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Auto-Campers: 1920

Auto-Campers: 1920

Washington, D.C., or vicinity circa 1920. "Dr. A.A. Foster and family of Dallas, Texas, in auto tourist camp." A novelty that would evolve into tourist cabins of the 1920s and '30s, the motor courts of the '40s and '50s and culminate in the motor hotel, or "motel." Harris & Ewing glass negative. View full size.


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More on the Foster family

In the 1930 census, the family was in Pasadena, California. The parents, Allan (spelled Allen) and Jessie, are both 46. The children are Beulah, age 18, Allan, age 17, and Thomas, age 12.

In the 1940 census, the Foster family is still in Pasadena. Son Thomas, at age 22, is still living with his parents. There is also a daughter-in-law, Theresa Foster, age 25, living there, who I assume was Thomas's wife.

About that license plate

Nice illustration of the first state-issued Texas license plate and registration plate in action. State-issued Texas plates were introduced in 1917, with slightly over 50,000 plates being issued that year. The plates were undated, with the date being on the registration plate [commonly called a "radiator seal", for obvious reasons].

This style of plate, with separate registration seal, continued to be used through 1924. The first dated Texas plates came out in 1925.

Great photo of auto camping, which was quite a national fad in the 1920s for those lucky enough to afford it. Lots of folks would do auto camping during the following decade as well, but for altogether different reasons.

1920 Census Records

Found the family! From 1920 Census Records - Dallas, TX

Allan A Foster (M) - born in Tennessee 1886 - 34 years old
Jessie W Foster (F) - born in Texas - 34 years old
Beula Belle Foster (F) - born in Texas - 8 years old
Allan A Foster (M) - born in Texas - 7 years old
Thomas K Foster (M) - born in Texas - 2 years 6 months old
Household ID: 83 Sheet No.: 4 GS Film No.: 1821791 Digital Folder No.: 4391480 Image No.: 00741

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

"Oh, there's nothing like the posh, posh traveling life for me!" -- From the film, "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang"

Meet the Fosters

After much squinting and Photoshopping I was able to decipher the writing along the bottom of the plate. Caption updated to reflect this.

"Dr. A.A. Foster and family of Dallas Tex." Also seen here.

Car camping

They've essentially turned their car into an RV. Plunk that RV down in a more scenic piece of land and it screams national park to me -- a campground. Car camping.

Re: Dad

While Mom, on the other hand, looks a little tired of it all.

Clear the Bridge!

He must have gotten that Klaxon from navy surplus.


looks to be a rather jolly ol type of fella doesn't he.

Motor Touring in 1923

In 1923 my grandmother, aunt, mother and a friend just back from being a missionary in Liberia (4 women), took a motor trip from Washington, DC, to Maine and back. They camped each night, usually in farmer's fields. They were avid photographers and I should post a picture or two on Shorpy.

Lamsteed Kampkar

One of the first RV's, a Lamsteed Kampkar. Designed in 1915 by Samuel Lambert of Listerine fame... later built by Anheuser-Busch.

Described in the book
Mobile Mansions

In 1920

Any trip from Texas up to the Washington area would have been a grand adventure. Imagine the type of roads that poor car had to use. Brave souls.


He's even got an outside lamp for late night dining.

Deep in the Heart

I am curious why anyone would ID this as being in the Washington DC area when the vehicle clearly has a 1920 Texas license plate, and some kind of Texas permit (possibly for its use as a camper) on its radiator.

[A big hint is the term "tourist camp." Harris & Ewing was a commercial photography studio located in Washington, D.C. -tterrace]

A great memory of the past

When we were young our families used to go to the various roadside rests around the area for a picnic. There were quite a few in our area of Ohio. As years went by and the advent of 4 lanes, the roadside rests were closed and abandoned. Some of them had the best drinking water I have ever had.

Give it ten years or so.

They will be doing the same thing, only it won't be for fun.


The early years.

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