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Video: Here Today and Gone Tomorrow: Homes on Wheels

Yesteryear Travel: Homes on Wheels

In the late 1930s, mass produced travel trailers had already been around for a decade, offering a more promising leisure mobile future than rocket ships or railroad zeppelins. Roads could still be awful, but were improving. The migrations of millions to chase jobs in the depths of the Depression and the Dust Bowl led to the rootless meanderings of a new class of auto vagabonds -- and everyman travel for its own sake.

This short segment of a 1937 car company-sponsored newsreel takes us to what it calls "Trailer City, Florida," a mobile home park where travelers can live for a dollar-a-week. "In a trailer," says the narrator, "modern conveniences are within the reach of those of limited means, many of whom could not afford them before." Despite the palm trees and cheap rates, Trailer City's residents are back on the highway as soon as "the American travel instinct urges them away."

If you look closely at the footage inside the "curio shop on wheels" you'll see a stuffed iguana; it resembles the Lone Star Iguana, which its artist-builder told us was inspired by a stuffed iguana!

The newsreel was produced for Chevrolet by the Jam Handy Organization, prolific purveyors of industrial film goodness in the 1930s and '40s.

Complete film at

Old Films: Fascinating!

Yesteryear Travel.

The Team has a special appreciation for archival films -- from family home movies to sponsored travel shorts. Senior editor Ken Smith is author of "Mental Hygiene," the definitive book-form history of America's classroom educational and industrial films. He was an archivist and cataloger for Rick Prelinger in the early days of the Prelinger Archives. This film is made available through the Prelinger Archives.

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