Where did the “Tin Can” come from?

2019 marks the 100th year anniversary for the Tin Can Tourists Vintage Trailer club and most people don’t know why we are named Tin Can Tourists. Everyone understands the Tourists part but where does the Tin Can part come from?

In a hundred year time span, origins and background can get lost and then we are left with speculation and rumors.

Here was the speculation:

  • Tin Can Tourists were named after the storage containers that they used for their food. Trips would take days, if not weeks, to travel to other states and their wasn’t refrigeration, so most food was canned food consumed during the trip.
  • Tin Can Tourists were named after the Tin Cans that were placed on their radiators to indicate they were members of the club. We actually found out that the Tin Can on the radiator was a marketing thing! The year the club was formed, in 1919, a local gas station told the members that if they came to the station with a Tin Can on their radiator they would get a discount on their gas. It was a way for the gas station to recognize the Model T’s from EVERY other Model T. It was one of the first reward card! Later, it was common to place a Tin Can on the radiator cap to indicate that the person needed help on the side of the road and other members would stop to help. There was also a rumor that Tin Cans were soldered to the radiator to indicate membership but this isn’t likely since the motometer on the radiator cap is what they used to check the heat level and the tin can would block their view of the important meter.

So what’s the verified story of how the Tin Can Tourists got it’s name?

In the hand written diary of Ms. William Austin’s trip from LaSalle Michigan to Florida in 1919, she describes the meeting of campers at a campground and their rationale for but starting the club and deciding on the name. The name is based on vehicles they all drove down to Florida and the only vehicle at the time that was dependable enough to make the trip. That vehicle is the Ford Model T and it’s nickname was the Tin Lizzie. They decided to honor their vehicles by naming the club the “Tin Can Tourists”

And now you know the rest of the story….

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