recognized as having held more offices in state and national industry associations than any other person.
John K. Hanson led the group of local businessmen who founded Winnebago Industries in an attempt to save the jobs of local citizens working for a failing RV plant. While agreeing to lead the company for one year, he remained at the head, building the company for 40 years – still on his one-year agreement.
John C. Crean closed his small California Venetian blind company in 1951 to start Fleetwood Enterprises, which grew to be the largest RV manufacturer and largest mobile home manufacturer in the world.
Thomas Corson, who, with his brothers, Claude and Keith, called themselves “the coachmen” and together founded Coachmen Industries, developing it into one of the largest manufacturers in the nation.
John McCarry was the inventor and developer of the ShurFlo water pump, which brought reliable on-demand running water to RVers worldwide.
Hal McPherson invented the first grinder-style RV toilet in the 1930s, which allowed holding tanks to be emptied. He also made flush toilets (which eliminated carry-out chamber pots as the only onboard trailer toilets) available.
These iconic visionaries and more than 400 of their fellow industry leaders are treasured in the industry’s RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum. RV and MH leaders including campground and mobile home park operators, retail sales lot developers, suppliers and manufacturers along with association leaders and journalists are all included in the industry Hall of Fame.
Today’s RVers can thank these giants for the comfortable and efficient rigs we enjoy today.