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America on the Move
Collection Exhibition Themes
Transportation in America before 1876 Community Dreams: Santa Cruz, California, 1876 Delivering the Goods: Watsonville, California, 1895 A Streetcar City: Washington, D.C., 1900 Roadside Communities: Ring's Rest, Muirkirk, Maryland, 1930s The People's Highway: Route 66, 1930s-1940s Lives on the Railroad: Salisbury, North Carolina, 1927 Americans Adopt the Auto Crossing the Country: Somewhere in Wyoming, 1903 The Connected City: New York, New York, 1920s People on the Move On the School Bus: Martinsburg, Indiana, 1939 Suburban Strip: Sandy Boulevard, Portland, Oregon, 1949 City and Suburb: Chicago and Park Forest, Illinois, 1950s On the Interstate: I-10, 1956-1990 Transforming the Waterfront: San Francisco and Oakland, California, 1960-1970 Going Global: Los Angeles Introduction Decatur Motor Camp The Trailer 'Problem'
Family Camping

York Beach, Maine, 1930s

The Cate family is on vacation at Decatur Motor Camp, York Beach, on the southern coast of Maine. It’s late afternoon and the Cates are settling down after their day. Mrs. Cate and her daughter are preparing dinner in the trailer; Mr. Cate is relaxing with a magazine in a sling chair. Visitors can peer inside their Trav-L-Coach and see the ingenious design of this 1930s mode of travel.

View from the exhibition
View from the exhibition

At Home on the Road

In the 1930s, as more and more Americans enjoyed paid vacations and access to automobiles, many families purchased or made house trailers. Ads promoted trailer life as a way to strengthen family ties through the pleasures of a vacation on the road. Trailers built in the 1930s were scaled-down versions of a home, with foldout beds, stoves, sinks, and other amenities that let a family travel without having to pay for a hotel or meals. Although taking the housekeeping on the road often meant that women did not have much of a holiday, trailers provided a way for hundreds of thousands of people to take vacations.

Every summer in the late 1930s and 1940s, the Cate family of New Hampshire towed their Trav-L-Coach house trailer to York Beach on the southern coast of Maine. They stayed at one of the thousands of trailer camps that sprang up around the country to accommodate this new form of tourism. There, like other middle-class families, they spent a week in a vacation cottage on wheels.

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