Historians tell us that the original Gypsies were a nomadic people whose origins were in India. The name Gypsy comes from a misunderstanding of where they were from. Accounts differ, but either by design or mistake the Gypsies were thought to have come from Egypt, and they generally made no great effort to correct the error. Around the year 1000, groups of them reached modern Turkey and Greece, and by 1300 they were well established in central Europe.
In the next few centuries, they spread all over Europe and eventually to America. Most of them lived on the road for extended periods of time, which necessitated bringing their homes along with them. As a nomadic people, they became very adept at living on the road. As a result of their social customs and tribal life, they rarely tried to assimilate into the culture of the country they inhabited. Much of their nomadic lifestyle developed as a result of the persecution they endured wherever they went.
The public has had a fractious relationship with these migratory people. On one hand, they have been seen as rootless, uncommitted, non-taxpaying hustlers, while on the other they have been viewed as a people who truly exemplify the joys of an unshackled lifestyle that embraces the ability to pick up and leave for greener pastures at a moment’s notice. The truth, of course, is somewhere in the middle.
In the late 19th century, it became all the rage in Great Britain for well-to-do folks to purchase a fancy gypsy wagon and go on gypsy outings. When automobiles replaced the gypsy wagons, these outdoor forays became known as autogypsying. In the 21st century, the old gypsy caravans have become highly collectible and sell for substantial amounts of money.
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Douglas Keister’s new book, Mobile Mansions: Taking “Home Sweet Home” on the Road, was published by Gibbs Smith Publishers in May. Doug is also the author of Ready to Roll: A Celebration of the Classic American Travel Trailer and Silver Palaces: America’s Streamline Trailers. Personalized autographed copies are available from Doug. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org