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The Unknown World of the Mobile Home

John Fraser Hart, Michelle J. Rhodes, and John T. Morgan

Publication Year: 2002

In American popular imagination, the mobile home evokes images of cramped interiors, cheap materials, and occupants too poor or unsavory to live anywhere else. Since the 1940s and '50s, however, mobile home manufacturers have improved standards of construction and now present them as an affordable alternative to conventional site-built homes. Today one of every fourteen Americans lives in a mobile home. In The Unknown World of the Mobile Home authors John Fraser Hart, Michelle J. Rhodes, and John T. Morgan illuminate the history and culture of these often misunderstood domiciles. They describe early mobile homes, which were trailers designed to be pulled behind automobiles and which were more often than not poorly constructed and unequal to the needs of those who used them. During the 1970s, however, Congress enacted federal standards for the quality and safety of mobile homes, which led to innovation in design and the production of much more attractive and durable models. These models now comply with local building codes and many are designed to look like conventional houses. As a result, one out every five new single-family housing units purchased in the United States is a mobile home, sited everywhere from the conventional trailer park to custom-designed "estates" aimed at young couples and retirees. Despite all these changes in manufacture and design, even the most immobile mobile homes are still sold, financed, regulated, and taxed as vehicles. With a wealth of detail and illustrations, The Unknown World of the Mobile Home provides readers with an in-depth look into this variation on the American dream.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Series: Creating the North American Landscape


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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p. ix

We are delighted to express our appreciation for the help we have received from John Adams, Erin Arnold, Therese Bissell, Al Carlson, Len Evenden, Jon Everitt, Tom Field, Dick Foster, Helen Hallis, Bob Horsfall, Brinck Jackson, Kathy Johnson, Linda and Steve Johnson, Sid Jumper, Kathy Klink, Joe...

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pp. 1-29

Like the old gray mare, mobile homes and trailers ain’t what they used to be, or what many people still think they are. They are wider, longer, and vastly better. The 8-by-40-foot trailer of the 1950s evolved into the 14-by-70-foot mobile home of the 1990s. Some are still distinctive and easily identifiable...

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pp. 31-57

Statistics on mobile homes in the United States are probably more accurate and reliable than statistics on the incidence of adultery, but many are little better than educated guesses. For example, take the estimate (which we ourselves have invoked) that 95 percent of mobile homes are never moved...

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pp. 59-76

The Mountain West relies more heavily on mobile homes for its housing stock than any other major region of the United States (Fig. 25). We selected Flathead County, Montana, for a closer look at mobile homes in this region. Advertising agencies set out for places like Flathead County to shoot...

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pp. 77-125

Virtually every place in the United States, no matter how small, has a cluster of mobile homes out at the edge of town. Larger places have more and larger clusters, many formalized as mobile home parks. Clusters of 20 or fewer units are generally fairly informal, with unpaved streets, few facilities,...

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pp. 127-134

Mobile home living has evolved into a common, necessary, and increasingly acceptable way of life in the six decades since the first crude camper trailer was birthed. Modern mobile homes bear scant resemblance to their camper trailer forebears, or even to their rectangular antecedents of only a few...


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pp. 135-138


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pp. 139-142

About the Authors

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p. 143

Related Books in the Series

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pp. 145-146

E-ISBN-13: 9780801875830
E-ISBN-10: 0801875838
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801868993
Print-ISBN-10: 0801868998

Page Count: 160
Illustrations: 50 halftones, 23 line drawings
Publication Year: 2002

Series Title: Creating the North American Landscape
Series Editor Byline: Gregory Conniff, Edward K. Muller, and David Schuyler, Consulting Editors
George F. Thompson, Series Founder and Director See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 51504365
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Unknown World of the Mobile Home

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Subject Headings

  • Mobile homes -- United States.
  • Mobile home living -- United States.
  • Mobile home industry -- United States.
  • Mobile home parks -- United States.
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