*Between America's coasts is The Great Wide Open, mile upon mile of prairie land, deserts, mountains and forests, from sea to shining sea. And deep in the American spirit is that hunger for exploration, to cross the next frontier. That's why the Airstream trailer could only have come from the U.S. of A. The man behind Airstream's success was Wallace Merle Byam, born on the fourth of July (in 1896) and commonly referred to as Wally.
At various times, Byam was a lawyer, in the merchant marine, ran an advertising agency and published magazines. One of those magazines ran a feature on home-built trailers. Readers complained that the plans were wrong. So Byam set about constructing one that would work. From masonite and plywood, he made a teardrop-shaped trailer which he called the Torpedo. It was basic, but it had one particular innovation. The floor was dropped between the wheels, effectively creating more headroom and allowing occupants to stand up straight while inside. This was around 1933. In 1936 came the Clipper, a futuristic-looking trailer with aero-efficient lines and a gleaming riveted aluminum monocoque body. An icon was born. America was just coming out of the Depression, more people had cars and Byam wanted to provide a high-quality yet lightweight trailer that could be pulled by a normal family sedan. The Clipper could hold four berths, had a tubular steel-framed dinette and an enclosed galley, carried its own water supply, had ventilation and insulation, and even used dry ice for a form of air conditioning. Although an expensive item at $1,200, it sold well. More than 300 trailer-making companies existed in the U.S. in the '30s. The only one to survive was Airstream.