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Airstream: an Advertising Legend

How did Airstream become an American icon? Let’s trace its roots in advertising and the way it created a visual experience of the road from its origins to today. In 1919, an up-and-coming advertising man named Wallace M. Davis, the advertising manager for The Daily Palo Alto, wrote a letter to Society Brand Clothes. An excerpt from that letter, soliciting a sale of advertising space, read: “The average Stanford Man wants his clothes stylish…we believe Society Brand Clothing to be well worth the expenditure; no other national clothiers are advertising on the campus.” After graduation, Davis changed his name back

Airstream and…Bikinis?

The 1956 European Caravan provided many eye-opening experiences. Imagine rows and rows of shiny aluminum Airstreams reflecting the pure blue of the sky. They lined up at campsites and dot-dashed all over the countryside. The Caravan ultimately arrived in the Netherlands after having traveled through Germany, Luxembourg, France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. There were headlines, crowds, and receptions. We saw cathedrals, castles, quaint and reserved cities, art galleries, tall mountains, and scenic seasides. We tasted wonderful culinary delights, fine wines, schnapps, and most importantly of all, formed new friendships. Wally Byam hired an advance scout and

Wally Byam’s Portrait

In 1956, Airstream moved from their Main Street location in downtown Los Angeles to Norwalk, which was later annexed by the city of Santa Fe Springs. At that time, Wally Byam was leading the European Caravan. By the time he returned home, his company was already manufacturing in their new facilities. The main office and lobby had a small store and a receptionist. On the wall was a striking painting: a portrait of Wally Byam. It was painted by an Airstream employee named Marius Hansen and was based on a photograph that had been taken of Wally years before. It showed

Wally and Helen

She was born on August 8, 1904 in Baker City, Oregon. What does it mean to live an interesting life? Some say it’s how far you travel, or the enriching experiences you have. Some say it’s the friendships you form and the love you share with others. Well, no matter what definition you place on it, her life was full of adventures and excitement. It’s notable that Helen Byam’s paternal lineage came to America in the 17th century. They were farmers, from England, and they served in the Revolutionary War, the Battle of 1812, and in the Civil War. Of her

Airstream and the Sea

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain Over the years, Airstream has always used nautical names in their product lines. A few names are Clipper, Land Yacht, Liner, Caravel, Trade Wind, and Flying Cloud. Even the interior structure walls are bulkheads. As a young man, Wally Byam was drawn to the seas. In joining the Seaman’s Union, he sailed the South

Wally Byam and The Caravanner

During his Stanford University days, Wally Byam worked on the Stanford Daily newspaper as the advertising manager. He continued with advertising with the Los Angeles Times and Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr.’s “penny” newspapers. Before Airstream, he went into the publishing business. In 1954 Wally Byam launched the Airstream newspaper, The Caravanner. He knew the power of the printed word – and having access to a subscribers list. Wally wanted to discuss Airstream and the Caravan life that began in 1951. The mailing list included Airstream owners, Caravanners, prospective customers, and stacks for dealer showrooms. At one time, there were 500,000 names on the

Wally and Jean-Pierre

A face-to-face meeting with tribal leaders, their rich culture, their customs, their unique dances, and beating drums were the highlights of the 1959 Airstream Wally Byam African Caravan. One of the places that had the largest impact on us was the Belgian Congo. Our guide, Jean-Pierre Hallet, took us to places the average tourist didn’t, shouldn’t, and even couldn’t go. Jean-Pierre, who was already familiar with the Airstream Caravan, attempted to have a Congoland USA developed in Kern County, California. The area would be a refuge for the pygmy peoples of this part of Africa, who were endangered by constantly warring factions

Airstream and the Sidewalk Cafe

It’s 1956. You’re with the Airstream Wally Byam Caravan in Europe – Paris, France, to be precise. Picture this: you stroll down the Champs Elysées in Paris. You stop at a small bistro, pull out a chair, sit down, and order an aperitif. As a nouveau Parisian, you sip your beverage and eye the public strolling by. This is your introduction to the casual enjoyment, which you take back to the campsite. So the other Airstreamers make the Sidewalk Café one of their daily must-do’s. This may not be true of every good thing in life, but the daily routine still occurs

Duralumin and the Origins of Rivets

Technology thrives during wars when scientists, inventors, and mad rulers come up with ideas to guard against destruction (or enhance their capacity for destruction). Here is some background information about Anthony Fokker and Hugo Junkers, who not only contributed to the aircraft industry, but also indirectly to the future of Airstream. Their creation, the Junker J2, was constructed with steel sheeting. But it was too heavy – the dense steel weighed the aircraft down. So the company then experimented with duralumin, a new high-strength aluminum alloy. They intended to use it for the next model of aircraft, the J3, but it

Wally Shares His Birthday

The signers of the Declaration were dedicated in their fevered goals and are summed up in the ending statement, “we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” Many of the signers lost their lives, and others lost their fortunes. As a collective body, they sent the world’s political institutions a message. Today we not only give thanks to our forefathers for giving us our freedoms from an oppressive overseas monarchy, but we pay tribute to and celebrate the birth of an individual that and shaped an industry. Wallace Merle Byam was born on July