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The Tin Can Tourists and Early Camper Culture

The Tin Can Tourists association formed to coordinate the conventions of the new and expanding practitioners of automobile-camper travel. Many of the images included in this section are from a collection at the Department of State, State Archives of Florida that documents the organization and activities of the Tin Can Tourists of the World (T.C.T.) from 1920 to 1982. The records consist of scrapbooks, photographs, convention programs, necrology (memorial) service programs, official records (constitution, by-laws, minutes), correspondence and an early membership list. The scrapbooks contain the bulk of the information available. They document the functions of the T.C.T., the various camp sites where meetings were held, the evolution of the trailers used and the automobiles that towed them, and the activities as well as the amusements enjoyed by the members.

Tin Can Tourists camp: Gainesville, Florida (192-)

Tin Can Tourists camp: Gainesville, Florida (192-)

Image number: PR01242

Signs read: "Keep to the Right," "Go Slow," and "No Peddlers Allowed."

House car named Harriet at Tin Can Tourists convention: Arcadia (January 10, 1929)

House car named Harriet at Tin Can Tourists convention: Arcadia (January 10, 1929)

Image number: N028617

Harriett belonged to Mrs. Harriett Warren, Mrs. Flora Kavanaugh, and Westel Ashe, all of Brattleboro, Vermont.

Tin Can Tourists convention: Arcadia, Florida (January 7, 1929)

Tin Can Tourists convention: Arcadia, Florida (January 7, 1929)

Image number: N028619

View of west end of camp; 3,000 campers, mostly in tents.

Tin Can Tourists' band: Sarasota, Florida (ca. 1940)

Tin Can Tourists' band: Sarasota, Florida (ca. 1940)

Image number: N028611

The Tin Can Tourists of the World (T.C.T.) was 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 is not clear. 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 from which the majority of T.C.T. members came. The modified automobile driven by Tin Can Tourists often included large metal barrels for carrying water attached on the vehicles' exteriors. The original recognition emblem of the T.C.T. was a tin can soldered to the radiator cap of a member's car.

The T.C.T. usually held at least two meetings a year. A winter meeting was held at a campground in Florida and a summer meeting was held at a campground in Michigan. The Florida meetings were held in various places, including Tampa, Sarasota, Ocala, and Eustis. These meetings provided the opportunity for transacting official club business and taking part in the numerous social activities offered. For many years these club gatherings provided places of exhibition to the manufacturers of trailers, mobile homes, and camping gear. This aspect of the gatherings continued until after World War II when manufacturers' trade shows took the place of exhibiting at T.C.T. meetings.

Tin Can Tourists convention at Payne Park: Sarasota (1936)

Tin Can Tourists convention at Payne Park: Sarasota (1936)

Image number: N028614

House cars at a tin can tourist campout (19--)

House cars at a tin can tourist campout (19--)

Image number: PC0218

Otho Granford Shoup at Gainesville (ca. 1923)

Otho Granford Shoup at Gainesville (ca. 1923)

Image number: PR01241

Otho Granford Shoup, Royal Chief of the Tin Can Tourists 1923-1925.

Although some of the early communities popular among Tin Can Tourists resisted the large gatherings of visitors and considered them unruly, Floridians soon began to realize the benefits of a new stream of tourists. The influx of car tourists helped spur further development of better roads in Florida, and inspired the creation of new roadside attractions and other service industries such as restaurant and visitor travel centers.

Tin Can Tourists convention at Dade city (1940)

Tin Can Tourists convention at Dade city (1940)

Image number: PR01245

Royal Chief Bob Foster's trailer.

Tin Can Tourists at De Soto Park (December 25, 1920)

Tin Can Tourists at De Soto Park (December 25, 1920)

Image number: RC03387

Tin can tourist: Florida (19--)

Tin can tourist: Florida (19--)

Image number: PC0465

Poem copyrighted by F.C. Pfeiffer.

Tin Can Tourists camp: Gainesville, Florida (1922)

Tin Can Tourists camp: Gainesville, Florida (1922)

Image number: PR01239

Tin Can Tourists camp is by the white filling station. The camp has electric lights, city water and every convience for campers.

Photograph of a Curt Teich postcard.

Tin Can Tourists camping park in De Land (ca. 1930)

Tin Can Tourists camping park in De Land (ca. 1930)

Image number: RC10555

The park was located at Florida and Waits avenues. The office and wash shed are shown.

Tin Can Tourists convention: Arcadia, Florida (1931)

Tin can tourist: Florida (19--)

Tin Can Tourists convention: Arcadia, Florida (1931)

Image number: RC09061

Cooking barbecue at a Tin Can Tourists convention: Arcadia, Florida (192-)

Cooking barbecue at a Tin Can Tourists convention: Arcadia, Florida (192-)

Image number: RC11254

Barbecue at a Tin Can Tourists convention (192-)

Barbecue at a Tin Can Tourists convention (192-)

Image number: RC11257

Tin Can Tourists playing shuffleboard at a Dade City camp (December 9, 1936)

Tin Can Tourists playing shuffleboard at a Dade City camp (December 9, 1936)

Image number: RC13832

View of the Tin Can Tourists camp: Gainesville, Florida (192-)

View of the Tin Can Tourists camp: Gainesville, Florida (192-)

Image number: RC06077

Gainesville had many tourist camps, and this one dates from the years immediately following World War I when traveling became popular and automobiles became more plentiful.

Tin Can Tourists: Gainesville, Florida (ca. 1921)

Tin Can Tourists: Gainesville, Florida (ca. 1921)

Image number: PR01243

Man to the right of the table is Otho Granford Shoup. Woman next to him is Rose Elizabeth Shoup.

Tin Can Tourists convention: Arcadia (1953)

Tin Can Tourists convention: Arcadia (1953)

Image number: N028602