Tin Can Camps

After the ‘Great War’ aka World War One, and the Spanish Flu, Americans, including your ancestors, were ready for a change. One of the big items many Americans did was purchase an automobile. In 1921 there were 10 million autos on the road. Individuals and families now enjoyed traveling, going hundreds of miles away from home – they became American tourists.

Problems with this new activity of traveling by car were many. The roads were not good, gasoline stations were scarce, very few road maps, no roadside hotels (the term motel would not come for years), and not many places to get a meal.

People soon learned if they traveled any distance, they needed to bring supplies such as tents, food, extra auto parts and plenty of gasoline. The campsites for tourists were set up along the side of the road or in open fields when they could obtain the permission from the landowner.

One new destination that became very popular in the 1920s, especially in the winter months was Florida. A tourist in Florida, along the Gulf Coast, and on the West Coast frequently combined camping and beachcombing for their annual vacations. Along Florida’s undeveloped beaches, Americans camped within a stone’s throw of the shore, often in their cars.

It was in Tampa, Florida, The Tin Can Tourists of the World (T.C.T.) was formed as an organization of camping and “trailering” enthusiasts founded at a Tampa, Florida campground in 1919. The goals of the group were to provide its members with safe and clean camping areas, wholesome entertainment, and high moral values.

The origin of the term “tin can” in the name varied. Some have suggested that it refers to the campers’ reliance upon canned foods. Others have asserted the name refers to the small Ford automobile of the era, the Model T or “Tin Lizzie,” which was a popular and affordable automobile option among middle-class Americans.

These Tin Can Camps developed very quickly in all sections of Florida. They were of great help to the traveling tourist. They had a filling station, electric lights, city water, diner, showers, laundry, and every convenience for campers.

Many of these early Florida tourists who stayed at various camps, so loved the Florida area, they later moved permanently to the state. That created a great boom of new residents to all regions of the state but especially along the east and west coasts.

Many people continued to vacation in the auto and stay at the camps. The practice continued through the 1920s and into the 1930s.

Check with older relatives and see if that was done by any of your ancestors.

Photo: Tin Can Camp in 1922 in Gainesville, FL.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Ancestors Traveling

Traveling in Covered Wagons

Traveling to See Long-Lost Relatives

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