Camping in America On Wheels
The automobile is an American institution. From its beginnings in the early 1900’s the automobile produced enormous changes in people’s lives. In the 1930’s family touring, vacationing, and camping was beginning to come into its own. Car owners soon discovered that their automobiles could not handle the family and the luggage needed for the adventures on the American highways. (1.)
Even when the Depression hit in the thirties, camping did not decline. This was due in part to camping’s low cost and partly to automobiles being the last amenity to be surrendered in hard times. People saw auto camping as an economic alternative to traditional travel where there were train fares and hotel bills. Times may have been tough, but people saw camping as a way to continue travel. Many travel trailers were homemade, and even a manufactured one could be bought for as little as $119.50 (about $1,600 today). Trailers were sold by the thousands.
One manufacturing company that saw the need and acted was the Mullins Company of Salem, Ohio, with their Mullins Red Cap Utility Trailer. The original concept for the Red Cap started in 1935 when a prototype model was built, and in 1936 the manufacturing began. The Red Cap was the only fully engineered, all steel, two wheel auto trailer on the market. It had just about everything the tourist, salesman, sportsman, or farmer could ask – small, compact, with sleeping accomodations with the camping tent kit, and a load limit of 1,200 pounds. It sold for only $119.50, f.o.b. Salem.
The Red Cap trailer was in demand but the merchandising cost was so high that Mullins discontinued production after two years with approximately 2,000 trailers being built. The Red Cap trailer is popular today in restored condition or as a fiberglass reproduction. The design has withstood the sands of time as no other utility trailer has done. A Mullins trailer being towed by any type of vehicle always turns heads whether it is an original or a reproduction.This new camping diorama exhibit at the America On Wheels Museum in Allentown, PA depicts a camping scene as it would have been in the mid-thirties with a restored 1936 Mullins Red Cap Utility Trailer Serial No. 2802 being towed by a restored 1930 Ford Model A Sedan, one of the most popular family cars of the time. Numerous authentic period accessories and mannequins complete the lifelike display.
Be sure to visit America On Wheels www.americaonwheels.org to experience this wonderful display of American family travel history and see if you can identify all the components and accessories. Also consider joining the Mullins Owners Club dedicated to the restoration and preservation of the Mullins Red Cap All Steel Utility Trailer by contacting Charles E. Wilson at moc.loanull@ecnosliw. Share your “fondest camping story” and America On Wheels will showcase a special display from October through December. We invite the community to enjoy writing and being part of this unique display says Museum Director, Linda Merkel. Submit photo and brief story by September 7th. Happy writing!
- Excerpts from Mullins Red Cap Utility Trailer by Robert Parmelee, Copyright 1998