Late-night cook offs, snug kitchens and the wide open road – just some of the simple joys of the humble camping holiday.
These black-and-white photographs show the early days of ‘tin can tourism’ in the 1920s – when Americans first piled their swimsuits and kitchenware into newly-modified vehicles for camping holidays in the South.
The vacations were made possible by the newly-lain roads in Florida, which allowed mobile northerners to venture south and explore the state’s communities away from the more developed cities on the east and west coasts.
Families rattled down the Dixie Highway from Montreal to Miami – which was completed in 1915 – to visit the state, shifting its small towns. Trailer parks, roadside attractions and amusements began cropping up throughout the state to manage the mixture of campers.
The tin can tourists of the 1920s pioneered camper travel, and the type of vacation gained popularity following World War II. While the origin of the term ‘tin can’ is not known, some believe it is a reference to the travellers’ use of canned foods.
Although the travellers were at first considered loud and unruly, they were soon embraced by residents, who realised the economic benefits of tourism. The influx also spurred construction of better roads.
There was a stark variety between the luxury of the vehicles used for travel through Florida, but many of the modified vehicles often had large metal barrels for carrying water attached on the outside of the cars. As the practice continued, trailers became more sophisticated and comfortable.
Sense of community: Men cook a barbecue at a Tin Can Tourists convention in Arcadia in the 1920s. After the influx of visitors, new attractions began popping up throughout the state. Al and Roey Stickles sit down to have a meal in their trailer at Everglades National Park in 1946
More modern times: A young woman prepares a meal at a camping convention in Gainesville, Florida in 1962
By the 1950s, state and national parks could accommodate different types and sizes of camping vehicles, while others offered swimming pools and game areas.
The images come from a collection at the State Archives of Florida which document the activities of the Tin Can Tourists association from 1920 to 1982.
Tourist attraction: Although Florida residents initially branded visitors as rowdy, they soon realised the benefits of the increased tourism and began opening businesses and adding leisure facilities to parks. Here, residents sit by the pool in Miami in 1953
Attraction: Retirees play shuffleboard at a trailer park in Clearwater, Florida in 1955
Driving the future: Visitors using a much more modern trailer at the campground of Thonotosassa park in 1961
Enduring: A group of friends picnic near a camper at St. Andrews State Park in Panama City in 1977