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Caught Our Eyes: An Auto House

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Auto house of Will A. Harris of Texas, 9/2/24
Auto House of Will A. Harris of Texas, Washington, D.C. Photograph by National Photo Company, September 2, 1924.

This September 1924 National Photo Company image of an auto house caught my eye not only because of the delight it sparked in seeing such a novel vehicle, but also because the lack of contextual information set me to wondering and wanting to know more. For example, assuming that the photo shows Mr. Harris and his wife and their daughter, I want to know if this is their primary residence, in which case the auto house is an early and quintessentially mobile mobile home. Or, is it an archetypal recreational vehicle, a custom-made campmobile?

I want to know if Mr. Harris customized the auto house himself after conceiving the idea one day in a burst of imagination. I can picture him working many evenings in his yard bringing his vision to fruition. Finally, I hope that the Harris family drove the auto house from Texas to Washington, D.C., as I envision the many smiles and waves the sight of the vehicle drew from people witnessing the passing-by of these intrepid caravaners.

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Comments (2)

  1. Well, it looks like they made it to the Smithsonian, no? At the time (and until 1967), this institution was referred to as the United States National Museum, and I am pretty sure that the Harris vehicle is next to what we have recently called the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building. I would search Chronicling America for a news clip (“Harris” and “National Museum”) but the post-1923 date is too recent for Chronicling America.

  2. The autohouse is interesting on its own account, but what struck me the most about the photo was the greater depth of the story told in this portrait of the Harris family. Mother and daughter stand together–it appears that they are holding hands–and mother looks sad. Daughter is smiling (kids live in the moment). And father, who is the only one with a name, stands smiling proudly, some two or three feet away from his wife and child. Will Harris appears to be someone who persists with his dreams in spite of the costs.

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