In Europe, the origins of travel trailers and caravanning can be traced back to travelling Romani people (‘Gypsies’), and showmen who spent most of their lives in horse-drawn caravans.
Samuel White Baker purchased an actual Gypsy caravan in Britain and shipped it to Cyprus for his tour in 1879. The world’s first leisure trailer was built by the Bristol Carriage Company in 1880 for Dr. William Gordon Stables, a popular author of teenage adventure fiction, who ordered a “gentleman’s caravan”. It was an 18-foot (5.5 m) design, based upon their Bible Wagons, which Stables named Wanderer. He travelled around the British countryside in it and later wrote a book documenting his travels in 1885 called The Gentleman Gypsy.
By the turn of the century, “caravanning” for leisure had become an increasingly popular activity. In 1901, the first dedicated caravanning club was established. The Camping and Caravanning Club (originally the Association of Cycle Campers) was founded by Thomas Hiram Holding, the father of modern camping. The Caravan Club was founded in 1907 with Stables as its president. Its stated aim was to “… bring together those interested in van life as a pastime…to improve and supply suitable vans and other appliances…and to arrange camping grounds.”
Caravanning gained popularity in North America in the 1920s. One of the first home-built house trailers in America was built by John “Jack” Anthony Porcella, grocer-barber-restaurateur-miner in 1933 who traveled extensively throughout the western states.
Modern travel trailers come in a range of sizes, from tiny two-berth trailers with no toilet and only basic kitchen facilities, to large, triple-axle, six-berth types.
View the full interactive History of the Caravan