PORTABLE LEVITTOWN, a homage to the post-war house on wheels. These stylish rolling abodes were a mobile counterpart to the mass-produced tract house suburbs that were built in America during the mid-20th century. 

Our house on wheels website begins with a chronology of the mid-20th century trailer. America's mobile movement began with "trailer houses" in the 1920s.  It advanced to the "mobile home" of the early 1950s, "12-wide" of the 1960s and "double-wide" and "14-wide" units of the 1970s.
Click on image for a larger view.


By the 1930s, the basic "trailer house" of the 1920s had evolved into the more elaborate -and slightly larger- "trailer coach". In these mass-produced units, everything was built-in. Seating areas and kitchen facilities were stationary, as were sleeping accommodations. The rig might even include a heating unit or furnace.


Above we see a very vintage trailer coach advert. Chicago's Kozy Coach Company was building an 8 by 16 footer in 1938. At the time, the typical unit did not have a complete bathroom. This feature would not appear until the early 1940s and did not become standard until the early 1950s.
Advert from http://www.allmanufacturedhomes.com (Atlas Mobile Home Museum)


The global conflict of the first half of the 1940s created a pronounced housing shortage and mass market for the trailer coach. Around this time, it evolved into two different types of abodes.

A smaller unit, 8 feet in width and around 20 feet in length, became known as a "travel trailer" or "RV" (recreational vehicle). It was small and light enough to be towed by an automobile and was used primarily as a camping unit.

Early versions of the "house trailer" or "mobile home" were also 8 feet in width but could extend for up to 40 feet. These larger rigs were usually towed -by truck- to a lot and set up as a permanent residence.

By the late 1940s, the big promotional buzz word of the day was LIVEABILITY. There could be "room to spare" in quarters no larger that 200 square feet...or so said the typical mobile home advertisement.

Naturally, super-compact designs made sure that every inch of interior space was used in the most efficient manner possible!


The quote-unquote "spacious" living room seen above might seem cramped by today's standards. One needs to take into account the severe housing shortage that gripped the nation in the years immediately following World War II. The typical family of the time would have considered themselves fortunate to be living in such an abode. How times change!  
Advert from New Moon Homes, Incorporated


The original caption reads "With the accent on interior designing in 1949 models, the mobile home builders have concentrated on beautiful wall surfaces. In the home shown here, living room walls are of luxurious wood, decoratively pegged and topped with a fluted cornice which conceals indirect lighting. Wall-to-wall carpeting, draw draperies and an upholstered valance complete the picture of livability."
Photo from the Milwaukee Sentinel

A typical mobile home from 1950. At the time, a "trailer" with full bathroom facilities was cutting edge. Yes, there WAS a complete bathroom, but it usually was not walled off from the hallway and rear bedroom. The body design du jour had rounded ends. The standard interior width was 8 feet, with chassis lengths reaching 30 feet.
                                         Click on image for a larger view


A "Parade Of Homes" mobile home show, circa 1953. An outdoor event is depicted here, but many were held indoors in arenas and exhibition centers. Later, as shopping plazas began dotting the suburban landscape, shows would be set up in their vast parking areas. 
Drawing from the Milwaukee Sentinel


A mid-century Mr. & Mrs. attend a "Gallery of Homes" mobile home show. These events were a popular way for manufacturers to debut new models. They were also a way for Americans to while away leisure hours. 
Drawing from the Milwaukee Sentinel

Soon after the advent of the very first trailer coaches, a mobile subculture developed which celebrated the new freedom found in living on the road. The terms TRAILERITE and TIN CAN TOURIST had become part of the American vernacular by 1936.

Living full time in their 20 by 8 foot "apartments on wheels", devotees of trailer houses numbered 100,000 by the mid-1930s. Some families had adopted a house on wheels habitat while travelling the country searching for employment. Others of better means used their portable abodes as a travelling vacation home.


"Trailerite", or one who resides year-round in a trailer coach or "house on wheels", had been established in the American vernacular by the mid-1930s. At that time, there was no negative connotation...
Drawing From the Milwaukee Sentinel 
 

A cut-away view shows the orientation of a mid-1950s house trailer. This model even includes a special space for that brand-new television set! 
Drawing from the Milwaukee Sentinel
                                        Click on image for a larger view


The floor plan above depicts an 8 by 40 foot model. The standard floor plan has not changed appreciably since the 1930s. There would always be a bedroom in the rear, a bath, perhaps a second (walk-thru) bedroom, then a kitchen and living area. The rounded-ends design of the late '40s had given way to a more squared, and less aerodynamic, body style. Price-wise, mobile homes were selling for between $2,000 and $7,500.
                                          Click on image for a larger view

           CLICK ON "Older Posts" TO CONTINUE