December 10, 2005

#9 - Researching 1956

We'll never know what the interior of trailer #O9003 looked like when it left the Ohio factory. We can look to other '56 Caravanners for hints, but there were many customized options in the 1950s so it's unlikely this one looked just like the others. Before deciding on details for the restoration, I need to do a lot more research about what was going on in the travel trailer world in 1956.

A good place to start is RJ Dial's archives. Thanks, RJ, for creating this priceless resource.

Another good resource is Airstream's original documents. The Vintage Airstream Club has some of them posted online here. In this case, looking for both 1955 and 1956 info is very informative. I found out, for instance, that the retail price on my trailer was probably about $3,100. That's about $22,000 in today's dollars...a bargain for a premium 22' travel trailer, unless you consider these other prices for 1956:
  • Typical Car: $2,100
  • House: $17,800
  • Gallon of Gasoline: 30 cents
  • Loaf of Bread: 18 cents
  • Gallon of Milk: 97 cents
The average annual salary was $5,300 and the minimum wage was $1/hour.

Without a doubt, the best resources for advice and inspiration for my Caravanner are fellow vintage trailer owners. You can meet the most warm and generous people when you reach out in email discussion groups, at rallys, and at If you own a 1956 Airstream or a 1950s Caravanner, and want to compare notes, please send me an email.