Meet The American Who Invented The Motorhome

Jun 20, 2020

An unheralded entrepreneur born in Urbana, Ill., outwitted the titans of industry in the effort to domesticate the untamed American roads of the early 20th century. 

His name was Roland R. Conklin — and he was a visionary in the early days of the automobile. He put all the comforts of home on wheels — and in dramatic style.


"This transport was a marvel of technology and chutzpah," Smithsonian Magazine enthused.

Millionaire industrialists Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford at the same time ventured on high-profile road trips across America, generating national headlines for their celebrity glam camping — helping to popularize Model Ts and rubber tires along the way.  

"Each year the announcement of their latest summer excursion sparked endless speculation about where they might venture next," wrote author Jeff Guinn in his 2019 book, "The Vagabonds: The Story of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison’s Ten-Year Road Trip." 

Ford and friends traveled in a fleet of luxury cars.  

But neither Ford nor Firestone, names synonymous with the American auto industry, had the foresight to put a home on wheels and hit the road.


‘Tin Can Tourists’

"The Conestoga was the first RV," joked GoRVing executive Karen Redfern, noting that the horse-drawn wagons that settled the west essentially transported entire homes. "But as soon as motorized cars came along, people found ways to bring the comforts of home with them."


The COVID-19 pandemic only fueled America’s fever for the open road, said Redfern. 

RV shipments skyrocketed during the crisis, from 406,000 in the pre-pandemic year of 2019 to a record 600,000 during the height of the scare in 2021, a spectacular increase of 48 percent in just two years. The average age of a first-time buyer dropped by a decade, to 33 years old. 

"Being outdoors in a controlled environment with your family seemed like the safest place to be," said Redfern of GoRVing. 


Read the full article from FOX News here