Keister traces the beginning of streamlined trailers to William Hawley Bowlus, who was part of the team at Ryan Airlines in San Diego that built the Spirit of St. Louis for Charles Lindbergh. Bowlus drew upon his experience with airplanes and sailplanes to design lightweight s trailers using Duralumin. His company, Bowlus-Teller, produced about 150 trailers in San Fernando, California, in the mid-1930s before going bankrupt.
Keister describes how airplane builder Glenn Curtiss introduced aerodynamic design to trailers, how Wallace (Wally) Byam built Airstream and started a caravan club, and how other manufacturers entered the market with models like the Silver Streak, Spartan and Boles Aero.
The book is jammed with photos of vintage travel trailers being pulled by classic cars, and it even touches on a few early motorhomes, including the 1930s Thomson Housecar that included a pop-up roof and is aptly described by Keister as looking “like a cross between an armored car and limousine.”
Keister, who lives in Chico, California, is a writer and photographer who specializes in historic architecture. His work has appeared in dozens of magazines, on calendars, posters and greeting cards, and in a series of books on Victorian homes, bungalows and cottages.
Silver Palaces is published by Gibbs Smith, Publisher, a Utah company that specializes in books on design and architecture. The book is a large-size paperback, 160 pages, priced at $24.95. For information, see www.gibbs-smith.com or keisterphoto.com.