David Burel and Leeloo

David Burel, Interdisciplinary

Humanities and Communication, ASU

Monday, May 24, 2021,

2:30-3:30 pm,

An ASA Zoom Webinar*


How many of us were moved by the poignancy of the 2021 Best Picture Oscar-winner “Nomadland” to recall incidents from our own past acquaintance with some form of mobile “home”? How many still are tempted by the call of the open road to daydream about taking off in one of the many kinds of RV available today? Dr. David Burel, Clinical Assistant Professor at Arizona State University, will lead us on a historical tour of recreational vehicles in American culture.


A 1920 House Car Diagram, from Ray F. Kuns, Trailer Engineering, 1937.

The story starts with the history of the automobile’s early use for recreational activities, particularly camping, and traces the role of enthusiasts who looked to improve their travel experiences through fusing the automobile with shelter technology. The first recreational vehicle group in the country, the Tin Can Tourists of the World, with their home-crafted house cars and trailers of the 1920s, showed America what it meant to travel in this style. In the 1930s inter-related technological and social developments saw the launch of the manufacturing industry for RVs, leading to prognostication that “trailers” would end the housing woes of the era. A brief survey of the RV landscape since World War II leads to analysis of the culture’s popularity over the decades.


David Burel is Curriculum Coordinator for the history program of the Interdisciplinary Humanities and Communication (IHC) unit of the College of Integrative Arts and Sciences (CISA) at ASU. His current research strands pursue the intersection of technology and tourism in the history of the automobile in America and the concept of the “home of the future” in smart home technology. Burel’s teaching includes the History of Engineering and the History of Science, Ideas, and Innovation.  He is working on a book to be titled, “From Rolling Bungalows to Mobile Mansions: The Origins of America’s Obsession with the Recreational Vehicle.” 

Written by Suzanne Ferguson, Academy Village Volunteer

*For access to the Zoom webinar, please write info@arizonasenioracademy.org.



May 24: “In Search of the RV—Discovering the Origins of America’s Recreational Vehicle Cultures”