Two-Story British Trailer (1952)

Popular Mechanics, May 1952

Two-story British Trailer - Only 24 feet long, the two-bedroom trailer maneuvers easily. Its over-all height is 12 feet 3 inches, including the chimney.

Only 24 feet long, the two-bedroom trailer maneuvers easily. Its over-all height is 12 feet 3 inches, including the chimney.

Two-Story British Trailer (1952) - Stairway to second-floor room can be seen to the left of the fireplace.You go upstairs to bed in a roomy British trailer built as a comfortable family residence. Two full-time double bedrooms eliminate the nuisance of converting living space into sleeping space nightly. The upper room is reached by a stairway from the living room. Other features of the trailer, which is called a caravan in Britain, are a complete bathroom, separate kitchen and a wood or coal-burning fireplace.

Left, stairway to second-floor room can be seen to the left of the fireplace.  Below, a cutaway view of the roomy trailer

Two-Story British Trailer (1952) - A cutaway view of the roomy trailer .

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Combination BED-TENT fits on car top (1952)

Popular Mechanics, March 1952

Combination BED-TENT fits on car top (1952) - Popular Mechanics, March 1952

By Austin H. Phelps

VACATION campers, hunters and others who prefer to “go light” on both long and short trips will appreciate the compact utility of this bed-tent. It combines the weather protection of a sturdy tent and the comfort of a four-poster bed in one unit which folds into a flat bundle easily transported on any car-top carrier. The mattress and all bedding remain inside when the unit is folded for transport. Although, as dimensioned, the bed frame will accommodate an innerspring mattress of three-quarter size, most campers will prefer an air mattress, as it is much lighter, more compact, and easier to keep clean. Other bedding in addition to the mattress can be whatever the climate and season require. It takes only a few moments to ready the unit for occupancy. There are no stakes to drive and no ridgepole to string. Merely unstrap the unit and slide it from the car carrier, open the folding legs, pull up the self-locking ridgepole and there you are.

The first step in the construction is to build the angle-steel frame shown in the plan detail below. Cut the side and end-pieces to length and square the ends with a file. Position the pieces and mark and center-punch for bolt holes at the corners. Note that the frame is assembled with the angle web up on both the sides and ends. Drill holes for the corner bolts and also drill holes in the vertical webs for screws which hold hardwood strips. The strips are attached to the angles as detailed, using short flat-headed screws. Next, cut the plywood bottom and headboard, but, before installing the bottom, make sure that the frame is square. Then attach the plywood bottom with 1/4-in. flat-headed stove bolts with the heads countersunk in the wood and the nuts turned on from the bottom so that they bear against the steel angle.

Combination BED-TENT details (1952) - Popular Mechanics, March 1952

Note in the details on the opposite page that there is a headboard cut from 3/8-in. plywood and placed at the head of the bed inside the frame. Next, bolt on the wooden facing strips, noting that the carrying-handle brackets at the rear of the bed frame fit over the facing strips. Weld hanger brackets at the front and rear of the frame on the right-hand side to form bearing brackets for the roller as in the lower de-tail on the opposite page.

Combination BED-TENT details (1952) - Popular Mechanics, March 1952

Note in the detail that the length of the ridgepole and the purlins is given as 7 ft., but, before cutting material, take careful measurements, as this dimension may vary. Flatten the ends of the conduit uprights in a vise, round the ends with a file and drill for 1/4-in. bolts. Make the 45-deg. bends in the ridgepole supports. Then assemble the three units and clamp them in position on the frame so that you can locate the holes for the purlin frames, the ridgepole, and also the holes for the over-center braces. After these parts have been bolted in place —note that all bolts are provided with wing nuts — assemble the roller, or winding drum, as in the lower details on the opposite page. As will be seen from the detail, the roller is provided with a removable crank and a ratchet-type lock which permits tightening the canvas to a uniform tension and holding the adjustment.

Combination BED-TENT details (1952) - Popular Mechanics, March 1952

Make four folding legs from flat steel as in the center right-hand detail on the opposite page. The leg brackets are bolted to the underside of the angle-steel frame at the corners and are provided with folding braces. At this stage the bed is placed on a level floor and the purlins and ridgepole are raised so that accurate measurements can be taken for cutting the canvas covering to fit. Note that the covering is attached to the frame on the left side with grommets and fasteners and that the right-hand edge is tacked to the roller. When tacking the canvas to the roller, allowance must be made for shrinkage of the fabric. The canvas closure at the head of the bed is provided with a plastic-screened opening and a separate canvas closure which is opened and closed by means of a sash, or awning, cord as shown. A slide fastener provides a double fly for opening the front of the tent covering. Both canvas ends are fastened at the bottom with grommets and are held taut with cord looped over the purlins and ridgepole. Locate the car-carrier shoes by placing the folded unit on the car-top carrier and marking pencil lines to indicate the position of the shoes. After bending to the required size from 1/8 x 1-in. flat iron, the shoes are attached to the bot-tom of the bed with stove bolts. Apply two coats of spar varnish to the plywood bot-tom, headboard and wooden rails and enamel metal parts in whatever color desired.

Combination BED-TENT fits on car top (1952) - Popular Mechanics, March 1952

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Cities of the Dead

21st Century Digital #31

Highsmith, Carol M, photographer. Cities of the Dead Cemetery tombs, New Orleans, Louisiana. 2007.

Cities of the Dead Cemetery tombs, New Orleans, Louisiana. 2007.

The above-ground tombs in New Orleans cemeteries are often referred to as “cities of the dead.” Enter the cemetery gates, and you will be greeted by rusty decorative ironwork and blinded by sun-bleached tombs. Crosses and statues jutting from tomb surfaces cast contrasting shadows, adding to the sense of mystery. Votive candles line tombs on holidays, reminding you that the dead have living relatives who still care.

New Orleans has always respected its dead, but this isn’t the reason that our departed loved ones are interred above ground. Early settlers in the area struggled with different methods to bury the dead. Burial plots are shallow in New Orleans because the water table is very high. Dig a few feet down, and the grave becomes soggy, filling with water. The casket will literally float. You just can’t keep a good person down! The early settlers tried placing stones in and on top of coffins to weigh them down and keep them underground. Unfortunately, after a rainstorm, the rising water table would literally pop the airtight coffins out of the ground. To this day, unpredictable flooding still lifts the occasional coffin out of the ground in areas above the water table, generally considered safe from flooding. (Experience New Orleans)

Photograph retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/item/2010630059/. (Accessed March 06, 2017.)

Photograph: Carol M. Highsmith

Credit line: Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Medium: 1 photograph : digital, TIFF file, color.

Highsmith, a distinguished and richly published American photographer, has donated her work to the Library of Congress since 1992. Starting in 2002, Highsmith provided scans or photographs she shot digitally with new donations to allow rapid online access throughout the world. Her generosity in dedicating the rights to the American people for copyright free access also makes this Archive a very special visual resource.

Note – This image has been digitally adjusted for one or more of the following:
– fade correction,
– color, contrast, and/or saturation enhancement
– selected spot and/or scratch removal
– cropped for composition and/or to accentuate subject matter
– straighten image

21st Century Digital, landscape, Louisiana, photography
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Touring A La Cart (1937)

How to Build Trailers1

There’s no place like home – but when your home is in a trailer you can go where you will as free of house ties as the winds.  Here is the lure and lore of the open road.

Where ever the car can go. there goes the trailer home. For hunting or camping it is ideal, and the task of pulling up stakes to break camp consists of but starting the car. (1937)

Here is an interior view of the modern Covered Wagon-trailer. Plenty of room for all your fishing tackle and other equipment is afforded by lockers placed below the folding bed. (How to Build Trailers, 1937)

(Right, above) Inside this streamlined Aladdin Trailer home one finds all the conveniences of a deluxe apartment. The cutaway section at top reveals its roomy brightness, and the floor plan below shows the arrangement of appointments.

THE American gypsy spirit is building a huge new industry about the auto camp trailer. No less than 400 firms are building land yachts for auto touring.

Roger Babson, eminent statistician, declares that within 20 years over 20,000,000 people will own and use trailers.

Since there are so many trailers available, and since you, by the law of averages, are destined to become a trailer user, a few guiding principles born of experience will enable you to accurately judge the worth of a trailer design, and will forearm you with knowledge in the matter of touring a la your own “cart.” The first question that arises is usually, “What is the weight and size of most trailers? Can my car handle one easily? Do they cost much to own and operate?”

The length of the average trailer is from 12 to 17 feet over all. A good average is about 15 feet. In a trailer of this size from 2 to 4 persons, with all duffle, can be comfortably housed on a tour of long duration. The weight of such a trailer will be from 1,200 to 1,800 pounds, with 1,500 pounds about the average.

Full headroom is needed for a six-footer. This is furnished by crowning the roof well, or by constructing a “lantern” type roof similar to a street car, affording room for the head. Widths are a function of the bed length—from 72 to 77 inches. The latest trend is to use regular springs and mattresses instead of a day couch or davenport. Then no special linens are required.

The true trailer is of two-wheeled construction. It is the most popular, least expensive. Over an upset steel axle, two wheels are used to carry the load. A steel framework leading to a towing tongue is sprung to this axle. Upon the towing frame-work is erected the floor and the side pillars which constitute the body framing. All early trailers used wooden members for side framing, and this is quite satisfactory, as it is light. Usually the framework is bolted to steel channel lengths in the floor framework, making a light and rigid structure. Bodies are variously covered with dural, with pressed wood, with plywood, or with leatherette over mesh wire. Invariably an interior ceiling of light plywood is used. The air space between inner and outer walls is needed for insulation against heat and cold.

One of the most vital parts of the trailer is the hitch. Upon this link depends the safety of not only the occupants but all other cars on the road. A trailer hitch of the type shown above has been found to be one of the most dependable. Note that extra safety is provided by a chain.

One of the most vital parts of the trailer is the hitch. Upon this link depends the safety of not only the occupants but all other cars on the road. A trailer hitch of the type shown above has been found to be one of the most dependable. Note that extra safety is provided by a chain.

A semi-trailer type is found in the deluxe classification. This is a long trailer which imposes most of the weight on a turn-table platform installed in the rumble seat of the towing car. These greater accommodations require a roadster type car, and cannot be readily detached, as the weight is about 500 pounds on the forward end. On the true-trailer, the weights run from 125 to 150 pounds—light enough for a man to freely detach and park it in his backyard.

Extra Gallon of Gas Pulls Trailer 100 Miles

There is nothing gloomy or crowded about the interior of this Gilkie trailer. The ply-wood furnishes a light, strong method of construction, pleasing to the eye and easy to keep clean on the road. || The ocean can be brought right into your front yard when you own a trailer home. Scenes such as that above are duplicated at thousands of beaches. Left —One of newer types of trailer becoming popular.

A ball and socket towing arm, allowing independent movement for the trailer is be-coming universally used, and in some states is specified by law. Pin type yokes are to be avoided. Chains must be used as an auxiliary hitch to prevent accidents should the trailer hitch fail and the tow become wild.

Home builders of trailers usually purchase wheels, axles and have the welded frame made up for them, completing the woodwork themselves.

Tests on towing costs have resulted in the following acceptable averages: a trailer will cost 1 gallon of gas for every 100 miles towed. This presumes a light sedan used for towing, which is in good condition and not prone to using more than the normal amount of oil.

See to it that your trailer caravan has adequate locker provision for spare tire and worm jack for the trailer, a good old-fashioned kerosene lantern, tow rope, shovel, blocking boards, spare haywire, and a small kit of tools are aboard the trailer.

See to it also, in addition to the locker space required for the items mentioned above, that a sealed gurry bucket for garbage is installed which may be emptied at some fill after breaking camp.

Carry a most complete first aid kit and familiarize yourself in its use. And—this is important—carry TWO fire extinguishers.

Another matter is the water. The best tank is a seamless steel tank, with handhole plates for cleaning, and which has been tinned inside. This keeps water safe and furnishes an ample supply for long runs.


  1. Published by Modern Mechanix Publishing Company, Fawcett Publications Bldg., Greenwich, Conn.,1937

The first two images were actually a two page spread in the original publication:

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1937 Speed Laws and Gasoline Taxes

from How to Build Trailers (1937)

Speed Laws and Gasoline Taxes in Effect in the United States 1937

history, vintage image
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