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Reflections on an American icon

One can see fall in an Airstream, or one can see fall on an Airstream.

Here, we do the latter, allowing the shiny aluminum trailer, a genuine American icon, to reflect, in addition to all else it is a reflection of, Autumn’s many hues.

Call it Artstream — a term I just invented, I think, that I will sell to you for $10,000. It is going to be all the rage, unless someone has done it before, in which case it will be half the rage (and $5,000). If you’d prefer to just have one of the photographs, they are only $1,000.

All proceeds will go towards buying me an Airstream of my own.

Why? Because they’re awesome.

Seeing them being pulled down the highway, like big toasters on wheels, always lifts my spirits, and passing one provides a good opportunity to check myself out and, if necessary, fix my hair. Best yet, they take me back to yesteryear, where, I know, I’ve been going a lot lately.

They’ve got a pretty fascinating history, as explained on Airstream’s website, starting in 1929 when Wally Byam purchased a Model T Ford chassis, built a platform on it, and began his attempts to fashion a self-contained home on wheels.

After experimenting with canvas and tents, he built a tear-drop-shaped permanent shelter atop the platform that enclosed a small ice chest and kerosene stove. He then published an article, “How to Build a Trailer for One Hundred Dollars.” When readers wrote Byam for more detailed instructions, he began sellling them, for one dollar each, earning $15,000.

In 1932, after building several more trailers for friends in his backyard, Byam rented a building and the Airstream Trailer Company began.

Byam, according to the company website, was “a visionary who grasped the societal urge to journey and commune with like-minded people.” He was prone to wearing blue berets and, in addition to his fashion statements, was a master promoter, showman and dreamer.

His company’s list of trailer industry firsts would go on to include the first holding tank, the first pressurized water system, and in 1957 the first “fully self-contained travel trailer.”

 He once described his quest as building a trailer that “my lovely old grandmother might tow … to the middle of the Gobi Desert, there to live in gracious metropolitan luxury … without reloading, refueling, recharging or regretting.”

In the process, he came up with a form that, like old Coca-Cola bottles and McDonald’s arches, would bypass ephemera and get all the way to icon – becoming a shining one, no less.

So, no, I’m not really the artist. He was.

Comments

Comment from Jeff Burger
Time October 20, 2010 at 8:26 am

Nice photos and sentiments. ArtStreams TV doesn’t have anything to do with cool vintage trailers… but you might find us interesting. ;)

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