TIN CAN TOURISTS HISTORY AND IMAGES
The Road to Enlightenment
The Tin Can Tourists were organized at Desoto Park, Tampa, Florida, in 1919. They received the official state charter a year later. The groups stated objective was “to unite fraternally all autocampers”. Their guiding principles were clean camps, friendliness among campers, decent behavior and to secure plenty of clean, wholesome entertainment for those in camp. The group known for the soldered tin can on their radiator caps grew rapidly during the twenties and thirties. Members could be inducted fellow campers through an initiation process that taught the prospective member the secret handshake, sign, and password. After singing the official song “The More We Get Together” the trailerite was an official member of the Tin Can Tourists of the World.
1920 Tin Can Tourists in Tampa, FL “Watching the Ball Game”
1930s Tin Can Tourists at Zephyr Park
1930 TCT Convention Portage, Wisconsin
1942 22nd Annual Convention
TCT Past and Future
Summer reunions were held at various Midwest locations, with Traverse City, Michigan serving as a primary host city. The club spent winters at Desoto Park until 1924.
Tin can tourists – 1921 or 1922. Car camping and watermelon in or around Washington, D.C.
Because locals grew tired of their park being over run with northerners, the park was closed a month early in March. The canners took the hint and moved the Winter Convention to Arcadia, where the community had built a municipal park especially for the Tin Can Tourists. By 1932, with membership estimates ranging from 30,000 to 100,000, city Chambers of Commerce were actively pursuing TCT to choose their community for either Homecoming, Winter Convention or Going Home meets. The Winter Convention was the best attended and was an economic boon to the host community. Sarasota had its eye on the prize and lured the Convention away from Arcadia in 1932. The vote on the Winter Convention site was hotly contested. Many Canners were loyal to Arcadia, the town that wanted them after their ejection from Tampa. A 250 strong car caravan let by Sarasota’s mayor and other public officials, helped swing the vote selecting Sarasota as the Winter Convention site for 1932. As a concession to those that favored Arcadia, it was designated as the official site for Homecoming festivities. In 1938, the mayor of Sarasota indicated that the national perception that Sarasota was a tin can tourist’s town was hurting the community and that he would not renew the Winter Convention contract. Tampa offered the canners a five-year deal to return to Tampa. It was accepted and the Winter Convention returned to specially built Municipal Park. The group faced membership declines due to combination of factors, (1) a schism with in the ranks and the formation of ATA, the Automobile Tourists Association, (2) an economic recession in 1939 that greatly diminished the number of trailer manufactures, and (3) the onset of World War II. Winter Convention photograph depict a much smaller group in 1948 at Tampa. The original groups “Swan Song” convention was held in Eustis, Florida in 1968. By the mid-80’s the club was no longer in existence in any form.
We have recently found new information stating Rallies were still held into the very early 1980’s and for a few years later there were a very small group the just met like monthly for a meal (Just about half a dozen people). So most likely a group consisting of original members still met calling thier selves Tin Can Tourists, until around the mid 1980’s.
In 1998, Forrest and Jeri Bone renewed the club as an all make and model vintage trailer and motor coach club. The renewal gathering was held at Camp Dearborn, Milford, Michigan. Twenty-one rigs attended the May Renewal Gathering. By the end of the year, fifty members were accepted as charter members of the renewed version of the Tin Can Tourists. The group has grown steadily, currently holding Annual Gatherings in Michigan, Florida, and regional rallies at various locations in the US. Recently Regional Representatives have been added to represent England, Japan and France. The new version of Tin Can Tourists is open to all. Its goal is to abide by the original group’s objectives and guiding principles as well as the promotion and preservation of vintage trailers and motor coaches through Gatherings and information exchange.
Rain swamps Tin Can Tourists at Washington, D.C. – Two men pulling on blanket, to wring out water, as others watch, near Washington Monument, Washington, D.C
Founder Forrest Bone writes:
Jeri and I are charter members of the Vintage Airstream Club and have been owners of a 64’ Airstream Safari, 64’ Bambi II, 68’ Overlander, 63’ Globetrotter, and currently own a 1949 Airstream Southwind Liner, a 1949 Spartenette Model 24, and a 1958 Spartan Royal Mansion. While members of the VAC, we developed an interest in various brands of vintage trailers and motor coaches, culminating in our purchase of the 1958 Spartan Royal Mansion. During discussions with the VAC founder, Bud Cooper, we realized that there would not be an opportunity to experience rallies that included all makes and models. It has been the practice of Airstream to allow local units and interclub to only hold one “Buddy Rally” per year that would allow other brand trailers to participate. It was also during these discussions with Bud that he made reference to the Tin Can Tourists, noting that they were the first travel club and organizationally shared a lot of similarities with the parent Airstream organization, Wally Byam Caravan Club International. I think Bud would have liked to see the Vintage Airstream Club be more inclusive, but only for the aluminum constructed trailers. Jeri and I felt that the exclusionary policy of the WBCCI was detrimental to the development of a vintage club. We felt that a group that was open to anyone, owner or not, that shared a passion for vintage trailers and motor coaches was more desirable.
After my conversations with Bud, the Tin Can Tourists became a bit of an obsession. Jeri and I visited the Florida Historical Library in Tallahassee and went through all the available documents on the club. In 1998 we decided to renew the club by having a gathering at Camp Dearborn, Milford, Michigan. Prior to the Gathering, I contacted a trademark lawyer and had him do a mark search to make sure we were not “stepping on anyone’s toes”. We wanted to make sure there wasn’t an active branch of the group still chartered and functioned. When the legal search didn’t turn up an active group, we registered the mark (Tin Can Tourists) and proceeded with the organization of the club. As a past president of the vintage club and having served the club in various capacities, I knew one thing for sure and that was that I didn’t want to get involved in a lot of bureaucratic structuring, so Jeri and I decided that we would run the club as “directors”. A couple of years ago, we asked some members to serve as regional representatives for the purpose of developing TCT activities in their geographical region and to serve as a sounding board for any ideas we or other members might put forth.
Basically, TCT offers its members a chance to meet and have fun with other owners who share their interest in vintage RV’s. You don’t have to own a vintage trailer or motor coach to participate. We have a number of members including charter members, that come every year to the Annual Gathering that do not currently own a vintage rig.
During the late 1920’s the Tin Can Tourists spent Thanksgiving in Arcadia, Florida and enjoyed a sumptuous community dinner.
The 1920s were a very exciting time in Florida. Automobiles were moving rapidly off the assembly lines, regular folks were able to afford them, and Florida was beckoning with sunshine and the promise of an easy life and good times. Gainesville’s businessmen welcomed those regular folks by providing facilities for camping in their cars-not as comfortable as today’s campers, but certainly the same idea. People would rig their cars up with folding side tents or convert trucks with sleeping arrangements in the truckbed. There was a national club, called “Tin Can Tourists,” which was organized in 1919 at DeSoto Park in Tampa; members were recognized by a tin can soldered to the radiator cap of a member’s car.
This is a 1922 membership card for the Tin Can Tourists
There is a modern Tin Can Tourist’s Vintage Trailer & Motor Coach Gathering which hopes to renew the group’s goals of providing “save and clean camping areas, wholesome entertainment, and high moral values.” One camp was located in Gainesville and another in Archer. The location of this camp is believed to be the present-day site of Alachua General Hospital (or Shands at AGH).
Today’s travelers move on superhighways and stay in modern motels; they also have the choice of traveling in campers or recreational vehicles that offer many of the comforts of home. But in the 1920s after World War I, when many folks began moving to Florida, moving meant braving uncertain lodging. Tin Can tourism (using the car and a tent for lodging) was a common solution. One camp, aptly named “Tin Can Tourist Camp,” was located in Gainesville and another with the same name was in Archer southeast of the Maddox Foundry. The location of this camp is believed to be the present-day site of Alachua General Hospital (or Shands at AGH). Very close inspection of this photograph shows a traveling truck-home that had “Adams Autohome” painted on it while one of the canvas-top automobiles had pennants that said “Chicago” and “Sister Lakes.” William Reuben Thomas, Gainesville’s very progressive and business-minded mayor, promoted tin can tourism, hoping to lure new citizens to the area.
TCT Convention in Tampa in 1949. This picture is of the area set aside for Trailer Dealers! Besides being a typical rally get together, the TCT Rallies back in the day would have MANY trailers set up by dealers and companies showing the new models of trailers being produced! The cars in the photo were likely the vehicles used to pull all of these trailers!!!! They all have heavy duty hicthes on the back! Being that the TCT Convention would have been in the Winter, these new trailers might have been the new 1950 Models to come out.
Twenty-fifth annual Tin Can Tourists convention at Tampa Fl 1948
Tin Can Tourists playing shuffleboard at a Dade City Fl camp 1936
Tin Can Tourists in Indialantic Fl 1922
Tin Can Tourists Gainesville, Florida 1921
Tin Can Tourists’ convention hall picture
Tin Can Tourists convention dinner preparation Eustis FL 1969
Tin Can Tourists convention at Dade city
Tin Can Tourists convention 1953 Arcadia Fl
Tin Can Tourists camping park in De Land FL 1930
Tin Can Tourists’ band Sarasota, Florida 1940
Tin Can Tourists at De Soto Park in Tampa Fl 1920
Tin Can Tourists at De Soto Park in Fl 1920
Tin Can tourists at Arcadia Fl 1947
Tin Can Tourists Arcadia, Florida 1933
TCT in Arcadia Fl 1947
TCT Arcadia Fl
Preparing Thanksgiving turkeys at Tin Can Tourists 1952 convention Melbourne FL
House car of L.N. Barlow at Tin Can Tourists convention 1929 Arcadia picture
House car named Harriet at Tin Can Tourists convention 1929 Arcadia picture
House car at Tin Can Tourists convention Arcadia picture 1929
Barbecue at a Tin Can Tourists convention
1942 Ad from Trailer Topics Magazine for the TCT summer Convention
1929 Tin Can Tourists convention Arcadia, Florida
1930s TCT Brass Plaque
1921 Ford Topics Article
1941 TCT Rally Advertisement
1922 Tin Can Tourists camp: Gainesville, Florida