Airstream to be Featured in Ohio Business Profile
The Ohio Business Journal is making an ongoing effort to recognize the businesses that have impacted the state over the years. The theme for July 2013 is “Keep on Trucking” and one of the seven businesses being recognized is Airstream Inc. They are the oldest recreational vehicle manufacturer in the United States and all of their coaches and trailers are still being made in the state of Ohio.
Airstream, a division of Thor Industries, has been manufacturing RVs in Ohio since before World War II. The highly recognizable design of the silver Airstream trailers took shape in the 1930s. It is based on a design created by Hawley Bowlus, who also designed the Spirit of St. Louis for Charles Lindbergh.
Airstream Inc. was started by Wally Byam, who built trailers in his Los Angeles backyard in the 1920s. Byam was a trained lawyer, and he marketed a trailer building kit. He marketed the trailer designed by Hawley Bowlus and then bought Bowlus’ struggling company. Byam introduced the “Airstream Clipper” in 1936, after moving the door from the front of the trailer to the side. The original Airstream Clipper had space for four people to sleep and cost just $1,200. Airstream was the only trailer builder who operated in 1936 and survived the Great Depression.
Very few trailers were manufactured during the war because of the shortage of aluminum and the lack of customers, but the economy picked back up shortly and production of Airstream trailers began again in 1948. The first facility in Jackson Center, Ohio was established in 1952 and Airstreams were produced in both Ohio and California until 1979. Since that time they have only been manufactured in Ohio.
Airstream began manufacturing motorhomes in 1974. They were known as “Argosy” and were available in 20 foot and 24 foot lengths. These motorhomes were painted, but it 1979 Airstream released a motorhome with the classic aluminum body style that most people associate with the Airstream brand.
There are currently about 2,000 Airstream motorhomes and trailers being manufactured in Jackson Center, Ohio each year. They produce several models of travel trailers, including the Flying Cloud, Sport, International, Classic Limited and Eddie Bauer. 2013 Airstream trailers are available in lengths ranging from 16 to 31 feet. New Airstream trailers are also being manufactured to be sold in the European Market.