Back in 1910, while road were slowly popping up, people started getting interested in the outdoors as a hobby. Of course, while moving around, they needed a place to sleep.... and so was born the RV industry. Although there were no highways, people could still move around and explore. Even war couldn't stop the RV industry from flourishing!
“The first motorized campers were built in 1910,” says David Woodworth, a collector of early RVs and RV camping memorabilia. “Before then, people camped in private rail cars that were pulled to sidings along train routes. The year 1910 brought a new freedom to people who didn’t want to be limited by the rail system. RVs allowed them to go where they wanted, when they wanted.”
Back then however, RV's weren't known as "Recreational Vehicle", they were known as “auto campers” or “camping trailers”. They offered minimal comfort and were quite rudimentary compared to today's RV's.... but they offered the freedom to travel anywhere, eat home cooked meals and get a good night's sleep. As far as bathroom facilities go, people either went into the bushes or used porta-potty type toilets until the mid-fifty's when holding tanks were introduced. The first RV equipped with a portable toilet was the “Pierce-Arrow’s Touring Landau" introduced in 1910. In the early 1920's, two-burner gas stove were introduced in the kitchens. By 1950, ice boxes were introduced. Some ice boxes were like portable coolers while others were built in. Onboard refrigeration did not become widely available until the late 1960's.
One interesting fact about RV's is that even back in 1916, RV's had slideouts (aka pullouts). Although they were obviously manual, they were more or less slideouts and were used mostly to store clothing. Electronic room slideouts as we know them today came on the RV market in the 1990s. Another interesting fact is that the world's longest RV was built in 1954 by the Mid-States Corporation. It was a 65-foot long motorhome that was articulated in the middle to bend around corners. The RV was listed at $100,000 but there is no record of any ever selling.
Today's RVs are a home away from home with every luxury imaginable. King-size beds, central heat and air conditioning, gourmet kitchen appliances, washers and dryers, and state-of-the-art media centers are just a few of the onboard amenities available. And, consumers have a wide selection to choose from including Class A, B and C motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth wheels, truck campers, toy haulers or pop-ups.
What about future RV's? Well, let's just say that with new technologies popping-up on a daily basis, we know that RV innovations won't stop anytime soon. With the rising price of gas, we can expect lighter and more fuel-efficient RV's built using new lightweight materials on the market. We can also expect new ways to harvest solar power energy in the coming years. LED's will also be more and more present in RV's of the future. However, if you drop by your local RV dealer to look at a new high-end Class-A RV, you'll surely wonder (like we do) what more they can do to make these RV's more comfortable.