The recreation vehicle industry celebrates its centennial in 2010, but curiosity seekers can take in the sweep of RV history any time they choose with a visit to the RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum & Library at Exit 96 on the Indiana Toll Road in Elkhart, Ind.
The Recreation Vehicle/Mobile Home Heritage Foundation moved into this 56,000-square-foot facility east of Elkhart in 2007, according to The Detroit News.
Inside are a theater, library, and a display of several of newest and largest motorhomes and travel trailers, but the primary attraction is the two huge halls that house a collection of RVs that include a 1913 travel trailer that is believed to be the oldest in existence.
However, it is not the oldest RV.
“The first motorized campers were built in 1910,” said David Woodworth, an RV historian whose extensive personal collection fills one of the two primary display halls.
“Camping has been around for centuries,” adds Al Hesselbart, the museum’s archivist and on-site RV historian, “but 1910 is when the first auto-related camping vehicles were built for commercial sale.”
Pierce-Arrow introduced showed its “Touring Landau” housecar in 1910, the same year that the Los Angeles Trailer Works and Auto-Kamp Trailers, based in Saginaw, Mich., started selling travel trailers.
The RVs on display in the museum include a 1924 Auto-Kamp trailer and a 1928 Pierce-Arrow.
The oldest RV on display in the museum is a 1913 Earl travel trailer that was custom-built for a California college professor. The trailer is displayed hitched to a vintage Model T Ford.
A winding path leads visitors along the tour of historic travel trailers and motorhomes. Many are set in period vignettes that include displays of vintage camping gear. Some of the units are open so visitors can explore inside them.