The history of mobile homes begins with the advent of good paved highways, which touched off a national motoring craze in the period between world wars. For the first time, Americans had the leisure time, the machinery and the all-weather roads they needed to tour the country. They were encouraged by such visionaries as Glenn Curtiss, who set out to travel in the most homelike environment he could build.
He created a lavish “motor bungalow” as early as 19l9. In 1928, he revamped his design and called it the Aerocar. It looked, on the outside, like a fancy horse trailer. It featured four berths, a galley, running water and an “observatory cockpit with a glass roof,” according to Wheel Estate, and cost a whopping $2,500.
A more proletarian option, at only $395, was the Covered Wagon. A Michigan bacteriologist named Arthur Sherman designed and began mass-producing this trailer, which was compartmentalized like a dollhouse, in 1929, after a nightmarish family vacation during which he spent an hour wrestling with an uncooperative tent trailer in pouring rain.
Made of plywood, the Covered Wagon appeared boxy, but the interior was comfortable and plushly appointed. Sherman started the business in his garage and by 1936 had become the largest manufacturer in the travel-trailer industry.
Above quoted from 'House Trailers' by Chiori Santiago - an article in the June, 1998 'Smithsonian.'
The Aerocar - sophisticated, streamlined, and lightweight - was the precursor of today's travel-trailer.
It was pneumatically hitched to the car with a horizontal rubber donut in a steel box, cushioning shock forward, back, up, down, and sideways.
The Curtiss Aerocar Co. was formed in 1928 with manufacturing in Opa-Locka, FL, and existed until 1941 (old friend Hugh Robinson was its president).
“Licensing to build was also granted to several companies, including Briggs Body Corp. and The Stutz Motor Car Co. Being High-end in price, all vehicles were built to order. Not only available as a stylish camper, the cars were also used as buses, traveling show rooms, offices, horse trailers for thoroughbreds, and even a zoo on wheels.” - Rick Leisenring
In August, 1928, Curtiss pulled an Aerocar (above) Miami-New York, in 39 hours!
Curtiss developed the Curtiss Aerocar - the precursor of today's travel trailer. Together they started the Aerocar Co, the town of Opa locka’s first business. According to local writer Dr George Vergara author of Hugh Robinson: Aviation Pioneer, the company built the custom automobile trailers using the same wooden frame and fabric technology developed for early airplanes (This Aerocar should not be confused with another product of the same name by Moulton B Taylor ) Robinson moved Aerocar to Coral Gables assembling his trailers at a LeJeune Road site now occupied by a Publix supermarket. The plant closed in its sole product supplanted by fiberglass trailers.
This travel trailer was built in Michigan by the Aerocar Company of Detroit. These trailers were manufactured commercially at several locations in the U.S.A. at facilities that were licensed by the Aerocar Corporation.
This style of travel trailer was invented in about 1927 by Glenn Curtiss, a leading American aircraft designer. By using airplane principles he felt that he could build a trailer that was lightweight, but strong enough to travel over country roads.
The trailers' long streamlined bodies had a framework made of vertical oak struts and horizontal longerons that were connected by diagonally crossed nickel steel airplane truss wires. These wires had tumbl,lckles that were used to “tune” them to maximum tension, thus giving rigidity to the structure. Because of this design, the trailers had no actual chassis.
The wheels on the trailers were placed at the extreme rear end and the front had a long, curved, V-shaped prow with a hitch that rested in the rear deck of a coupe or roadster. The hitcri utilized a “Glenn Curtiss Aero Coupler”, which consisted of an airplane tire and wheel mounted horizontally. This arrangement was an effective cushion against road shock.
The trailers were covered on the outside with fabric which was stretched tightly over tempered Masonite panels. All Curtiss Aerocar trailers were custom made, one at a time, according to the customer's specific requirements. In the late 1930'5, a model such as this one would sell for about $5,000.
A trailer business of a different sort is largely monopolized by Aerocar Co. of Detroit and Curtiss Aerocar Co. of Coral Gables, Fla. These two completely separate concerns control patents originally obtained by Glenn Curtiss, specialize in custom-built trailers costing from $1,000 to $5,000. Known as the “Rolls-Royces of the industry,” Aerocars have been bought by W. K. Vanderbilt, Joseph E. Widener, Philip K. Wrigley, many another tycoon with an itching foot. U. S. Ambassador to Denmark Ruth Bryan Owen toured Europe in one. Oilman Henry L. Doherty owns two, also owns much Curtiss Aerocar Co. stock.
Did you know that famed aviation pioneer Glenn H. Curtiss also pioneered travel trailers? He was working on them early as 1917. He wasn't satisfied with the hitches of those early days, so he developed his own, the first fifth wheel hitch for trailers.
Curtiss mounted an actual wheel and tire horizontally over the rear axle of the tow car using four clamps in a square frame. The pin on the trailer was locked into the hub of the wheel. The inflated tire helped to dampen road vibrations and shocks, improving the ride and reducing wear and tear on the trailer. His hitch and the trailers he also designed were sold up until about 1940.
Ken and Lana Hindley: http://hindleysgarage.com/
“It's a labor of love,” says Ken Hindley, 67. He and wife Lana, 62, are attending with their 1936 Curtiss Aerocar — a handsome, gunmetal gray behemoth pulled by an equally enormous 1938 International truck. Hindley found both vehicles crushed and deteriorating under a collapsed barn five miles from the couple's Union, Ontario, home in 1981. He restored them himself — a theme prevalent among the rally's participants. “I enjoy it,” he says. “You can't get mad. You just keep doing it till you get it done.” - Detroit Metro Times
Wallace, Henry - 1938 Curtiss Aerocar Travel Trailer