Tin Can Tourists Camping Club Marks 100 Years (2/6/2019)

Story by Ron Barger

The Tin Can Tourists (TCT), first organized as a camping club in Tampa, Fla., in 1919, is alive and well and celebrating 100 years. 

The organization has evolved into a camping club honoring vintage trailers and motorhomes and supporting the historical research and restoration of old RVs. Forrest Bone is credited with resurrecting the group in 1998 after it went through a 14-year period of inactivity. Today, the Milford, Mich.-based group has a membership that stands 2,400 strong.

Tin Can Tourist's Rally During the Early Years

Tin Can Tourist's Rally During the Early Years

“It’s been 21 years since we started it up again and this may be my sayonara year as we try and make a transition,” said Bone. “This centennial year will be quite a celebration. We have events and programs planned throughout the entire year.”   

The Tin Can Tourists also oversees a website at www.tincantourists.com that is posting all the celebrations of the centennial with a special logo touting “100 Years of Rolling History.” 

Camper owners can join the club for $20 per year. The site features members-only resources, an impressive number of original condition and restored vintage RVs for sale, vintage RV-friendly campgrounds to visit and rally information.

Bone said that he came on the scene in the late 1990’s following a conversation with Bud Cooper, the founder of the Airstream Vintage Club. “He mentioned to me the Tin Can Tourists are one of the earliest RV travel organizations,” said Bone. 

He researched the brand and copyrights, realized it had been inactive for several years, and decided to resurrect the club.

“Once we reformed the organization we had what we coined ‘A Renewal Gathering’ at Camp Dearborn in Michigan which is where we were staying at the time,” Bone noted. “We had 21 trailers show up and that was the beginning of something special.” 

After this modestly successful rally Bone headed south to Florida and visited a museum in Tallahassee that had a large box brimming with TCT memorabilia.

“Someone had given this box of stuff to the museum in the 1970s,” he shared. “We were able to start digging into the history a bit more and found it was really an amazing story,” Bone related. “It’s one of those things where we never knew the club was so far-reaching and there were so many little manufacturers of RVs that had come and gone in small towns all over the place.”   

According to the deep historical archives on TCT’s website, the group’s original objective was “to unite fraternally all auto campers.” Their guiding principles were clean camps, friendliness among campers, decent behavior and to secure plenty of clean, wholesome entertainment for those in camp. 

TCT has grown to 2,400 members that rally all over the country. “We were fortunate that the park at Camp Dearborn in Milford grew with us,” said Bone. “Recently, we’ve had up to 200 vintage trailers and all the campers that come with at our annual rally there each May since 1998.” 

In 2000, the group held its first get together in Florida as part of the Tampa RV Supershow. “The first Florida gathering was kind of disappointing with only 13 trailers showing up until I checked the membership in the state which was about 25 total,” said Bone. “Now this year we sold out with over 200 sites for our Centennial rally.”

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