The Vagabonds: The Story of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison’s Ten-Year Road Trip

S. & S. Jul. 2019. 320p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781501159305. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781501159329. HIST
Guinn (The Road to Jonestown) details the period between 1914 and 1924, when Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and naturalist John Burroughs, branding themselves the Vagabonds, set out on a series of summer camping trips. The idea was hatched in 1914 when Ford and Burroughs met Edison in Florida while visiting the Everglades and ended in 1924 when the group gathered at Henry and Clara Ford’s Wayside Inn in Massachusetts. These mobile wayfarers traveled in expensive new cars and customized trucks, with Edison serving as a guide. Ford’s own motion picture company followed the Vagabonds to film travelogs. The Vagabonds’ summer trips concluded for good on August 20, 1924, with Edison’s retirement from the group. Guinn spent 2016–18 retracing by car his protagonists’ itineraries and writes that a contributing factor to the end of the trips wasn’t the Vagabonds’ expectation of too much attention being paid to them, as was claimed, but perhaps rather too little. In other words, road trips were no longer a novelty by then.
VERDICT An arresting account of America’s auto-camping movement and its incipient motivators. Highly recommended, especially for social historians, travel and camping enthusiasts, automotive specialists, naturalists, and also for general readers.
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