This may sound like a heady claim, but it’s a solid comparison for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that company founder Arthur G. Sherman created an affordable camping trailer for the American masses, streamlined its manufacture using a production line, then sold far more of them than anyone had previously thought possible.
The Covered Wagon Company
The impetus to create the Covered Wagon Company happened thanks to a thunderstorm at a campground in the forest somewhere north of Detroit. Arthur G. Sherman had bought a tent trailer, a then-popular primitive trailer-mounted tent with a folding frame, but he found it impossible to set up as the rain fell and after an hour of struggling it still wasn’t up.
This experience infuriated Sherman and he returned from his disastrous family camping trip convinced there was a better way. He hired a carpenter and had him build a wooden cabin on wheels to a basic design, then tried another camping trip. Not only was this second trip far more pleasant, he was also engulfed by other campers asking what his cabin contraption was.
This remarkable interest left an indelible impression on Sherman, he realized he was onto something, and he set about productionizing his design. He established a factory in Mount Clemens offering a few different designs at different price points, and sales were immediately swift despite the fact it was the middle of the Great Depression. At one point the factory was turning out 1,000 camping trailers each month for customers around the country, creating and dominating a new industry in one fell swoop.
Camping trailers developed by Sherman and his company included many industry firsts, like electric brakes, a patented waterproof exterior called Shermanite (galvanized steel stamped to plywood), sinks with running water (thanks to a hand-pump tap), a Readykook cast iron camp stove, a lead-lined icebox, full cabinetry, and a sofa that folds into a bed.
During the Second World War the Covered Wagon Company switched to producing truck cargo bodies for the war effort, and after the war production of camping trailers never resumed. Despite this relatively short life the company essentially created a new industry, and gave countless Americans the ability to adventure across the country and beyond in comfort with their own cabin on wheels.
The 1934 Covered Wagon Camping Trailer Shown Here
The original 1934 Covered Wagon Camping Trailer you see here is a remarkably well preserved example. It still has its 1934-vintage linoleum flooring, countertops, seat upholstery, and window curtains, as well as numerous period accessories and product boxes.
The trailer is being offered from the Calumet Collection in full working condition, in fact it was regularly towed to events in California behind a 1931 Cadillac V12 Victoria Coupe. It was previously owned by J. Douglas Trimper, who claimed that the second owner had kept the trailer for 62 years and used it to take his family to the Kentucky Derby.
If you’d like to read more about this trailer or register to bid you can click here to view the listing on RM Sotheby’s. It’s estimated to be worth $25,000 to $35,000 USD and it’ll be offered for auction on the 12th of October.
Images: Robin Adams ©2018 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s