Airstream: Take a Sentimental Journey in This Vintage Ride
Sleek, luxurious and stylish, the Airstream has been the gold standard for travel trailers ever since the first model hit the road in 1931. Not only did the brand become synonymous with cross country travel in the U.S. but it was also a familiar sight in popular tourist destinations around the world. The travel icon has now been immortalized in Patrick R. Foster's pictorial history, Airstream: America’s World Traveler.
The mastermind behind the Airstream was Wally Byam, a native of Baker City, Oregon who fell in love with camping and outdoor living at an early age. When travel trailers began to gain popularity in the 1920s, Byam envisioned his own idealized version and built it in his backyard in 1929. At the time, the Covered Wagon trailer, mass produced by Arthur Sherman, was the leader in the market but as soon as Byam began manufacturing his version in 1931, Airstream became increasingly popular with travelers, even in the midst of the Great Depression.
Airstream models were built for comfort and longevity. Many Airstreams that were manufactured in the Thirties are still on the road today. The Torpedo Car Cruiser was the first factory model created by Airstream and was followed by the Silver Bullet and the Silver Cloud. These early models were designed from wood, glass and masonite but with the Airstream Clipper, Byam introduced the first trailer to be made of aluminum alloy.
Constantly refining and improving upon each new model, the Airstream line was well insulated, featured comfortable living quarters inside and was constructed for the lightest possible weight. Byron’s marketing skills were original, intuitive and often humorous as you can see from the above advertisement which envisions the trailers as traveling rooms for specific purposes.
During World War II when aluminum became indispensable for military uses, Airstream had to cut back its production but the travel trailer soon recovered its lost momentum beginning in 1947, culminating in the brand’s peak during the years 1960-1973.
Byam was always innovating and creating new versions of his original tear-drop design such as a special gold anodized trailer (pictured above) which mirrored the popularity of brightly colored automobiles in the 1950s.
The Airstream models were perfect for long distance trips with the entire family and could travel almost anywhere and in any kind of weather: the beach, the mountains, just about any place where there was a road.
Beginning in the mid-Seventies, Airstream began to suffer a decrease in popularity but the company has bounced back from the recession years and is enjoying a major revival today. Airstream: America’s World Traveler is a wonderful pictorial tribute to the brand and creator Wally Byam. Even if you don’t own an Airstream, you can enjoy a vicarious cross country journey through the pages of this book.