Did you ever wonder how the RV craze began, and what were the factors that made it such a popular way to travel, experience the great outdoors, and do it in comfort? Terence Young writes in the Boston Globe how it all happened.
ON AUGUST 21, 1915, the Conklin family departed Huntington, N.Y., on a cross-country camping trip in a vehicle called the “Gypsy Van.” Visually arresting and cleverly designed, the 25-foot, 8-ton conveyance had been custom-built by Roland Conklin’s Gas-Electric Motor Bus Company to provide a maximum of comfort while roughing it on the road to San Francisco.
For the next two months, the Conklins and the Gypsy Van were observed and admired by thousands along their westward route, ultimately becoming the subjects of nationwide coverage in the media of the day. Luxuriously equipped with an electrical generator and incandescent lighting, a full kitchen, Pullman-style sleeping berths, a folding table and desk, a concealed bookcase, a phonograph, convertible sofas with throw pillows, a variety of small appliances, and even a “roof garden,” this new mode of transport was a marvel of technology and chutzpah.
For many Americans, the Conklins’ Gypsy Van was their introduction to recreational vehicles, or RVs. Ubiquitous today, our streamlined motorhomes and camping trailers alike can trace their origins to the time between 1915 and 1930, when Americans’ urge to relax by roughing it and their desire for modern comforts first aligned, via a motor camping industry that could deliver both.
Camping enthusiasts, promoters, and manufacturers tended to emphasize the positive consequences of roughing it, but, they added, one didn’t have to suffer through every discomfort to have a satisfying experience. Read the rest of the story.