Home on the Road: The Motor Home in America

Roger B. White traces the evolution of houses on wheels from a farm couple’s 1916
wood-and-canvas sleeping compartment on their automobile chassis to the Johnson’s Wax
Cherokee-red house car featured at the 1940 World’s Fair, and from the psychedelic 1964
hippie bus to today’s luxurious interstate cruiser. Along the way, he describes how the
technological innovations and cultural ideals of each era have influenced motorhome design
and popular use. Most early models were home-built, or custom-built for more affluent
travelers. Converted bus bodies supported sumptuous interiors that resembled those found in
luxury yachts. By the 1920s, inventors had designed factory-built units that could be
mounted on truck or auto bodies. They were christened with fanciful and descriptive names,
like the Automobile Telescope Touring Apartment, the Norrington Auto-Home (Rough-and-Ready
and Pullman models), the Road Cruiser Wampus, the Gypsy Cruiser and Glenn Curtiss’ Motor
Bungalo. They looked like tents with wheels, airplanes without wings, or suburban ranch
houses complete with shingles and awnings. White interviewed camping families, historians,
camping-organization spokespeople, RV manufacturers and travel-club members. Material was
gathered from books, magazine and newspaper articles, company archives and sales brochures.
His hardcover book includes black-and-white photographs that provide a family album of the
history of “machines for living.” The author understands the American love affair with the
vehicle; he is a land-transportation historian at the Smithsonian Institution’s National
Museum of American History. Home on the Road: The Motor Home in America is available from
Smithsonian Institution Press, (800) 782-4612.

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