Killing Time


Highways to the southern states of the United States opened up during the second decade of the 20th century, allowing men and women from around the country to see the unique sites of Florida's interior, away from the cities on the east and west coasts. After the completion of the highway from Montreal to Miami in 1915, the number of automobile tourists increased dramatically. The original “tin can tourists” of the 1920s pioneered camper travel, and the practice became ever more popular after World War II, as young families as well as with increasingly mobile retirees journeyed south. Trailer parks developed to cater to these new visitors who brought their accommodations with them. Likewise, roadside attractions and amusement parks developed facilities to meet the needs of campers and trailers. The Tin Can Tourists of the World, an organization of camping and trailering enthusiasts, was founded at a Tampa, Florida, campground in 1919. Its goals were to provide its members with safe and clean camping areas, wholesome entertainment, and high moral values. This image of John and Lizzie Wilson and their trailer in Bradenton, Florida, in 1951 shows an example of post-World War II tin can tourists. The sign at the back of the trailer identifies the Wilsons as from Boston, Massachusetts. The photograph is by Joseph Janney Steinmetz, a world-renowned commercial photographer whose images appeared in such publications as the Saturday Evening Post, Life, Look, Time, Holiday, Collier's, and Town & Country. His work has been referred to as "an American social history," which documented diverse scenes of American life. Steinmetz moved from Philadelphia to Sarasota, Florida, in 1941.

Last updated: October 17, 2014