This 1934 Bowlus Papoose Trailer has just sold for $101,750 at auction in Scottsdale, Arizona. We have to admit it’s pretty rare and special.  


Auctioneers Gooding and Company listed it as: ‘The original Papoose prototype,’ with a unique specification and design. They said that this is one of six of these caravans ever built. Only four have survived.


Reminiscent of today’s American Airstream ‘silver bullet’ caravans, the Papoose was invented by engineer William Hawley Bowlus. He created the first riveted aluminium travel trailers in the world. He was a pioneering aviation engineer and first built these trailers for his gliders. Apparently he’s the guy we have to thank for the first aerodynamic caravan designs. 


1935 California Pacific International Exhibition

These early Papoose caravans were shown to the public in 1935 at the California Pacific International Exhibition. They are described as having ‘aviation-derived construction’ and were designed and built in San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles.


Anything goes

In that year Franklin D Roosevelt was the President of the USA and Albert Einstein visited the White House. Bonnie and Clyde had started their bank robbing career and had killed two young highway patrol police in Texas. It was a year of many legendary dust storms in the Dust Bowl. On a lighter note, Clarke Gable and Claudette Colbert won Oscars for Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night, and our early caravanners may well have been humming happy songs on the road, since Cole Porter’s hit musical Anything Goes was premiered on 21 November, starring Ethel Merman. 


They were certainly built to last in those days, and even now in January 2014, thanks to a little three-year restoration project, the auctioneers were able to sell this caravan as ‘Complete, functional, and road-registered. It’s been towed recently by a 1930s V-8 Ford. The Papoose went under the hammer complete with furniture, accessories and literature from the 1930s and the auctioneers had estimated that it would sell for $75,000-$125,000. In the end it made the magnificent sum of $101,750 for its enthusiastic owners.


It would be a fantastic prop for a period film, or a 1930s-themed display in a museum. We wonder where it will end up now! 

Treasure under a tarp

Go on, just check in all your family’s garages and sheds again… are you sure you don’t have one the other two treasures hidden under a tarpaulin?

Kate Taylor, Practical Caravan


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