1934 Trav-L-Coach house trailer

The Cate family of Lakeport, New Hampshire purchased this trailer in 1936 to serve as their vacation home. Cars and highways had created vast new recreational opportunities, and during the Depression many families who were financially stable still enjoyed driving to remote scenic areas. The Cates, like other trailer owners, thought of touring as an extension of home life, and they could afford the security, comfort, and intimacy of a manufactured cottage on wheels.
Eben Cate was a rural mail carrier on a route through several villages near Lake Winnipesaukee. He earned two weeks of vacation time per year. In 1936 he saw this trailer in a showroom in Laconia, a few miles from his home, and purchased it for pleasure trips. Eben and Vernie and their children, Rudolph and Virginia, made one trip to Florida in their new trailer in 1937, staying one night in many different locations. Every summer during the 1940s, they spent a week at Decatur Motor Camp at York Beach on the southern coast of Maine. They kept house in the trailer, went for walks, and swam in the Atlantic Ocean. Vernie did the housekeeping — not much of a vacation for her, but a change of scenery nonetheless. The Cates also visited Vernie's relatives in East Corinth, Vermont and parked the trailer "out near the barn" with an electrical hookup. The wooden trailer came equipped with a bedroom, sofa beds, table, kitchen, closets, and cupboards.
House trailers were so appealing that thousands of itinerant people lived in them full-time in the 1930s. But early residential trailer camps had poor sanitary conditions and no landscaping. Some observers believed that traditional communities were threatened by the existence of these ad hoc, transient communities. Trailers created contradictory feelings of pride and disapproval —a far cry from the euphoric autocamping outings of the 1920s.
Object Name
house trailer
Date made
Cate, Eben
Cate, Vernie
overall: 18 ft x 6 3/4 ft x 7 11/16 ft; 5.4864 m x 2.0574 m x 2.33681 m
Place Made
United States: New York, Huntington
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
See more items in
Work and Industry: Transportation, Road
Road Transportation
Sports & Leisure
America on the Move
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Greg Chandler Gove and Virginia C. Gove

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