Home on the Road (Paperback)

The Motor Home in America

By Roger B. White

Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 9781560989141, 220pp.

Publication Date: January 17, 2001

Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (3/1/2000)

List Price: 17.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


In 1916, a midwestern farm couple placed a wood and canvas sleeping compartment on top of an automobile chassis and toured the Rockies, carrying along hens for a supply of eggs. In 1940, a streamlined Cherokee red house car owned by a well-known wax manufacturer was featured at the New York World's Fair. In 1964, Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters inaugurated the hippie movement in a psychedelic bus named Furthur. In 1992, Winnebago Industries rolled out its two hundred and fifty thousandth motor home, confirming that houses on wheels had evolved far beyond the fads and experiments of earlier decades. Throughout the twentieth century, motor homes embodied not only Americans' ingenuity, individualism, and self-reliance, but also their quest to merge the comforts of home and the freedom of the open road. Chronicling more than fifty years of individual and industrial tinkering, Roger B. White shows how the technological innovations and cultural ideas of each era influenced motor-home design and popular use. Drawing on contemporary descriptions and interviews with motorists and manufacturers, he documents the wooden house cars of the late 1910s and early 1920s, the streamlined metal vehicles of the late 1940s, and a variety of converted trailers and vans that emerged from the booming vacation market of the 1950s and 1960s. The combination of wanderlust and family togetherness symbolized by the house on wheels has continued to exert profound appeal. Tracing the motor home's development from home made conversions to mass-produced recreation vehicles, Home on the Road takes a lively look at this little-known aspect of America's love affair with the automobile.

About the Author

Roger B. White is a land transportation historian at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History.

Praise For Home on the Road: The Motor Home in America

An engaging history of America's enduring fascination with RVs, from early custom-built 'house cars' to the Merry Pranksters' Day-Glo bus to the Winnebago (The New Yorker)

Home on the Road is ultimately a social history that allows us to see beyond the kitsch commonly associated with the mobile home, uncovering the inventiveness and creativity that helped people realize their nomadic impulses. (Architecture)

America's love affair with the open road and its refusals to do without the comforts of home have produced some amazing vehicles. . . . [Roger B. White] recounts the evolution of these mobile dwellings and explains their allure as an irresistible 'combination of wanderlust and family togetherness.' The author takes a pop culture approach, including the psychedelic buses of the 60s like Ken Kesey's poetically named Furthur and Wavy Gravy's Road Hog. . . . Even in a no passing zone, this is no passing fancy. (New York Times)